Living with Chronic Pain
New Year’s Resolutions and Chronic Pain
The end of the year is a good time not only to reflect on the past year’s successes and struggles but also to consider the coming year’s ambitions and goals.
For individuals with chronic pain, common resolutions, such as running a marathon or starting a new exercise program, may not be realistic. However, making New Year’s resolutions with chronic pain is still possible. Some resolutions may even help individuals cope with and reduce pain.
Tips for successful New Year’s resolutions
The American Psychological Association provides the following tips to help ensure New Year’s resolution(s) success:
- Start small. Making small changes rather than drastic ones is more likely to lead to long-term success. Instead of starting a whole new diet plan, add more fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks. Instead of trying to walk 10,000 steps per day, set a goal of 2,000 to 3,000, as pain levels allow. These smaller goals still provide benefits and are easier to achieve.
- Change one behavior at a time. Trying to change too many things, such as diet, exercise and finances, all at once can be overwhelming, especially when coping with chronic pain. Instead, focus on one goal at a time.
- Talk about it. Share goals and progress with family and friends. Sharing with individuals who have similar challenges with chronic pain can also be beneficial, especially when setbacks occur.
- Strive for progress, not perfection. Setbacks and missteps are completely normal. The best response to a setback is to get right back on track. Progress will continue even without perfection.
- Ask for support. If a resolution is particularly challenging, ask for the support of a trusted family member, friend or a psychologist. Support from others provides motivation to stay on track.
Resolutions for individuals with chronic pain
Some New Year’s resolution ideas for individuals with chronic pain include the following:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Adding fruits and vegetables to a diet not only helps with proper weight management, which reduces the amount of pressure on the joints, but also helps reduce pain-related inflammation.
- Engage in physical activity. Exercise improves overall health and can reduce pain levels. Physical activity strengthens body tissues and reduces pressure on joints. Gentle activities to try include chair-based exercises, yoga and low-impact cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming and water therapy.
- Get more sleep. Studies show that individuals who do not get enough sleep experience higher pain levels. Getting enough sleep not only reduces pain levels but also promotes a healthy lifestyle.
- Ask for help when needed. Asking for help can be difficult, but accepting help can be extremely beneficial. Accepting help with physical tasks can prevent increased pain levels and save energy to complete daily routines.
- Cut back on stress. Anxiety can aggravate pain and affect sleep quality. Methods to cope with stress include meditating, practicing yoga and spending time with friends and family.
Making resolutions to reduce pain levels and improve overall health is a good idea not only as New Year’s Day approaches but also throughout the year.