Coping Skills


Pain is less in those who use positive coping skills and is worse in those who use negative coping skills. Below are some “do’s and don’ts” you can use to help lessen the emotional and social parts of pain.

Avoid negative self-talk or self-pity. Do not compare yourself now to how you once were. It will lead to depression and despair. Some forms of negative self-talk are:

  • All or nothing: seeing things in extremes
    Ex: “Always do your best” or “I will never feel better”
  • Labeling: giving yourself labels that have an all-or-nothing quality
    Ex: “I’m a loser”
  • Filtering: paying close attention to some points and not others
    Ex: “All I think about is my pain”
  • Rigid expectations: having lots of rules
    Ex: “I should always give 100%”
  • Self blame: undeserved blaming of oneself based on actions
    Ex: “I’m being punished”
  • Psychic reasoning: assuming one always knows how things will turn out
    Ex: “I will always be in pain”
  • Emotional reasoning: relying on feelings to interpret reality
    Ex: “I feel so useless- I am useless”
  • Helplessness: feeling feelings and self-esteem are controlled by outside factors.
    Ex: “I can’t help feeling depressed”
  • **Catastrophizing: always expecting the worse case scenario
    Ex: “Nothing will ever help relieve my pain”

Use positive self-talk and activities. Accept the self you are now and create a new lifestyle around that. Some forms of positive self-talk are:

  • Middle-ground thinking: see things in balance, some good and some bad
    Ex: “I was able to walk to the mailbox today”
  • Describing: objective observations that notices details
    Ex: “I am taking 3 pain pills a day”
  • Openness: try to see the Big Picture
    Ex: “I wasn’t able to mow the entire lawn, but I did mow the front yard”
  • Flexible expectations: things do not always go your way
    Ex: “I can’t pick up my grandson, but he can still sit on my lap”
  • Human-focus: you are not responsible for everything
    Ex: “I am not at fault for my husband’s/wife’s bad moods”
  • Experimental attitude: try things to see if they work
    Ex: “I will try sitting on a stool to do my gardening
  • Reality-reasoning: relying on evidence, not feelings
    Ex: “Yesterday I walked to the mailbox and today I went to the corner
  • Empowerment: taking control of feelings and self-esteem
    Ex: “I will be less anxious if I remember I did this before and nothing
    terrible happened”

Some Positive Activities Are:

Maintain friendships. Do not let pain isolate you. Having pain does not give you the right to be mean to others. Don’t let pain and irritability separate you from family and friends.

Attempt to problem solve those things you can control. Set reasonable flexible goals. Goals should be positive, do-able, can be measured, clear and defined in terms that can be achieved, and important to do. Do it in short periods of time.

Fresh air is healthy. Go outside and feel the sun and wind. Listen to the sounds of nature.

Be in control. Stop when you feel tired. If something hurts, stop or try doing it another way. Don’t push yourself beyond what you can do. When you do that, the pain is in control, not you.

Do not allow pain to become your sole identity. You are a complex, unique individual.

Spend your energy wisely. Realize you have limits and be energy efficient. Try sitting on a stool to wash dishes or peel vegetables. Use the 50% rule…if you think you can walk 5 miles try walking 2.5 miles. You will have energy left over to do other tasks.

Resting for 10 minutes gives your body 20 minutes of energy. Forcing yourself to do more than your body can do makes pain worse.

Join a support group. You can gain insight into living well as a person with pain by sharing the experience with others who know what it is like.

Allow yourself time to grieve. There are loses you need to come to terms with and it takes time. Be patient with yourself.

Set priorities. Make a list of what MUST be done, what you would like to do, and what doesn’t matter.

Learn to adapt. You may not be able to go to the movies anymore but you can rent a DVD and watch it at home.

The secret to a long life is to take a chronic disease and make a pet out of it.


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