Distractions As A Tool For Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a chronic problem that too many people live with on a daily basis. It can be debilitating physically, but it can also chip away at you mentally. It’s perhaps unsurprising that rates of stress, depression and anxiety are often higher in those living with chronic pain. It’s good to get out of your head and away from the pain every now and then, which is where small distractions can be a useful management tool.
Distractions can be excellent for improving our attitude and overall mood, which has a knock-on effect to how we handle chronic illness and pain. Distractions aren’t going to rid you of pain by any means, but they can form part of a multi-disciplinary approach to making your day to day a little brighter. They can reduce stress and help give our brains and bodies a break, diverting our attention away from the problems faced and towards something else temporarily.
Building in a few distractions each day can help in taking the edge off the mental and physical damage wreaked by pain, and it can flesh out your life a little to make it more meaningful and enjoyable. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started.
1. Arts & Crafts
Arts & crafts projects can be a source of enjoyment, distraction and achievement, while also giving us an outlet to express ourselves. The best bit is that there are so many types of activities that you’re sure to find something that suits your interests and abilities.
Step away from perfectionism, lay down the guilt of not dealing with your to-do list, and get involved in bringing some colour and creativity into your life. A few examples : Painting, digital art, sewing, crochet, knitting, paper cutting crafts, origami, pencil drawings, jewellery making, charcoal, finger painting, colouring in, manga, comic strip drawing, DIY craft makes, candle making, etc.
Release your inner child & have some pure, unabashed fun. Dig out the board games if you have another person or a few of you at home able to join in. There are countless board games available online, from classic old-school games to contemporary easy-going options. Scrabble, Jenga, Monopoly, Cards Against Humanity, Obama Llama, they all count.
If you’re playing solo, think about word games, sun dials (a selection of letters where you need to make new words of 4+ letters always using one particular letter in each), Sudoku, wordsearch or crosswords.
If you’ve got a games console, computer or handheld device then computer games are an obvious choice. If you tend to play the same things all the time, why not shake things up and try something completely different. Go for sports or dance games to get you moving if you usually play shoot ’em ups, or try some brain training on your phone if you usually play social media games.
3. Distractions In Nature
Getting out into nature can be both grounding and refreshing. It’s not as easy with the pandemic and many of us still shielding or reducing how often we leave the house, but if you can safely get out or go into your garden then take the chance to breathe it all in.
Enjoy the solitude and peace, focusing on your breathing and posture. Notice the sounds, watch the birds and insects, enjoy the colours of the flowers. If you can get a walk in too that would help blow away the cobwebs and up your endorphins at the same time.
4. Pets & Animals
If you’ve got a pet or can safely go to a farm park, zoo or animal shelter of some kind, spending time with an animal can be very soothing. They can also offer a myriad of benefits, including stress relief by lowering cortisol, reducing blood pressure, improving our mood and reducing loneliness.
If you can’t be with animals in person, scrolling Insta to aww at cute photos is a convenient alternative.
By improving our mood, distracting us and reducing our stress, animals can help with pain management physically and psychologically.
Music can be a powerful source of company, comfort, motivation and inspiration. I used to listen to music all the time when I was younger, but with life going off the tracks, work taking over and depression hitting, it went by the wayside. It’s the same story for many people over time so adding some music might just bring some brightness to your days, too.
Choose your music to match your mood or cultivate the feelings you want to feel. Go for old-school classics that give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. Play upbeat tracks to uplift you when you’re feeling disheartened. Listen to calming music when you’re anxious and stressed. Have a singalong and lose yourself in the music when pain is getting too much.
Picking up a good book can be like balm for the soul. Get as comfortable as you can, grab a warm drink and settle in.
I always used to prefer ‘real’ books, and I still do, but during lockdown I started reading eBooks and I’ve fallen in love because it’s so convenient and there’s endless choice right at your fingertips. You can buy individual Kindle books on Amazon, but they also offer an ‘Unlimited’ service to get more for your money. If you’re new to Kindle books on Amazon, or haven’t used the service in a while, you might be eligible for a free trial. You can see if you’re eligible for a free Kindle Unlimited trial in the UK here or an Amazon US Kindle Unlimited trial here.
Audiobooks provide an accessible alternative that also includes podcasts, and the same thing goes for the free trial Amazon service. Check to see if you’re eligible for an Amazon UK Audible trial here or an Amazon US audible trial here.
It’s also worth taking a look at your local library’s website. In the UK, different counties have their own eBook services where you can borrow ebooks for free just using your library card. The caveat is that the range won’t be as extensive as Kindle & you might have to ‘hold’ and wait in line to read your choice of book(s), but it’s still free. I’ve listed all of the library websites by county where you can kind the ebook catalogue offerings here.
7. Breathing Exercises with Meditation & Mindfulness
Breathing is obviously crucial to life, but it’s also something we often don’t give much thought to unless we develop problems with it. How well do you really breathe?
Take some deep belly breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, holding each breath for a few seconds before releasing. Notice the sensations as your lungs fill with fresh air.
You’ll find different breathing exercises online designed for different purposes. For example, they may help to energise you, calm oncoming panic attacks, clear the lungs, increase oxygen flow to reduce the possibility of worsening infections if you’ve had damage to the lungs or ribs, and so on.
Focusing on your breathing is also a key tenant in mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness helps us to slow down and appreciate the small, simple joys, and meditation can allow us to take a step back from the business and get some perspective.
Everyone will have their own experience and opinion on the likes of mindfulness and meditation, but many people find them very beneficial. I’ll add a caveat here because I’ve found, from personal experience, that body scans have the opposite effect when it comes to pain. Body scans have, for me, directed my attention to the pain, which only served to amplify it. I personally find that general breathing, mindfulness and meditation, without body scans, are most beneficial.
8. Lose Yourself In A Hobby
Lose yourself in a hobby, whether it’s jigsaw puzzles, stamp collecting, taking photos or writing, anything that captures your attention and gives you a sense of enjoyment. Hobbies could be to pass the time, but they can also broaden your horizons. Online courses, of which there are numerous free ones online, can be interesting and enlightening, opening up your world without you having the leave the house.
9. Get Social
I’m more of an introvert, with chronic fatigue even a little socialising and conversation can be incredibly exhausting. However, if you get caught up in catching up with people, you can change tracks in your mind and get our of your head for a while.
10. Laughter Injection
Laughter is an excellent therapy that I think should be on prescription. In dealing with chronic illness, especially with my stoma, I’ve found that the ability to laugh at myself has been vital to acceptance and getting past shame and embarrassment.
Finding things to laugh at brightens the mood and lets in a crack of light to otherwise dark days. Sometimes we need to search out the funnies, so grab yourself a joke book, scroll for funny animal photos, browse YouTube for comical clips, click through funny memes, and flex those chuckle muscles.
Check out July’s Memes & Funnies for a few giggles.
Do you find distractions helpful for reducing stress, boosting your mood and/or managing chronic pain? What are your preferred distractions?
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Great list Caz, hope your feeling a bit better x
I’m pleased you liked the list. I’m super glad to be home & although I was very poorly yesterday, I’m doing a little better today, thanks Bar. I hope you’re keeping as well as possible! xx
You always have such great advice. Thank you.
Have a fabulous day, Caz. Big hug. ♥
I’m glad you liked the suggestions, Sandee. Thank you for commenting – I hope you’re having a good week so far lovely ???? xx
Thanks, Ashley, glad you liked them! xx
Good suggestions Caz. The hardest for me would be socializing. I’m an introvert also which makes meeting and greeting a challenge. But I still try. Hope today is a good day for you.
I’m an introvert, too, though I’ve become a little more confident & able to mingle as I’ve got older. I still need to be alone to recharge and for me socialising is so, so rare that it’s not something I really think about anymore. It still counts if you’re seeing your dad, that’s socialising. Family counts, or friends online, or going into work and seeing colleagues. It’s just a little bit of human connection. I hope you’re keeping as well as possible, Darnell. Please stay as safe as possible when you’re at work.xx
Love them all. Art, animals, nature – my favorite distractions.
I hope they help you to keep on an even keel, Bo. Distractions can be so helpful and grounding. I hope you can enjoy lots of them over the rest of the week xx
Those are brilliant distraction tips, Caz! Some of those tips I use to keep myself in a good mood and relaxed. I used to love to paint by number, and I like to spend time in nature and with animals. Hope you are having a good day.
I’m glad you already use some of these to help boost your mood & relax you. Paint by numbers is an excellent option, it’s a bit like the colouring in trend lately because you can just focus on the colours and following the steps, rather than stressing trying to draw a picture perfectly. Nature and animals are so grounding, there’s something I find very heartwarming about being around animals. Thanks for the comment lovely, I hope you’re having a good week xx
Spot on and invaluable. As always. ~ Cobs. x
Thank you very muchly! Hope you’re doing okay, Cobs, it’s lovely to see you back ???? xx
It’s great to be back, and so lovely to be chatting with you again.
Sending much love ~ Cobs. xxx <3
I love this post, Caz! ALL of these are great distractions for which I am grateful.
I even found the puzzles to be a mental and physical help at a time my medicines and health were disabling my ability to think, remember my way home, and even falling asleep while eating or driving. The neuropsychologist that my neurologist sent me to try try and figure out what was going on with my brain said that it was saving my life. He guessed right off that I did puzzles, and what kind! He said word puzzles were most helpful, especially those that make you have to think, but not to rule out the word search that gives me the answer to assist my memory, but still requires me to use my eyes, my hand, and my brain to make them both move.
Praying for you, Caz! Say hello to your little buddy next time you pet him! 🙂
I’m glad those puzzles can be useful for you too, and you make an excellent point about the potential benefits transcending just pain distractions and stress-relief. Things like puzzles can aid neuronal functioning, dexterity, memory, co-ordination. Every little adds up so we can just slot in a little here and there when we can. Helps to give all parts of us more flexible, even if the rest of us isn’t so bendy! Thanks for sharing your experience, Gail. Virgil meows a hello! ???? xx
Another great post Caz and all these distractions have been helpful to me in one way or another. I love reading and my kindle, so when I can’t sleep for pain, I can curl up in a cozy ball and read til I gladly and finally fall asleep.
I’m glad you liked the post & that these sorts of distractions can be helpful for you, too. I do the same with reading to help get me relaxed and distracted enough to sleep too, especially as pain can be like someone poking you in the ribs and screaming in your face, which makes sleeping very difficult. xx
Wonderful list here Caz, many hobbies were put on the back burner , it’s truly a great reminder !
A lot of the things I used to do went on the back burner too, so I’d like to get back into some of the arty stuff I used to enjoy. I hope you can find some time out to enjoy some of these too, Nisha! xx
I had no idea about the library websites. I used our local library a lot but now during the pandemic I’ve not been able to go and I think it’s been shut for the most part. I didn’t think about ebooks but that’s such a good idea. I’ve found our county on there and signed up so thank you for the links. Really good suggestions for pain here. I need more distractions during the day I think because pain can really drive me around the bend. Thanks Caz.
As soon as I discovered the county library sites I posted them up on here, I thought it was pretty amazing too! I’ll admit I’d never read a book on my iPad before the lockdown but they’ve been so, so useful with the libraries closed. Kindle books are great but when you don’t want to keep paying, the local library site is definitely worth checking out. The books don’t stay on your iPad but if you can read the book you’ve checked out within the allotted weeks then it’s fantastic & free! I hope you can find plenty of books to help distract you from the pain, Emily xx
Great advice here, Caz!! I especially like getting lost in animals and nature. Sometimes, my dog walks (even when in pain) are the best medicine ever. I just have learned to greatly modify them.
As always, very sound advice. Great post!!
Animals & nature can be so grounding and refreshing, can’t they? I’m glad you’re able to enjoy both with the dog walks, working around the limitations of your health and pain. Thanks for the comment, Stace! I hope you have a lower pain weekend ahead xx
I know you can’t see me, but I’m smiling right now. I love everything about this post. Your tips, tricks, and advice are always right on the money! Anyone reading this will surely find the right healthy distraction for their own needs. Once again, you’re making a profound difference in the way only you can!
Each of these have such value that it’s hard to pick a favorite! Of course, laughter and pets are two that I cherish deeply. As a matter of fact, in our home, the two usually go hand-in-hand. Dizzy is an absolute fool and is *always* doing something hilarious. Whether it’s her attitude, antics, or just general personality showing through, she is a mess! Does Virgil make you laugh often? I hope so! ????
Nature, crafts, and reading are also extremely helpful. Like you said, if you can get into nature for a walk – the benefits increase dramatically. Few things soothe my soul like just being present in nature. You described it perfectly; see the colors, smell the fresh air (hopefully!), and listen to all the sounds. It’s a really grounding experience for even the worst of days.
Something else that I’ve found unbelievably helpful are essential oils. It really doesn’t matter whether they are taken internally (with extreme caution and only certain types), diffused in the air, or applied topically. The mental and physical health benefits have stunned me. The more I learn, the more I fall in love with them. Nature has resources for almost anything, and I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface yet! 😉
Great friends are a definite winner for healthy distractions. You, my friend, always brighten my day and bring a smile to my face. It’s a blessing to know you! Thanks for another perfect post!
Excellent point about laughter and pets – that’s a 2-in-one bargain when we bring a pet into our lives. I can almost feel the love and laughter in your home, Holly. And nature can be so grounding, can’t it? I miss the walks in the fresh air without the worry of the virus or seeing other people, and that’s something I hope we never take for granted again. It’s precious. Essential oils are a great suggestion to add to the list! I actually bought a couple ages ago and haven’t got around to trying them. I think that’s the story of my life ???? I’ve got vanilla as I love the smell of vanilla, and two others but I can’t remember what ones. It’s great that they’re beneficial for you; what’s your favourite oil to use?
It’s a blessing to have ‘met’ you in the blogging world, too, Ms Leaver-of-awesome-comments. Sending lots of love, have a restful weekend! xx
You know, I’m a big believer in the home being our sanctuaries. If we can’t relax, unwind, and enjoy life in our own spaces, we’re definitely doing something wrong. I hope we can all cultivate a home environment that is filled with pure love, peace, and laughter, you know? We all need that in our lives! Not having it leaves an empty space in our hearts few other things can.
I wholeheartedly agree with you about nature and missing the walks. Is there anywhere at all you can go, even in the midst of all this madness? I hope so because you deserve the chance to just simply be present in the moment – no worries, cares, or pressures.
Your comment about “that’s the story of my life,” made me laugh. I hear you! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t 100% guilty of this myself. Essential oils are truly amazing and the healing benefits are almost unbelievable. Vanilla essential oil for example is used for the calming of anxiety and for reducing inflammation in our bodies. 😉 Whether you inhale it or apply it topically, there’s major benefits. I love mixing vanilla with spicy cinnamon or lavender for additional calming. Currently, I have a few favorites. Citrus oils are fantastic for anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effects. Peppermint is great for the stomach, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, on and on. We have a range of them that we use – both internally and externally. Coconut oil is usually our ‘carrier oil’ of choice because the benefits of that are immeasurable too. It’s a lot of fun to research. So many great books on the subject. I’d definitely recommend you giving them a try!
You are so kind, Caz. Thank you! Sending all my love straight back to you!
Pets and music. I love those when hurting.
They can both be very healing; I’m glad you find them helpful ♥ Have a restful weekend lovely.xx
Lulu: “You can’t go wrong with pets and animals. Just ask us and we’ll be there wagging our tails!”
Chaplin: “I think you mean purring.”
Lulu: “Sure, that too!”
Those purrs & tail wags keeps us hoomans happy & calm (when you’re not clawing at us!) ????????
Pete and laughter are my go-to’s for coping with anything. Especially funny videos of animals! Or funny videos of anything really, I’m easily amused! ????
Same here with being easily amused – I think that’s a good thing, we don’t have to go far to find something to make us chuckle! Funny videos can make a stressful day that bit less awful and there’s no end of cute animal pics/videos to make us smile. I hope you’re keeping as well as possible lovely, I know you’ve got a lot going on right now so I hope you can take the time out for a little laughter each day xxxxxx
Beautiful advice, very useful. I particularly support being in nature. There is just something infinitely calming about it. I suppose seeing something bigger than us helps us get past our minds, too.
I agree, it’s that sense of being grounded and calmed, of knowing there’s something bigger than you but being comforted by that thought rather than scared by it. I imagine lockdown is making a lot of people more aware of just how important nature is. We miss what we don’t have but appreciate it all the more. I’m glad you liked the post – thank you for stopping by & commenting! Take good care of yourself ????