Jenny L. F. Andrus, MD
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge changes to most of our daily lives. It’s changing how we work, how we spend our free time and dramatically changed how we interact with each other. This is a trying time for everyone, but for those with chronic pain, it can be even more challenging. How do you manage your chronic pain symptoms when your access to services, like your wellness center, have been denied? There are no simple answers, but here are a few tips to help guide you through.
- Keep a schedule—It’s tempting, when you are working from home and your kids are out of school, to sleep late and work in your PJs. Remember this is going to end and we’re going to go back to our lives. Try to keep a regular schedule. Although you might not be putting on a uniform, get showered, dressed and ready for your day. This not only gets you up and moving physically, but it helps keep your mind directed.
- Be productive—Humans are wired to be productive. As much as we all like the idea of sitting around all day, more than a few days of that makes most of us feel worse, not better. Set a goal for each day, make a calendar or a “honey-do” list. It can be as simple as organizing a drawer or closet, finally putting those pictures in a scrapbook, finishing a home repair, or planting some flowers. Reading is a great way to pass time. Make a list of things you have wanted to accomplish but haven’t had the time and then start them. Don’t let your idle time focus your attention too much on your pain.
- Get some exercise—Being sedentary is terrible for pain. It might feel good for a day or two but after that, you’re making your chronic pain problems worse. Although you might not have access to the gym, you can still exercise. Take a walk if you can. Even a short walk helps. There are lots of exercise programs on the internet, even some that are done in a chair. Do your home exercise program given to you by your physical therapist.
- Eat healthfully— Boredom and stress all lead to overeating. Try to keep a reasonable diet by planning out your meals. Limit snacking and watch the high calorie drinks, like sodas. During these tough economic times, food costs are definitely a concern. Use your extra time to look on the internet for ideas for low-cost, healthy meals. To further stimulate your mind, try to make them with what you have on hand in the house. Meal plan before you go shopping so you can be sure you stick to your plan. Weight gain will lead to more joint pain, so try to not gain.
- Keep connected with others—Not spending time with friends and family is probably the hardest part of this crisis for many of us. Spend time everyday connecting with the people who are important to you. Try talking on the phone instead of just texting. A lot of emotion is lost in texting. Set up “dates” with loved ones where you all connect via video or conference call. This gives you something to look forward to and also keeps you connected.
- Prioritize what is important—Use this time to reflect on who and what really matters to you. This is an important time of year for many people’s religious faiths. Think about the people or events that you really are missing and on what you really are happy to do without.
- Remember other people are in this too—It’s easy to get stuck in our own concerns, but remember, your friends and family are just like you. Share your concerns and feelings. Also, set some time for discussions that are COVID-19 free. Talking about your feelings can be helpful. Life goes on and you have to talk about and think about other things as well.
- Stay informed, but limit news exposure—Things are rapidly evolving and information changes multiple times a day. Knowing what’s going on is valuable. That being said, the never-ending news cycle typically just regurgitates the same information over and over throughout the day. Most of this is given in sensationalized ways that lead you to feel anxious, angry and stressed. Being more anxious and stressed will usually worsen your pain, which will then make you more stressed! It’s a loop that you have to break. Stay informed by setting a time for the news and keeping it off the rest of the day. Social media can be a great way to stay connected and informed, but often comes with a lot of negativity. Stay away from people on social media who are especially negative.
- Know when to ask for help—If you find that you cannot manage your distress, talk to a clergy member, counselor of doctor. You can also contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
- Keep in touch with your doctor—We want to help you through this time. Call us to make a telemedicine appointment so we can make a temporary plan to manage your pain during the crisis. Call 757-596-1900 and we will determine the appointment type best for you.
If you’re interested in making an appointment with Dr. Andrus or another OSC provider, get started online by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.