Video: Values-Based Activities – Music

Even when we are limited in what we can do (because of our illness or pain) we should still live by our values and take actions that we can. If you play an instrument, that might mean playing your instrument! Or if you’re unable to play at the moment, maybe it means listening to some music that you love. What can you do to live by your values?

This is just one way to keep making the most of it!

5 Easy Chronic Pain Self-Management Skills

Today I want to take a slice of Pete Moore’s Pain Toolkit and share it with you. Who is Pete Moore? He’s a chronic pain warrior who came up with this incredible Pain Toolkit to help others struggling with chronic pain. Here’s the website: https://www.paintoolkit.org/ . The truth is, we can learn to self-manage our chronic pain. Like Pete, I have also learned to do so to a point where, yes I have pain, but no it does not affect my day-to-day life (that’s not to say I don’t have bad days, heck I had bad pain the other night and had difficulty sleeping). One thing we want to do when we have chronic pain is cultivate resilience. Now, I’ve written about resilience before in the past, so I’m not going to go into detail here. For those who aren’t familiar with what resilience entails, here are a few things: optimism, self-belief, willingness, self-control, being able to adapt, psychological flexibility, problem-solving, emotional awareness, social support, and humour, to name a few. So, here are 5 ways we can learn to do this.

Doing these things helps me manage my chronic pain.
  1. Goal Setting and Action Planning I often set goals for myself, even on days that I’m not feeling great. In our third atmospheric river (basically several days of torrential downpour) since November in BC, Canada, I’m again feeling it in my body. But I know my body also needs to move. So I set a goal for how far I will walk in the rain (which is less than my goal would normally be but appropriate for the weather, my body at this moment, etc.). So, set your goals, and prepare for barriers to them. Here’s a podcast episode I recently did on that.
  2. Engaging in Activities of Daily Living – Getting out of bed, having a shower, eating breakfast, etc. All the regular stuff we do in our lives. It can be really hard to want to do them when you have an illness or pain, but doing them can also improve our overall well-being. Check out this episode of the podcast for more.
  3. Problem Solving – Problem solving can include a lot of different things. Pacing is important and I’ve done a post on that (December 1), prioritizing and planning your days, and really importantly, having a setback plan. What are you going to do when things don’t go the way you planned (in your goal setting and action planning stage). When I was recovering from hip surgery last year, I had to problem solve how to do all of my daily activities because I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot (for 6 weeks!) and I live alone. I still had to figure out how to cook, shower, dress, and even get to some appointments.
  4. Be Active – this will mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but it really means to move your body. It could be walking, exercise/going to the gym, stretching, yoga. Exercise itself is an evidence-based treatment for chronic pain (here’s the podcast episode). It can be light movement, as long as it’s movement. I can’t go a day without moving my body. Even when I notice I’m having the thought that I don’t want to move or I’m in too much pain, I inevitably actually feel better if I go for a walk or do some restorative yoga.
  5. Be patient with yourself – offer yourself some compassion. Change is slow. Like it’s an average of 10 weeks for someone to start noticing differences (in their minds or bodies) when they start to make any changes. If you find you’re having difficulty being patient with yourself, try this mindfulness exercise. I’m definitely guilty of wanting change to occur quickly for myself. But interestingly, when I offer myself patience and compassion instead of criticism, change seems to actually occur more quickly than when I’m only hard on myself.
Remember, change is slow.

I hope this helps you with some pain management. I know it’s things that have helped me and many others. So, just keep making the most of it!

Fighting off Depression for Chronic Illness and Non-Chronic Illness Warriors

I want to talk a bit about mental health today. A lot of people with chronic illness deal with depression and anxiety. During this Covid-19 post-lockdown period, a number of previously mentally healthy people have been also dealing with feelings of anxiety and depression because of their time in isolation and the different experiences this may have brought for them. While there are many different reasons for people to become depressed, there are some proven ways to combat it. The way I’d like to talk about today is behavioral activation.

behavioral_activation_fig2_what_is_behavioral_activation_en-us
Image from: https://www.psychologytools.com/self-help/behavioral-activation/

As I’ve mentioned before, I am currently doing my a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology. Last month I took a course on Cognitive Behavioral interventions. Though I am not planning on specializing in CBT, I do find that a lot of the empirically supported interventions are worth integrating into my future practice. Anyway, I’ll digress. What is behavioral activation? BA is an intervention that suggests that doing something you enjoy and/or are masterful at and/or provides social interaction, will decrease your depressive symptoms and ultimately make you feel happy. Before you start to laugh, as I have mentioned, there is a lot of evidence (which I’ll link below) that supports this treatment for depression, including severe depression. If you find you’re feeling more depressed at a certain time of day, that is when you should schedule activities for. Remember, they need to be something you enjoy (or previously enjoyed before depression) or something you’re good at. So, for example, if from 3-5pm every day you feel really depressed, but you like to be outside and walk, then that’s the time you should do it.

behavioral_activation_fig3_activity_monitoring_1_en-usImage from: https://www.psychologytools.com/self-help/behavioral-activation/

Here’s something I noticed during lockdown. Most of the people I know who sat at home and did nothing – just watched Netflix all day or played video games – felt depressed. I volunteer at a crisis text line and a lot of the texters felt the same way by just doing those things – movies and video games. Now, I have nothing against movies and video games and they can be things you enjoy, but not necessarily when it’s all you do all day every day. Those of us who kept busy (I studied, exercised, meditated, did my 30-day self-care challenge, walked, learned a new language, etc, etc.) did not feel depressed. Kind of interesting isn’t it?

P0Y5qqmIQzKLJzosqFb3qwLockdown era city hike.

My suggestion is that if you’re feeling depressed, try to start scheduling some activities for yourself, or now that lockdown is winding down, start to see some of your friends again. If you’re severely depressed, I do suggest finding a therapist to help you as well, but don’t be surprised if one of the things they suggest is behavioral activation! Of course, for anyone with a chronic illness, we may not be able to do ALL of the things we could before, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you enjoy or are good at. Take a look at what you can do and go from there.

canadadayHappy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!
Image from: https://www.albertaprimetimes.com/the-bright-side/canada-day-2020-20-facts-and-figures-to-celebrate-the-big-day-2527866

Here are some articles surrounding the efficacy of it.

https://www.verywellmind.com/increasing-the-effectiveness-of-behavioral-activation-2797597

https://positivepsychology.com/behavioural-activation-therapy-treating-depression/

https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/172/17220620045.pdf

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ba12/5cb76b3baa12cc272d9c9bb95e3297eeee83.pdf