by Angie Rose - Marketing Consultant.

Learning to live with pain

After attending Learning Technologies 2016 and watching a really good session on Emotional Resilience, I wanted to reflect on how I’ve developed my own resilience over the last few years. A lot of what the speaker ─ Martin Coburn ─ said, hit home and reminded me just how far I have come.

Despite having two operations on my spine, six years ago I achieved a dream; starting my own business ─ a women’s fitness club. This was a big achievement for me; as in addition I had also qualified as a fitness instructor. I was fitter and healthier than I had ever been. Doing a job I loved. I thought my days of pain were behind me.

However, three years ago I woke up unable to move and that was it ─ dream over. To cut a long story short; after three sets of spinal injections, various alternative treatments and a lot of medication, I was no longer able to continue on my chosen career path; due to suffering from chronic back and nerve pain.

Learn - Change  - Win

It took me a while to accept that I would always be in pain but once I had, I needed to learn how to live with it. Listening to Martin Coburn speak about the seven natural powers we are able to change in ourselves, I realised that I had in fact made changes to all of these myself. I learnt what I needed to do in order to live my life.

I was particularly fascinated by the formula he discussed in this session: E + R = O. He explained that the trigger ─ be it an emotional or physical one ─ is the one part of this equation we can’t change. We can, however, change how we react to it. We determine our own outcomes to situations by how we react to them. By choosing to react positively, we ensure a positive outcome for ourselves.

The power of the mind

I’ve always believed in the power of the mind and after researching mindfulness and how it can be used to improve/change our emotional state, I started applying its principles in my life. These are a few of the beliefs I’ve adopted, which have helped and continue to help me:

Don’t look backwards, you’re not going that way. Don’t concentrate on what you can’t do any more, concentrate on what you can do. Use this as an opportunity to develop or learn new skills.

Set new goals. You may no longer be able to achieve previous goals you’ve set, so set some new ones.

Redirect your focus. Keep your mind focused on something other than the pain. This can take a bit of training; as they say practice makes perfect. Well, you get better at it anyway.

Exercise stimulates the mind. Exercising isn’t always easy when you’re in pain but even the smallest amount can make you feel good. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. These interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine (or chocolate).

Happiness is a choice. I find motivational quotes helpful to keep me thinking positively. “Being positive in a negative situation is not naive, it’s leadership.” Be in charge of your choices - choose to be happy and enjoy life.

You’re not alone. Whether it be friends, family or forums; make sure you have a good support network. When pain starts taking control of you, be strong and seek support. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up. Get them off your chest and have a good old whinge. It always makes me feel better and clears my mind to focus on something positive again.

Conquering challenges

Living with pain is the hardest challenge I’ve faced to date; and one I continue to conquer on a daily basis. I’m no expert on the subject and can only speak from my own experience.

I would welcome others to offer their thoughts and suggestions on what works for them. After all, “power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it”.