As I continue on my natural healing journey, I have been experiencing a lot of pain-free times lately and have been off heavy painkillers for about six weeks. This is HUGE progress. For the six months prior to that I was taking codeine on the daily. Most of the time my pain has been between 0-4 out of 10, rather than 7-11 out of 10 like it was previously. It was beyond exciting to realise all my many natural remedies and modalities were working! (You can check out my natural healing plan here.) I was feeling so joyful and grateful and positively sparkly. Then, I had a hugely stressful week and was consequently hit with an epic pain flare (isn’t it so fun and convenient that the two go hand in hand?) I immediately felt deeply disheartened and like the hope-filled light at the end of the tunnel was suddenly extinguished.
I’ve gotten pretty good at looking after myself physically during a pain flare (Hello bed, heat pack and Netflix, my old friends!) But I realised this time I really needed to focus on my emotional wellbeing to stop myself from downward spiralling into unhelpful negative thoughts. So, if you are going through a pain flare and feeling all the feels, here are some emotional self-care techniques I can recommend to get through …
I recently attended a yoga class focusing on relieving pelvic pain. There was one piece of wisdom she gave that I’ve thought about (and implemented) every day since. She explained that when we are stressed, our breathing tends to be quicker and shorter and our muscles tend to tense up ready for fight of flight. This explains why many endo sisters (including me) get a physical pain flare when they experience emotional or mental stress. She also said when we have been in pain for a long time our brains can get stuck in hyper-vigilant mode, constantly looking for any sign of pain or danger. She shared that we can actually use our breath to remind ourselves we are safe no matter what sensations arise in our body. Focusing on taking deep, slow breaths helps our body and mind to know it is safe to relax.
Nature really is the ultimate healer. There is nothing more restorative to my mind, body and soul than putting my bare feet on the earth, feeling the sun on my face and watching the wind dance in the trees. I’m incredibly lucky to live just five minutes walk from the ocean and even though it’s super hard to find the motivation to get out of bed when I’m in pain and feeling emotionally low, swimming in the sea actually brings my emotional and physical pain down to almost zero. I’m not alone on this discovery. There are a growing number of reports like this one claiming cold water swimming can improve mental health and in Scotland doctors are even beginning to prescribe “nature therapy” to treat both mental and physical illness. Get grounding!
Over and over again I fall into the trap of not wanting to be a “burden” or “negative Nancy” who is always complaining about being in pain, or exhausted, or emotionally drained. I also feel like a bad friend because I simply don’t have the energy to go out most of the time. This means I often don’t reach out for support and end up feeling totally isolated and alone. As soon as I talk to a friend about what’s really going on for me I feel a million times better. They are always so loving and supportive (I really have amazing friends), they completely understand that I have limited energy and I always wish I had spoken to them sooner. And of course connecting with my fur baby is always so healing to my heart and mind as she helps me in all the ways.
One of my favourite spiritual teachers Lacy Phillips says when we want something we need to expand our minds by showing ourselves its possible. That means finding people that have what we want. What I want more than anything right now is to use natural methods to feel healthy and vibrant again. Therefore, when I’m in a pain flare and start questioning if I’ll ever be well again, I know I need to seek out what Lacy calls “expanders”. These are people who have endometriosis and use natural healing modalities to make their symptoms lessen or even disappear completely. Right now this means listening to podcasts like this one and reading success stories in books like this one.
The other day as I was contemplating having to fold up my clean washing and put it away, I burst into tears. I had completely run out of spoons (you can read about Spoon Theory here). I wanted to clean the house, cook a healthy meal and put my washing away. If I had to cancel my plans to spend the day in bed I at least wanted to make sure the space around me was clean and tidy and I was eating well. But these simple tasks seemed absolutely overwhelming with pain radiating through my body. I had to re-prioritise. What was most important? Resting and healing. I decided to use my few remaining spoons to do my pelvic stretches and order a healthy meal to be delivered (poke bowl deliciousness!) and leave everything else for a day when I had more spoons. Re-prioritising during a sudden pain flare and accepting I am not capable of doing all the things I want to do takes a lot of self-compassion and self-forgiveness. But it is so important because I know if I can be kind and gentle with myself – not just physically but emotionally and mentally too – it is another step closer to getting my sparkle back.
How do you emotionally support yourself during a pain flare?