5 Ways To Move Through the Discomfort of Chronic Pain

Chronic Evolution Issue 16

Hello! 👋 

Welcome to Issue 16 of the weekly Chronic Evolution newsletter, where I share mindfulness tips, tricks, and anecdotes to help you evolve your mindset in 5 minutes or less.

Let’s get right into it.

5 Ways To Move Through the Discomfort of Chronic Pain

When I was in my early twenties, my body felt like it was in its nineties.

Every breath felt shallow, every movement was carefully measured. Pain and stiffness led to extremely limited motility.

My pain spurred a personal journey to heal. And I’m both tremendously relieved and grateful to say I achieved a pain-free state. Healing is never linear, however, and right now, I’m experiencing a flare-up – a state where my body doesn’t quite feel like home.

Here are five things I’m prioritizing in my life right now to get through this flare-up with hope, compassion, and kindness.

1. Make food more than fuel

When I’m in pain, the last thing I feel like doing is eating. So during this flare-up, I’m indulging my body by eating what I want when I want it guilt-free, with one caveat – I have to make it myself.

Pouring love and intention into the food I’m preparing helps me feel more connected to my body. It also helps me feel self-sufficient and independent at a time when I feel like I have diminished autonomy over my own life. And self-sufficiency is empowering.

For the first time in years, I’m giving myself permission to spend a longer time in the kitchen, preparing food that I'm truly excited about eating.

The other night I made Sammy Montgom’s Big Mac Nachos and they were chef’s kiss.

2. Intentional movement > intense workouts

I stopped pressuring myself to return to the gym and started meeting my body where it’s at instead. For me, that means slow, gentle fascial stretching.

I like Human Garage. They have online courses to guide you through fascial stretching routines that you can do on your own with no equipment.

I recently saw them promoting a knee pain workshop with Christopher J. Kidawski. I passed on the workshop but purchased Chris’s book, The Back Pain Bible. He lays out a three-part program to rehabilitate back pain involving trigger points, stretching, and strengthening. I plan on trying this out shortly. I’m about halfway through the book and would highly recommend it.

3. Remember, the present moment is just that – a moment

When a flare-up hits, rest assured a fear-based mental spiral isn’t far behind 😅.

Meditation helps me get outside my head and remember that my pain is not infinite but merely one moment in time.

I like the Calm app for meditation because it’s easy to use and has so many options. I can sneak in a two-minute meditation between work meetings or do a longer sleep session before bed. My favorite sleep meditation right now is “Peaceful Sleep” with Mel Mah. It includes a box breathing exercise inspired by Yoga Nidra that I find particularly grounding.

4. A spoonful of laughter helps the pain go down

Sometimes I just feel pull-my-hair-out frustrated with my body, and meditation or positive affirmations don’t snap me out of it.

In these darker moments, I know the best thing isn’t for me to tune in. It’s to tune out. To get lost in something else for a while and have a good laugh.

According to Swiss researchers, laughter can increase our pain tolerance for up to twenty minutes after a bout of hysterics. Their findings were so significant that they recommended “humor interventions” be part of a multi-faceted pain therapy approach.

Here are my go-to strategies for finding laughter or happiness when I feel like I don’t have any joy left inside of me:

  • Watch bloopers of my favorite movies or tv shows on YouTube. (I could watch Harry Potter outtakes all day long. Who’s with me? 🤓)

  • Watch uplifting videos that remind me of the good in humanity – videos from Jay Shetty or MDMotivator never disappoint.

  • Watch funny cat videos. I know, I know, this one is a cliché. But I recently adopted my very first kitten and what can I say, I’m in the cat club now.

5. Love yourself a little deeper

When the reality of your body doesn’t live up to the ideal pain-free state you have in your mind, it can be all too easy for resentment to creep in.

You can stop it in its tracks with a little more self-love.

Every morning when you get up, look your reflection straight in the eyes and say, “I love you.”

You can take it a step further, too. When I’m in pain, I like to give myself additional reassurance, such as “I’m here for you. It’s okay to not feel okay. I’m not going to rush you. I’ll work with you to get through this. You are so insanely loveable, capable, and worthy, even with this pain. Your pain does not define or diminish you. It won’t last forever.”

This is called mirror work. Louise Hay describes it as “one of the most loving gifts you can give yourself.”

Mirror work may feel kind of weird, especially if you’ve never done it before. But try to work through any resistance that arises and reserve judgment until you’ve given it an honest attempt.

Key takeaway

Healing can sometimes feel like a full-time job. I recognize that taking time to do the activities outlined here is a privilege. Not everyone has 60 minutes to spend in the kitchen or an afternoon of uninterrupted time to spend reading a back pain book.

Do what you can in the time you have available.

Perhaps you pick just one suggestion from this email and try it for a week. Maybe you don’t pick anything.

Today’s message is not about jamming five new healing activities into an already-packed schedule. It’s about slowing down and making changes to work with your body – not against it. Because your body is always on your side, even when it doesn’t feel like home.

To your chronic evolution,


P.S. Know someone who would enjoy this newsletter? Click the button below to share it with them.

If these emails ever become a burden rather than something you look forward to opening each week, I encourage you to unsubscribe. (No hard feelings.)