Coping with Chronic Stomach Pain
Living with chronic stomach pain can take an emotional toll on an individual both mentally and physically. The effort that it takes to deal with the discomfort and the mental fear and apprehension of the discomfort can interfere with normal daily activities mental outlook and relationships with family and friends. The best way to cope with chronic stomach pain and enjoy the pleasures of a normal life is to take control of your attitude and your symptoms.
Taking Control of Your SituationThe most important step to coping with chronic stomach pain involves taking control over your symptoms instead of letting your symptoms control you. The first thing you need to do is start a symptom diary so that you can truly define the extent of your illness. Start by tracking your pain level and symptoms each day. After every entry note what you where doing when the pain started, what you had eaten prior to the onset of symptoms, and how you were feeling when the pain began. Also, make sure that you make the same detailed entries when the pain stops or decreases in severity.
Once you have a comprehensive picture of your stomach pain patterns and symptoms you can use the information to plan your activities and take control of your daily life. If you notice that the pain is always worse after a large meal, avoid heavy meals and strive to consume four or more smaller meals throughout the day. If you notice that the stomach pain symptoms are worse during periods of stress or worry, make an effort to control your stress level or learn stress reduction techniques. And, if you notice that your pain level is always lower in the morning then you can schedule more activities during this time frame in order to get the most enjoyment out of your daily life.
Even with a detailed diary and a solid schedule you may find that stomach pain is still keeping you from engaging in certain activities. At times like these it is very important that you attempt to continue on with your activities or schedule. If you let the pain keep you from participating in life your mental health will eventually suffer and your situation will get worse. This does not mean that you have to undertake an activity while feeling miserable. Instead, try to at least start the activity, like work, a lunch with friends, or a family outing, even if you have to shorten its original duration. By attempting the activity you can feel more in control of your life and your mental attitude will remain higher while you wait out the pain.
Coping and RelaxationAnother way to cope with chronic pain is to use relaxation techniques to decrease the severity of the symptoms. Many individuals who suffer from chronic stomach pain notice that their symptoms are much worse when their body is tense and their mind is troubled. Techniques like deep muscle relaxation, deep breathing, cognitive therapy, and mediation can relax the body and mind and provide relief from abdominal pain.
There are many books, tapes, and on line courses devoted to learning the techniques of deep muscle relaxation and deep breathing, however, the process of both is fairly simple. Deep muscle relaxation techniques require that you clear your mind and concentrate on relaxing one major muscle at a time. Deep breathing is similar in that you must visualise each breath and the flow of air coming into and out of your body. These techniques take practice to master but once you have the hang of them they can help you tune out the pain and decrease the severity of your chronic stomach pain symptoms.
Meditation techniques are similar to deep muscle relaxation and deep breathing in that they strive to clear your mind of the pain and help you cope mentally with a bad situation. However, mediation focuses more on complete relaxation of the mind and body using imagery and visualisation to help you reach that goal. Yoga is a good example of this coping technique, and there are also many books, tapes, and classes on the topic to get you started.
Lastly, cognitive therapy has been shown to help individuals cope with chronic pain. This technique is usually therapist assisted and involves learning ways to change the way you think about and react mentally to chronic pain. This technique can help you overcome stomach pain and allow you to participate in normal activities even when the pain is present.
Getting Outside HelpSometimes, no matter what you do, you will still need extra help coping with chronic stomach pain. Sometimes you will just need an understanding ear, others times you may need a little encouragement or a motivation boost to fight through the pain. A great place to get this extra support and learn even more about coping with pain is through a support group. Chronic stomach pain support groups can be located through doctor referrals, local medical facilities, the Internet, and at the library. Attending just a few meetings can really boost your mental attitude, help keep depression at bay, answer your nagging questions, and most importantly, let you know that you are not alone and that this condition can be conquered and controlled.
Coping with chronic stomach pain can be difficult and even overwhelming. The more techniques, and the more outside help and understanding that you have at your disposal the better you will be able to live life to the fullest and avoid letting your condition take control over you.