People living with chronic pain tend to approach life such that they:
- Avoid doing things that they think will make them feel worse
- Base what or how much they do on how they feel
Avoiding activities is not helpful in the long term – it becomes more difficult to do things the longer you put them off e.g. visiting friends, cooking, going to work etc.
Not working or doing fun things can reduce your self-confidence and lower your mood.
Basing what you do, or how much you do it, on how you feel is also not useful in the long term. People often do more when they feel better, so making their pain worse by overdoing things. We call this activity cycling
Both avoidance and activity cycling can trap you in vicious cycles that are then difficult to break out of.
See 'Pacing your Activities' for further information about this.
You must be in control of your activity levels and NOT let the pain control them
- Goal Setting is the process which enables you to:
- Be in control of your activities
Plan both what you do and how much you do at any one time
The skills of goal setting and planning to achieve valued goals need practise to work well
1. Begin by asking yourself: ‘What do I want to achieve?’ ‘What are my long term or overall goals?’
These goals can be simple and general e.g.
- ‘To improve my walking’
- ‘To make more opportunities to meet new friends’
- ‘To do more housework/DIY’
2. The next stage is to break these down into specific goals e.g.
- ‘To walk to the local shop’
- ‘To join the Art Club’
- ‘To clean the kitchen’
Now you can begin to plan how you are going to tackle these activities by breaking them down even further.
3. The final stage is where you break down your specific goals into immediate or mini goals.
Let’s take the specific goal
- ‘To clean the kitchen’
This can be broken down as follows:
- ‘To wash the kitchen floor using the long handled mop’
- ‘To clean the work surfaces’
- ‘To improve my standing tolerance to do cleaning tasks by 5 minutes’
- ‘To empty the rubbish bin’
Keep on breaking the goals down until you feel that they are manageable for you.
Base what you do and how much you do on a plan and not on how you feel.
Carry out activities at a steady and regular pace and in a way that suits you.
Goal setting and planning will help you to learn what it is you can do.
Focus on your successes while moving towards new goals.
Dr. Claire Winchurst, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Ms. Caroline Waterstone, Specialist Physiotherapist