I feel my stress and anger rise as I struggle with my inability to button my shirt with my one functional hand. My anxiety erupts as I use my teeth to pull my jacket off my arm. I lose my patience again as the large pot I am trying to scrub slips from my hands and puts a chip in my kitchen sink. These are just a few examples of things that test my patience daily.
My spinal cord injury and chronic pain struggle have added many challenges to my journey toward modifying my impatient behavior. In the past, I thought my impatience was mostly aimed at others. I have discovered, though, that the impatience and unkindness that I aim toward myself, is what will ultimately and unintentionally be directed at others, sooner or later.
There are several things I know my body and soul need in order for me to not only manage my pain but also react with patience and kindness toward myself. Most of these things take time. Taking the time to refresh my body and my soul each morning takes patience and diligence. When I don’t take the time to do what I need, not only do I suffer, but those around me suffer as well.
Here are five tips that have helped me develop patience and kindness toward myself:
Make a plan. Making a plan the night before helps me follow through and start my day in a calm and kind way. Whether it is exercise or a time of quiet meditation, when I plan the night before, I’m much more likely to follow through. This includes managing my expectations and realizing most workdays won’t start until about 10 AM even if I wake early. I need ample time to complete my self-care routine.
Be flexible. Being flexible and listening to my body is important. If I have six hours of work lined up but at hour three I’m feeling unable to go any further, I need to have the flexibility to take a power nap or a walk around the block or sit down and take five minutes to breathe from my diaphragm to decrease my pain.
Be courageous. I know that there are some things that are going to increase my experience of pain, but I courageously choose to go ahead and do them anyway because the benefit outweighs the pain. But sometimes I need to be OK with changing my plans. Knowing my body and what triggers my pain and making decisions based on what is best for my whole self is courageous as well.
Be honest (with yourself). On days when I can’t do all that I set out to accomplish, I strive to be honest with myself and work towards “letting go” so I can take better care of me. Being honest with myself, or telling myself the truth that I need to let go, instead of pushing myself towards anxiety and frustration by insisting on unrealistic expectations, is critical. Honesty with myself has been an important part of developing my patience and kindness, and in turn, improving my quality of life and functionality.
Love yourself unconditionally. Giving myself unconditional positive love is really important. I care about others, especially those near and dear to me and I have learned that the way I treat myself is how I will end up treating others. As I build kindness and patience with myself, it spills over onto the people I interact with and it improves their lives as well.
Patience and kindness are the opposite of fear. As I let go of my fear, my pain subsides and goodness flows out from me. Giving grace to myself results in more grace given to others. Growing in kindness and patience takes practice and being mindful of daily intention setting. It isn’t easy, but I can tell you the benefits far outweigh the costs.
After a horrific car accident nearly took her life and her own long and complex recovery journey, Becky has assembled a vibrant team of specially-trained coaches—healthcare professionals who have gained proficiency in teaching and coaching, many who live successfully with chronic pain. Becky travels extensively to speak about the role of health coaching in pain management and has been a regular speaker at PAINWeek®, and many other conferences, in addition to coaching and managing TCC’s program. She lives in Utah with her husband and dog, Quigley.