Lessons chronic pain can teach you

I like to sit quietly at the end of each year to reflect on my wins, challenges, and what I can learn from them. This year has definitely brought many changes into my life, and as I was thinking about this, I decided why not share with you some of the lessons that I have learned this year, and also throughout the past recent years dealing with chronic pain.

As a coach, I feel I have an obligation to also share my own struggles to inspire and motivate you, because (as I’ll mention below) witnessing real life, success stories will go a long way in helping you stay hopeful every single day,

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor

Going deep

I knew that if I were to grow beyond my fears and challenges, with chronic pain at the top of the challenges list, I had to adopt a warrior mindset, and be brave enough (and vulnerable enough) to seek the inconvenient truth behind my aches and pains, and if my daily habits were contributing to them.  In other words, when dealing with chronic pain, we feel weak and vulnerable. We don’t know what’s going on, but at the same time we kinda do. It’s like there is this voice our heads telling us what’s up, but if only we listened. Which brings me to my first lesson that chronic pain taught me.

To listen more, and more often.

There are so many things, that we are not conscious about, that affect us at the subconscious level and show up in our bodies as illness or aches. The body and the mind are connected and we cannot separate these two, and yet we do this exact thing everytime we feel pain.  If you want to read more about the mind-body connection, I invite you to read my post here.

There is so much scientific evidence out there on the effect of stress on our bodies, and it is no surprise that we experience chronic illness at times in our lives when big events/stresses are happening.

I invite you to listen more to your inner self, and your body.  To write more in a journal about your feelings (yes, feelings). Practice mindfulness meditation, feel each part of your body and connect with it.  I bet you’ll discover a whole new inner-universe, and tap into so much information you don’t have access to when running on autopilot all day. It’s been shown that 95% of our brain activity is beyond our conscious awareness. Mindfulness meditation allows us to calm our brains down, and actually tap into the subconscious mind. All you need is some quiet time, and a great sense an adventure 🙂

PS: I included a copy of this meditation in Back Pain Bootcamp.

Read more, and seek my own answers.

How did chronic pain teach me to read more? simply because I started getting really curious/obsessed about healing, and health topics. I’ve always been fascinated about self-development and science books, and then since this whole back pain thang happened, I became very eager to learn more about the power of our human body, the mind and the nervous system.

Since upgrading to Kindle Voyage this summer, I’ve noticed I’ve been reading more often. I still love reading physical books, and feeling the pages with my fingers, but books can get quite expensive if you read a lot. They also take up a lot of space in my small apartment. Kindle solved that issue for me, and kindle books are usually half the price of the physical copies (if not cheaper). So I decided to read everyday about a topic I’m interested in. I usually like to read self-development books, science and anatomy during the day to expand my knowledge on becoming a better coach.  I don’t read fiction anymore because my time is limited, and I have a lot to learn about many topics I’m interested it. I may pick up a fiction book if I’m on vacation, but other wise, I tend to read more about topics that light me up.

Know your Why, then set your goals.

I came to realize that during the darkest times of my life, the only thing that kept me going was my big ‘why’.  My raison d’être fuels every one of my goals. Friend, you gotta know why you do what you do.

I get so many emails from people looking to lose weight, get rid of chronic pain, or get in shape again.  Typically the email would say they followed certain diet programs, committed to stretching everyday and started working out consistently at a gym. At first, they felt excited to do it, but as time went by, and real life took over, old habits started creeping in and they lost all motivation to keep going. This sad pattern happens every year on January 1st.  I would be lucky to find an empty spot at the gym that day, then few days later, the gym is back to its status quo and regulars.

Unfortunately, Without a strong reason that drives and fuels our daily actions, we get in a dead-end cycle of one step forward, one step back.

Let me emphasize, Your why should fuel your actions so you can reach your goals. You can call it your true desire, your definite chief aim, or simply your big Why. It’s that ONE thing that’ll keeps you going everyday when things get tough.  If you want to heal, identify why you really want to heal and be back to that 100%, and have that vision in your mind every single day. Let is fuel every one of your actions to reach that goal.

I workout frequently, and have been consistent for years. The why that drives me to get to the gym no matter what the weather is like, or no matter how much I just want to stay home in my pj, is not because I want to lose 10 pounds to fit in some dress for a wedding coming up in June, but because health is my #1 core value, and exercise helps me stay sane mentally, strong and pain-free physically.

I am a big fan of quotes, and I use them to remind me of my whys. This is one of my favorites..

What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable – Socrates

So know your whys everytime you set a new goal. Write it up where you can see it often. The next time you feel like quitting, you’ll remember why you started.

Be with peeps who get you, and ditch distractions

Life is too short to waste away on things or people who don’t bring anything of value into your existence. Simply put, get rid of toxic people (and toxic habits) in your life. They drain your energy and that is the last thing you need in your healing journey. You want to be surrounded by people who empower, and support you, not those who are always on rant/victim mentality mode. Identify those people, and limit your interactions with them. I MEAN THIS.

Likewise, I have no tolerance for toxic people on the internet, that’s why I started this amazing group. 

The next biggest challenge I had to face was distractions. Social media is one thing, but our own mind can also act as a distraction too. Have you ever noticed how your mind can easily throw an idea at you, at that right moment you are trying to meditate…and so you stop and go do that thing.  Mental focus has been a huge skill I’ve been trying to master, and mindfulness meditation is a way to practice it.

I also struggled with information overload when I was researching how to cure my back pain. I was trying to do everything and anything that included spending all my savings on different treatments, special chairs, and gadgets that promised to give me long-term relief. That moment you become aware of those patterns is the moment you can do something about it. You go from unconscious incompetence (when you don’t know what you don’t know) to conscous competence.

Find inspiration, everywhere

One thing that kept me going when I had hopeless days was to look for inspirations and success stories everywhere. I read blogs of people who healed, and were able to conquer the most debilitating illnesses, I reached out to them, and reminded myself everyday that if they did it, I could do it too. This blog is doing just that. It is my hope that you can go back to it every time you feel hopeless or need support. I started doing the same thing whenever I set a big goal to achieve. I always seek other people who have done it, and I follow their footsteps.

But before closing this blog post, I want to let you know that Back Pain Bootcamp is open for enrollment this week. You can read more about it here, It is the system I followed to overcome piriformis syndrome and lower back pain. Of course, nutrition was also key in my healing journey, but the exercises in the bootcamp not only gave me my body back, but also restored faith in my inner strength.