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Enduring Chronic Pain: The Power of Resilience

“For over half a decade, I have been living with chronic lower back pain”. 


This is a statement that, I’m sure, resonates with many, many of The Resilience Lab’s students. 


Chronic back pain - in fact any kind of chronic pain - is something that has become so pervasive in our society that it’s almost impossible to avoid.


According to Pain Australia, 3.37 million Australians were living with chronic pain in 2020, of which 53.8% are women (1.81 million) and 46.2% are men (1.56 million), so it is no surprise that it creates an enormous financial, emotional and familial burden on our lives.


Lower back pain alone costs the Australian economy around $1.8 billion a year, and is the number one cause of lost work productivity and early retirement.


Although statistics indicate that individuals facing these health challenges are not ‘alone’, I can attest from personal experience that amidst the daily battles, it often feels like solitary confinement.


Despite the care of your loved ones, the encouragement of friends and the support of social circles, when push-comes-to-shove, it is you that is left feeling weak, dysregulated, angry, frustrated, annoyed, incapable and with the constant tug of pain at every turn. 


It is you that must get up before dawn to find time to do the work of rehabilitation.


It is you that misses out on cool activities, or who can’t lift your child off the ground.


It’s you that can see the worry and pain and - sometimes - the general unwillingness to continue each morning in the mirror.


There is absolutely no escaping the fact that chronic pain (or illness) will test your reserves of Resilience like no other affliction. And - just like patience - your need Resilience is most critical at precisely the moments it is most difficult.


But how is it possible to build Resilience when your nervous system is consistently on fire and even the thought of the slightest movement makes you grimace?


The truth is that it is very, very difficult.

And whilst I don’t - not even for a second! - profess to having all the answers, I can tell you that it is possible and that (if you build the skills to enable it), showing up each day will bring about positive change.


You can hear more about my personal experience via our YouTube Channel, however, I would like to share a couple of simple techniques that have worked for me over the years:


  • Build a Bomber Base: There is no escaping the fact that if your sleep is poor, your diet is crap and you rarely go outside or do anything fun because of your injury, then you will have little-to-no capacity to remain Resilient. On top of this, there is a good chance that your breathing will be dysfunctional and that your nervous system will be consistently switched onto ‘GOGOGO!’ Mode.  

Therefore, after being through the wringer and finding a happy place on the other side, I can honestly say that much of my pain and helplessness could have been alleviated if I had placed more emphasis on building a wider BASE for myself right from the start. Do whatever it takes to prioritise these elements!


  • Keep Searching For Something to Shift The Needle: If you have chronic pain and you’re anything like me, you have probably tried plenty of things to find relief. Some may work, many will not, however my one piece of advice is to keep searching! Your saviour, your ultimate relief is out there, you just need to find it. It will be different for everyone and it may take you many more moons to find it, but if you stay patient, persistent and curious, it will come. Once you find your ‘thing’, lock onto it like a labrador with a bone!


  • Move: For many years, I found that - due to my pain - I was constantly tired and lethargic. It didn’t help that my sleep quality was poor, either. So, my default mode would be to rest, rather than remain active and use my body. It took a major shift in perspective for me to realise that our bodies are made to move and by doing so I would get more relief than taking medication and lying on the floor could ever give me!


I sincerely hope that by sharing my story and some of the things that have helped me along the way, I can provide hope to anyone out there suffering through chronic pain or illness.


The techniques that we teach here at The Resilience Lab are really powerful tools for helping you on this journey, so if you would like to learn how to apply them to your specific situation (or even if you just want to chat with someone who has been through it too!), please drop us an email, we’d love to hear from you.


You can get hold of us at: hello@theresiliencelab.com.au


Take care and keep smiling,


Nath.

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