A serious injury can change your life in an instant, even if temporarily. Suddenly you may not be able to walk, work, or continue an activity or sport you love so much. The consequences of an injury can be devastating and significantly reduce your quality of life and independence.
Healthcare providers and patients often ask and talk about physical pain after an injury, but what doesn’t get as much attention is emotional pain. While physical pain can usually be managed by medications and modalities such as ice and nerve stimulation (both of which require minimal effort on the patient’s part), emotional pain is much more challenging to combat. The arduous process of recovery, sometimes taking months and years, can psychologically affect even the toughest people.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way”
Fortunately, the human mind is incredibly strong and resilient, and with the right attitude and guidance, can be shaped to overcome life’s most difficult obstacles. Here are six ways to overcome your emotional pain:
1. Educate yourself on the injury, prognosis, and treatment.
Knowing more about the nature of your injury can reduce anxiety, help establish realistic expectations, boost your confidence, increase active involvement in your recovery, and optimize rehab outcomes. If you have questions or uncertainties, consulting an appropriate healthcare professional like a physiotherapist can help tremendously with your rehab journey.
2. Do what you can but be open to assistance.
It is important to go about daily life as normally as possible in order to preserve your dignity and strength. At the same time, however, an injury often will come with some very significant physical limitations; therefore, it may be wise to seek and accept help. It is human nature to lend a hand when we see others in need, and you could feel overwhelmed and vulnerable by countless offers to help. There is no formula to finding a balance between staying independent and getting help, but taking chances, however small, should be avoided if possible. If you feel strongly about doing something on your own, kindly refuse help, be sure to acknowledge the helper’s offer, and never take things personally. Sometimes an untrained person may not know how to approach your situation properly and say hurtful things, albeit with only good intentions. Be realistic with what you can do and never let your pride put yourself at risk.
3. Distract yourself with new experiences and keep busy.
We know that physical pain can be reduced with distractions like humour, and emotional pain is no different. Learning a new skill not only keeps your mind stimulated and occupied, but also can afford you new opportunities that would otherwise have never appeared had life gone on as normal.
4. Connect with a health professional who is knowledgeable about your injury and recovery.
An experienced professional can teach you proven pain management strategies and act as an unbiased sounding board. It also helps to connect with others who have sustained the same injury as yours for advice and moral support. A quick Google search would likely bring up several forums on topics relevant to your condition. There is little that is more valuable than reading about real first hand experiences.
5. Control what you can control.
That’s something Kobe Bryant, a retired professional basketball player and great competitor, said when he tore his Achilles tendon. The human body has an amazing ability to heal and adapt, and sometimes it needs a lot of time and care to work its magic. So while we may not be able to accelerate or influence the body’s processes, we can and should focus on aspects of recovery that we do have control of. Some examples of controllable aspects include learning about your injury and keeping yourself busy, as mentioned earlier.
6. Find your “why”.
Why is recovery important to you? Is it because you have to care for your kids? Return to a sport you can’t live without? Return to work as soon as possible? You need to find and commit to a purpose because rehab is going to require hard work. Having a purpose helps keep you focused, motivated, and persevere through your lows.
Since our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can positively or negatively affect our physical function, it would be a big mistake to overlook emotional pain. Learning to cope with it is going to make you stronger and maximize the likelihood of a full recovery.