Lesson 6 of 10
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6) Managing Moods

I-Engage May 1, 2021

In this lesson, you will learn about how to manage your moods and emotions so you can reduce distress. It’s normal to struggle emotionally when you have persistent pain. But, these emotions can make day-to-day life challenging.

People with pain find that managing their mood in positive ways leads to a difference in their pain and daily lives.

young woman sitting up in bed looking upset with her head resting against her hand.

People with pain often find they feel:

Angry and frustrated
Fearful and worried
Low and unmotivated

If you have these feelings, then you might agree that they feel overwhelming at times. Further, you may feel like you have no control over them.

This is not your fault; the human mind typically responds this way when we’re stressed, feeling unwell, or dealing with difficult events. Above all, your mind is trying to cope and make sense of everything.

Additionally, negative thoughts can compound. For example, you might think “I’m useless” over and over, until you begin to really believe it. Therefore, these thought patterns can affect your self-esteem and quality of life.

two hands; one with a thumbs up and one with a thumbs down.

Did you know there are steps you can take to better manage your moods? There are ways to break out of negative thought cycles. Certainly, realistic positive changes can come from learning to deal with these unhelpful thoughts.

Also, there is evidence showing that relaxation and mindfulness can help. We’ll cover that in another lesson!

Be kind and compassionate to yourself

It’s one of the best ways to control your mood. For instance, it’s easy to be self-critical and beat yourself up for not being able to live life the way you wanted. However, the more you do this, the more negative thoughts emerge. This also causes stress, which makes your pain networks more sensitive; so, pain and distress increases.

Keep in mind that this is not your fault. Additionally, it may help to assess your expectations of yourself. Do you expect perfection? Are your expectations of yourself realistic? Or, do you maintain a list of standards for yourself that you would never hold against anyone else?

For example, if your friend was experiencing something similar to you, what would you tell them? Would you put them down or be supportive? Mostly likely, you would be supportive. So, you should employ that same love and support you’d give your friends towards yourself. Consequently, you will begin to feel less stressed.

Experiment with strategies that lessen the stress and pressure you put on yourself. As a result, this will help your body’s natural pain-reducing mechanisms to work better. They’ll be able to soothe some of the pain and upset. Further, this can reduce the adrenaline levels that increase stress and trigger symptoms.

Here are several ways to manage your moods. Try them out and discover which ones work best for you:

1)Noticing negative thoughtsNegative thoughts can come to mind and affect your mood without you even noticing. You can get into the habit of spotting your negative thoughts as they occur. Recognizing them allows you to assess the truth behind them. Then, you can replace them with a more neutral or positive thought.
2)Practice balanced thinkingWrite down your negative thoughts and imagine what a best friend would say if they knew what you were thinking. You can make a note about this and use it again to remind yourself that these negative thoughts do not help you.
3)Do things that unwind your mindPrioritize calming activities, such as: walking your dog, listening to music, doodling, breathing exercises, or your favorite crafts.
4)Show yourself that you are doing wellKeeping a ‘Positive Facts Diary’ can help. This will show you that you are doing well, despite the pain. Write down any positive experiences you have during the day. Think about taking photos on your phone to have an album you can review to help counter negative thoughts.
5)Practice being kind to yourselfWork towards fun goals where you can do something enjoyable, like going out with a friend. Treat yourself and show yourself compassion. Make time for self-care.
6)Learn from others with similar pain conditionsFind out what other people do to deal with negative thinking and moods through the I-Engage Community support groups and forums. Feel free to search, post and interact!
7)Get into helpful habitsFigure out what made a really useful change for you last week and then use it again!
8)Share your plans with people you trust and get their supportRemember: you are not alone! We all need support and encouragement from others sometimes. Reach out to friends and family to ask for help. Involving other people in your plans can help keep you accountable. Plus, you’ll find spending more time with others will be a positive distraction.

Mental Wellbeing

There are steps you can take to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Try them out; they may help you feel more positive and purposeful.

1)Connect with othersConnecting with others can help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth. This can give you an opportunity to share positive experiences and give/receive emotional support.  
2)Be physically activeBeing active is not only great for your physical health, but it can also improve your mental wellbeing. It releases endorphins, builds confidence, and helps you to set goals. You’ll challenge yourself which can help to positively change your mood.
3)Learn new skillsLearning new skills can boost your confidence, raise your self-esteem, and help you connect to others. Plus, you can take the attention off your pain and onto something else.
4)Give to othersActs of giving and kindness can help create positive feelings, a sense of purpose and self-worth, as well as connection. Volunteering may be a worthy venture!
5)Be present in the here and now (mindfulness)Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. Your thoughts, emotions, and perception of the world may change for the better. It may even improve how you approach challenges.

In the next lesson, you will learn about the connection between sleep and chronic pain, and how to get better sleep, despite your pain.

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