What To Do After Being Diagnosed With Chronic Pain

Guest Post by Ms. Waters from  Hyper-Tidy.com [Bio Found at Bottom]

When you received your diagnosis of chronic pain, you probably wondered how your life would change. That’s entirely normal, as this diagnosis can be serious. Thankfully, there are ways you can reduce your pain and increase your tolerance so you can maintain your quality of life.

But you have to be careful about prescription painkillers, as they have a dark side.

Problems With Painkillers

Many people who are diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, such as caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), are prescribed painkillers. However, there are problems with these drugs. As DrugRehab.org shows, more people are abusing(1) prescription drugs and becoming addicted. Some signs of painkiller addiction include losing interest in things they once loved, having erratic behavior or mood swings, an unexplained need for more money, and missing work or school.

Then what can you do if you are prescribed medication to help manage your pain? Harvard Medical School lists several tips for reducing your risk of abusing painkillers(2). First, always take any medicine as prescribed and never take more to get through tough days. Keep communicating with your doctor about how this medicine is working for you. Lastly, pay attention to yourself. If you see any signs of addiction, contact your physician immediately.

Changes To Make At Home

Even though painkillers can help you manage your chronic pain, there are other ways to improve your quality of life. One of those is to make some changes to your home and, if possible, your work.

Health.com lists several products(3) for the work and home that can help. If moving from sitting to standing causes a pain flare-up, you could use devices that raise your chair’s seat so it’s easier to use. You can even add a raiser to toilet seats to reduce pain when sitting there. Grip bars can be installed in your bathtub to make getting in and out easier and safer.

Specially designed kitchen tools like knives and jar openers can make it less painful to hold and use, while tools that extend your reach can help you get items on high shelves without stretching and triggering your pain.

A Healthier Lifestyle For Chronic Pain

Your home is not the only thing you can change to help manage your pain. There are some changes you can make to your lifestyle to help live better.

First, eating better is always a good idea, but a specific anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce the impact of your chronic pain. The Cleveland Clinic explains that you should limit your consumption(4) of simple carbohydrates, sugar, red meat, and dairy. Instead, focus on fish, turkey, and colorful vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and bell peppers.

Secondly, exercise and meditation can also reduce your need for painkillers and improve your lifestyle. Stretching(5), weight training, and low-impact cardio exercises like an elliptical trainer can both improve your overall well-being and lessen your chronic pain. Be sure to check with your physician before starting an exercise program. And while meditation(6) will not eliminate pain, it can help you cope with your condition while making it easier for you to live with the pain you have.

Don’t Let Pain Ruin Your Days

Although living with chronic pain is not always easy, you can still enjoy your life with some adjustments. Be careful about prescription painkillers, make a few modifications at home and work, and maintain your physical health through diet, exercise, and meditation. All of this can help you live the life you deserve.

 

Author

Ms. Waters is a mother of four boys, and lives on a farm in Oregon. She is passionate about providing a healthy and happy home for her family, and aims to provide advice for others on how to do the same with her site Hyper-Tidy.com.

 

References

1 DrugRehab.org, The 45 Warning Signs of Abuse

2  Armand, Dr. Wynne; Harvard Health Publishing, The problem with prescription painkillers, Oct. 2015

3 Harding, Ann; Lee, Min-Ja; Health.com, 14 Household Tools for People in Pain; April 2011

4 Cleveland Clinic; How an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can Relieve Pain as You Age; Nov. 2015

5 ExerciseRight.com.au; Chronic Pain and Exercise

6 Penman, Dr. Danny, Psychology Today; Can Mindfulness Meditation Really Reduce Pain and Suffering?; Jan. 2015

How to Use Coffee for a Better Day 

A picture of a coffee cup

 How to Use Coffee for a Better Day

Coffee is one of the best known drinks in the US and world, I don’t have to argue that (Mitchell et al., 2014). I recognize, to many, coffee is not just some drink, it’s part of a valuable routine. If that routine works for you, don’t let me disturb that.  However, coffee can influence our daily energy and sleep, which in turn impacts our mental health. 

If your interested, I have a few tips to share. 

Coffee and Caffeine Content 

I didn’t know when I first started drinking coffee, that light roast has more caffeine than dark roast. Or that 2 shots of expresso is only equivalent to 1/3 a cup of coffee in caffeine content (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). This knowledge makes a big difference when studying for a test. Maybe your not studying for tests or pulling all nighters any more.  Instead, maybe it’s a better nights sleep you want.  

It’s suggested not to drink coffee past 3 pm, that’s because it can take up to 16 hours for body to get rid of the caffeine (Clark & Landolt, 2017).  

Coffee and Sleep 

So maybe you think, “I can drink a cup before bed and fall asleep just fine.” 

Actually, coffee can negatively affect deep sleep. 

This means you might not be awake, but your body isn’t getting the rest it needs. (Clark & Landolt, 2017). So you get up the next morning and drink coffee to wake up from the lack of sleep it may be causing.  

Another Problem  

One hour after waking is the normal bodies natural highest cortisol level (Krieger et al., 1971). This means the thing coffee does to make you feel awake, is already at peak performance. 

Adding coffee at this time makes your body less sensitive to it, building a tolerance. This tolerance is why people come to be able to drink more and more cups. The recommended maximum is only 4 cups or 400mg (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). 

Coffee a Better Way 

The better time for a cup is early afternoon, such as right after lunch when otherwise you might get a food hangover anyways. Late morning to early afternoon is when you have dip in your cortisol level and a cup of coffee then is perfect. Depending upon your tolerance, many argue a 2 week break from coffee is all that is needed to reset. I do practice this, and this works for me, it’s called caffeine cycling. 

It helps to avoid sugar in coffee, for that makes you crash harder and gives a false sense of energy. Also, coffee tends to make things worse for those struggling with anxiety (Clark & Landolt, 2017; Veleber & Templer, 1984).

Maybe you don’t drink coffee for the buzz, but rather for the joy of a morning brew,  and that is just wonderful.  I hope this may help you use coffee just a bit better to jumpstart your day and live mentally healthy.

 

References

Veleber, D. M., & Templer, D. I. (1984). Effects of caffeine on anxiety and     depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93(1), 120. 

Clark, I., & Landolt, H. P. (2017). Coffee, caffeine, and sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews, 31, 70-78. 

Mayo Clinic Staff. (March 08, 2017). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678 

Mitchell, D. C., Knight, C. A., Hockenberry, J., Teplansky, R., & Hartman, T. J. (2014). Beverage caffeine intakes in the US. Food and Chemical Toxicology63, 136-142. 

The Creative Value of Lego

A Picture of Lego

The Creative Value of Lego 

This is not a transcript of the video, though I have wanted to share my passion for Lego and video for a while. Finally, I did it. A special thanks goes out to the family that has been supporting my Lego addiction, and my wife for letting me keep them. I even offered to get rid of them after graduation, but my wife let me know she loved me anyways. 

When I was young, I was homeschooled. I did not enter the public education system until high school. Back then, I constantly complained about how I wanted to go to public school. While public school is not responsible for everyone’s problems, I can certainly say those homeschool years were possibly the best and most influential periods of time on my positive mental health. I believe boredom was one of the best gifts my parents ever gave to me; that was having me play outside and inside, with no cellphone, computer, or TV. 

How Lego Relate to Mental Health 

Millennials and particularly those age 18-25 have the highest rates of mental illness of any age, ever. This age group reports experiencing a mental illness in the past year at a rate of 22.1% during 2016 (SAMHSA, 2017).  Currently, college students are not only showing a poor ability to deal with stress, but in fact engaging in behaviors that are decreasing their ability to handle stress (Bland et al., 2012). Whether that is the helicopter parenting or the social media, is hard to determine, though Millennials are lacking strong skills in problem solving and patience, which are highly important to mental health (Howe & Strauss, 2000).  

That’s where Legos come in. 

The use of unstructured play time with Legos can be valuable early and later in life in developing problem-solving skills (Pike, 2002). Lego’s can stimulate convergent and divergent thinking depending on the format of play such as unstructured or completing a set following instructions (Mochari, 2015). Lego’s and similar “artifacts” (toys) even show potential to provide creative inspiration and foster mindfulness, bringing greater meaning to the work experiencing (Barry & Meisiek, 2010). What’s there not to like? 

Is Lego the Solution? 

Will playing with Legos fix all our mental health problems? 

It’s unlikely. 

That’s not my point either. Rather, recognizing the value of learning how to problem solve and deal with boredom at an early age has significant benefits later on in life. For parents that means less screen time for their children, and for themselves too (Sudan et al., 2016). While Legos may not be the answer, its likely exercise, community engagement, and productive use of leisure time would support better mental health, whereas passive activities, such as smart phone use in particular, do not (Barkley & Lepp, 2016).  

What’s important to recognize, it’s never too late to begin developing better mental health. So my call to action is to grab those crayons, Legos, note pads, journals, camera, paper, and put away your cell phone, computer, laptop, and ipad. I mean keep those devices out of reach and far away, because your hand will itch to pick them up. If your feeling writers block, or creative block, it helps to have some inspiration. But this can be done with magazines and not Pinterest or instagram. That is a topic for another day. Today, maybe that will be an excuse to go to the library and find a few books on photography or knitting, or drafting, and maybe, just maybe… 

…Lego. 

Expect to see more videos coming soon! Until then, you read my first post here: The Best Job Ever: Occupational Therapy in Mental Health

 References 

Barkley, J. E., & Lepp, A. (2016). Mobile phone use among college students is a sedentary leisure behavior which may interfere with exercise. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 29-33. 

Barry, D., & Meisiek, S. (2010). Seeing more and seeing differently: Sensemaking, mindfulness, and the workarts. Organization Studies, 31(11), 1505-1530. 

Bland, H. W., Melton, B. F., Welle, P., & Bigham, L. (2012). Stress tolerance: New challenges for millennial college students. College Student Journal, 46(2), 362-376. 

Howe, N., & Strauess, W. (2000). Millennials rising: The next great generation. New York: Vintage Books 

Mochari, I (2017, Aug 20) How playing with legos (the right way) boosts your creativity. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/ilan-mochari/lego-creativity.html 

Pike, C. (2002). Exploring the conceptual space of LEGO: Teaching and learning the psychology of creativity. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 2(2), 87-94. 

SAMHSA (2017, Sept 9). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the united states: Results from the 2016 national survey on drug use and health. Retrieved from https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Key-Substance-Use-and-Mental-Health-Indicators-in-the-United-States-/SMA17-5044 

Sudan, M., Olsen, J., Arah, O. A., Obel, C., & Kheifets, L. (2016). Prospective cohort analysis of cellphone use and emotional and behavioural difficulties in children. J Epidemiol Community Health, 70(12), 1207-1213. 

 

What I Teach for Mental Health

What is Mental Health OT? 

People often confuse occupation for vocation, meaning therapy strictly relating to employment or job status. However, occupational therapy (OT) actually began with mental health in mind.  

The civil war sparked the thinking that led those observing bed-ridden soldiers during WWI to believe the soldiers were suffering more from mental debilitation than physical debilitation. Long story short, 6 figures initiated the official practice they called occupational therapy. This is because as humans we must ‘occupy’ our time with goal-directed, meaningful tasks that make up our daily routine. The WWI vets often suffered from PTSD and depression, OTs helped them engage in craft and trade skills such as leather work and pottery. Sometimes, this meant they had to create a prosthesis for missing limbss, or teach skills in groups.  

Today, creating a prosthesis and leading groups is only a small sample of the variety of OT roles, however, now those roles tend to be separate and more specialized. This is why you may see an OT working with kids in schools, adults in nursing homes and rehabs, or mental health facilities like myself. My primary role, as an OT in mental health, involves more group leading.

Want to know what I believe is the hardest part of working with groups in mental health? 

Emotional intelligence. 

It’s like the challenge of public speaking plus the fact most people don’t want to be there. If you were dealing with an incredibly difficult time in your life, would you want to hang out with me?

Well maybe you would, or at least tell me that, but often that is not the case for people in the hospital.  It’s important as a mental health worker to be able to recognize my own emotions and manage myself tactfully in order to be effective at working with others having a difficult time with their mental health. It takes a delicate approach and equally important, practicing what I teach.  

What Topics Do I Teach? 

The primary categories my groups go into, include;  

It’s not simply the topics that define occupational therapy groups, it’s the way its taught. Again, occupational therapy is how we ‘occupy’ our time with meaningful and purposeful activity which makes up our routine. My job is to help create a healthy routine through meaningful tasks or activities. The challenge is people suffering from whatever is happening in their life, that led to visiting a mental health unit, often clouds their vision of recognizing anything as meaningful. What can be considered meaningful is also broad and abstract.  

How I Make Groups Meaningful

In some ways, it can be a shot in the dark to figure out what is meaningful for the people I work with. We have assessments, but not everyone is interested in answering questions or having a discussion. The same group done the same way can one day be loved and another day be hated. I was asked a difficult question about group topics once. The question was: 

Do you think some groups are more occupational than others?  

I have thougt a lot about that question. The short answer is no. This is because what is meaningful at 10am versus 2pm versus 4pm can be different and change from day to day or even hour to hour. 

Want to know something that might surprise you?  

Sometimes occupational therapy group can be playing Wii tennis. It can be often that Wii is the only alternative. I frequently change the plan immediately before starting a group if need be, or take multiple plans with me and decide what we’re going to do depending upon who shows up. 

Would you want to exercise right after lunch or listen to a lecture at the end of the day?  

How I Make Groups Interesting 

One of my biggest roles is adapting the right task for the right time and person. Adapting often means, making things interesting such as mindfulness. Mindful eating has been historically taught with raisins. Can someone say BORING! I use Lindt chocolates for this reason!  

It’s like any sales job to excite people about positive health changes. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned with mental health treatment techniques is, before they can be effectively taught, you have to believe in them yourself. First, I successfully implemented them in my life, then I learned how to teach them in a fun way.  

Conclusion 

I said in my last post I was going to share what groups I lead, so I hope this peeks your interest in mental health topics. Want to know more about those topics? 

Are you interested in how you can make effective goals and actually implement them now so you don’t have to come to my groups later? 

Next I’m going to share about those specific group topics in individual posts.

If you missed my last post, click the link below!

The Best Job Ever – Occupational Therapy in Mental Health

If your a therapist interested in some ideas on how to make your therapy more engaging: START HERE.

Check Back August 15th, 2017

Content that will hopefully benefit your mental health! So don’t read this before right before bed; bedtime screen time = bad for your sleep hygiene 

Regular post’s to be arriving by August 15th, 2017!