Living with chronic pain and/or anxiety can be debilitating and make you feel like you can’t succeed. As someone who has been suffering from chronic back pain, due to an injury that happened when I was 14, I’ll be the first to tell you that being able to meet the needs of yourself, your loved ones, and your business or job can be tough work. It’s not impossible though! Below I’ve listed and detailed several things that I’ve learned over the years that help me stay positive and motivated.
1. Working within your limits & ask for help when you need it
Don’t feel like you have to do it all. Learn your limits and learn to work within them. Celebrate your unique successes, whether they are big or small and never compare your success to others'. It can be intimidating and disconcerting to ask for help, especially when you feel like you shouldn’t need help, or you see your peers excelling and you assume that they're doing it without the help of others. Remember that there is no shame in asking for help when you need it, in most cases, people will applaud you for having the courage to let someone know you need their help. This could include things like asking for help with your child, asking your boss for an extension on a project, or delegating tasks to a partner or assistant.
2. Setting clear boundaries
I encourage you to set clear boundaries with your family, friends, and colleagues. If you let others know up front what they can expect from you, you won’t let them down when you don’t deliver. For example, I can’t work a full 40 hour week at a desk. I need to take breaks when my body tells me that I've been seated too long or that I have to change positions so that I can better manage my pain. This is essential for me to be the very best version of myself. By communicating that to my colleagues up front, they are understanding and there’s no confusion around the issue.
3. Manage expectations and communicate them clearly
Let others know what they can expect from you. If you feel that you aren’t being the best wife, husband, mother, father, friend, colleague, etc., communicate clearly to them that you are aware of this and that you need their support. The end of 2017 wasn’t very kind to me health-wise, and I was in the hospital and then recovering from unexpected surgery for the month of December. I know I wasn’t being the best wife, business partner, and friend that I can be. But by being honest with them and letting others know that I was in pain and not feeling up to doing the things I needed to do, they were able to creatively problem-solve with me and come up with a manageable action plan, together. My honesty also allowed them to empathize with me easily and understand that this wasn’t a permanent thing.
4. Taking time to rest
When you have chronic pain or anxiety, rest is absolutely essential to your mind and body. It can feel like we have to be on the go all of the time, or that we have to cross off everything on our to-do list, even when we aren't feeling strong or healthy. It may not get finished today, or tomorrow, or the next day, and that is completely 100% okay. Prioritize what you need to, and save the rest for later, and be sure that you give yourself the rest you deserve.
5. Take the pressure off of yourself!
Be okay with doing what you can, instead of the very best you can. Sometimes, when we are feeling stronger or more energized, we are on a roll, and things are great and we can do our best work, but sometimes this just isn’t the case. It’s okay to have days, weeks, or even months like this. When you put the added stress on yourself to do more than what you can do at that moment, you are only creating more anxiety for yourself. I promise that what you can do is good enough.
I hope you are able to implement these strategies in your life so that you can feel like the best version of yourself. Living with chronic pain and anxiety is a daily struggle, but I believe that being honest and open about it with yourself will allow you to free yourself of some of the weight that comes along with these issues.
Callie Cullum is a brand & web designer and the co-founder of The Look & The Feel, a full-service branding studio. She loves working with people who value putting good into the world, who value self love and self care, and who value honest and open communication. Aside from her work as a designer, she loves travel and adventure. She is constantly exploring, whether it be new restaurants in her city, or new cultures in Asia. She feels most alive when she's in the water; she can’t get enough of surfing, swimming, or just enjoying the beach. She lives in a fun corner of the creative city of Atlanta with her husband and two cats.