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Self care for chronic pain

When you live with chronic pain, sometimes (or all the time) it’s all you can think about. There have been many days where I am incapable of doing anything to the point where on my “good” days I have to cram all of my to-dos in as quickly as possible.

Except, I don’t have to. I get so caught up with trying to catch up that I just end up right back where I started. Sometimes, I just need to focus on myself during my good days. Sometimes, I just need to say to hell with it and put off a chore for another day. This is usually easier said than done. Usually the one saying it is my husband too.

If you’re in the same boat, you might not have too many ideas in your self care arsenal. If you need some help slowing down in a non-pain-related way, here are a few of my favourite self care ideas for people living with chronic pain. Or anyone really.

self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Madison Inouye on

Check out subscription boxes:

The main reason I love subscription boxes is because it gives me something to look forward to. My favourite box is FabFitFun. They do a new box every season so I know I get a great big box of season appropriate goodies every quarter. It’s usually full of beauty supplies, housewares and accessories. I’ve gotten face masks, make up, body scrubs, scarfs, candles, clothing, etc. Everything that basically defines self care. You can get $10 off your first box if you’re interested.

Another favourite of mine is Function of Beauty. I have horribly oily, thin, fine hair. I can’t express how much I hate it. I’ve gone through so many shampoo brands to combat oiliness, everytime I think I’ve struck gold my scalp dries out within several months. Then I found Function of Beauty. I figured why not, didn’t cost any more than my salon brand and it’s customized.

self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by cottonbro on

Getting to pick my shampoo and conditioner needs and what colour and scent they are is awesome. Plus, my hair has never been better. I still kinda hate it, but I can go like 20 hours without greasy hair now. It used to only last about 10. Gross, I know. This is the kind of self care that you can do regularly though, any time you wash your hair you can have a nice custom experience. It’s small, but I love it.

Take a bath:

Those face masks and body scrubs I end up with? Perfect accompaniments to a bath. Light some candles, add some Epsom salt and bubbles, grab a bath pillow and just chill. Grab a glass of wine too, if you’re able. Not only is it relaxing, but it can certainly help with pain too. Most of the time my eczema prevents me from wanting to take a bath but sometimes I just do it anyway and slather some CeraVe on when I’m done.

self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Anna Shvets on

Start a bullet journal:

I used to be OBSESSED with bullet journaling. It was one thing that kept me sane during chemo. I love stationery. Pens, markers, notebooks, PENS. More please! Being able to use all of those things on a very regular basis is so satisfying.

I spread out a week over two pages, wrote down all of my appointments, kept track of what I did each day and what level my pain was at. It was incredibly useful and I liked having something completely customizable. Taking the time to draw out a week and practice with my brush pens was a great distraction. I only stopped doing it shortly before my daughter was born because I just got so busy that I was too tired to keep up with it at night. I’m definitely going to be getting back into it soon.

self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Bich Tran on

Start a blog:

I hate feeling like I’m a burden and like I complain too much. I also hate not being able to share how I’m feeling. So I started this blog. I can get everything out and take some of the weight off my shoulders. It’s been so cathartic and I haven’t even been doing it for that long.

An alternative would be keeping a diary, but I wanted to be able to share my experiences with other chronic pain sufferers. Getting your experiences out there could make someone else realize they aren’t alone.

self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Ken Tomita on

If you work at it, you could even make a living or enough to help cover some health expenses. Being able to share your thoughts and potentially monetize them is a pretty cool way to take care of yourself. Affiliate programs are a good starting point, such as SkimLinks or Share-A-Sale. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to be your own boss and “work” when you want? It’s very doable from bed too.

If you’re interested in joining such a supportive community, check out BlueHost. You can get a free domain and start creating a site for just a few dollars a month by following that link.

Play some video games:

I’m a huge gamer. Nothing makes me happier than sitting down with a good RPG and zoning out for a few hours. As long as I don’t have a migraine and my eyes aren’t bugging me, it’s one of my favourite ways to spend a bad pain day. Video games are incredibly distracting.

There’s something for everyone too. RPGs, puzzles, shooters, racing games, pretty much anything you can think of.

self care ideas for chronic pain
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My husband got me a Nintendo Switch for my birthday a few years ago and it’s made video games so much more accessible to me. No longer do I have to take over a TV or lay in bed wishing I could get to the couch to play. I can just take my Switch wherever I need to be.

I highly recommend The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s a gorgeous game, easy to lose yourself in and you can pretty much do whatever you want with it. I’m a huge, huge Zelda fan and this is a great installment. Plus I kinda like making Link do all of these physical activities I can’t even dream of doing myself.

Smoke some:

Medicinal cannabis patient? Why not take the odd day and smoke/vape/eat a bit more than usual? Take some me time, get a buzz going and do something lazy. Combine it with video games or a bath and you’ve got a good day going.

It’s not often I do it, but sometimes after I put my daughter to bed my husband and I hang out on the stairs, vape and talk about random nothingness. We recently talked about how some animals look like they shouldn’t exist, like chinchillas and tarsiers.

It’s a good way to unwind and reconnect after a tiring day. Sometimes self care means bringing someone else along for the ride. It can be good for both of you.

self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Luriko Yamaguchi on

Read something:

I love reading. Although I admittedly barely read books anymore even though it’s all I did when I was younger. I tend to just read articles and blogs nowadays but it’s a good way to escape nonetheless.

It can be easy to take a couple of minutes and read a random BuzzFeed list. It’s mildly entertaining, mindless and distracting. If you have more time though, a real book can be such a great tool for self care.

Grab a cup of tea, get comfy (if you can anyway) and zone out for as long as you can. The last books I read I powered through in about 4 days. Reading a series is the best and I highly recommend The Lotus War series by Jay Kristoff. Japanese steampunk is so randomly excellent.

concentrated woman with book and cat on bed
self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Sam Lion on

Binge watch something:

Stuck in bed or on the couch? If a screen is doable, take some me time by binge watching a new show. Or rewatch something you love. It can easily eat up your day, distract you from your pain and depending on what you’re watching, keep you smiling for awhile.

I’m not big on watching TV by myself, but when I’m having a bad day my husband and I will watch a show for hours. It’s a lazy way to spend time together and keeps me entertained.

couple love sitting evening
self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by cottonbro on

We recently went through Superstore on Netflix. So stupidly funny. We binged Ink Master a LOT on Amazon Prime Video. We’re both obsessed with tattoos. We rewatch the Simpsons sooooo much on Disney+, our lives and thoughts are just a collection of Simpsons quotes. Which if you’re into Matt Groening, check out Disenchantment on Netflix too. I’m also subjected to Corner Gas on Crave every single night as well (for the past 6 years or so) and it’s actually so wholesomely funny.

We also rewatch Futurama from time to time (again, Matt Groening has ruined our lives). It’s not available to stream in Canada anymore but we definitely own all the DVDs. Oh and Firefly. Also not available to stream anymore, but you should absolutely, 200% get the DVDs and watch it. Like right now.

*Update* A few days after writing this, Futurama and Firefly became available in Canada on Disney+. I thank myself for this 😛

Spend time with pets:

This isn’t an option for everyone. Pets can be a lot of work. If you’re considering getting one, check out this post by Claire from Through the Fibro Fog for what you need to know. If you already have pets though, a bit of self care is always nearby!

Snuggle your cat, take your dog for a walk if you can, play with your ferret! Taking even a few minutes to give your animals love can be wonderful for your mental health. Happy pets usually means happy you. Plus if you have an affectionate fur baby, they can keep you company on your bad days.

man stroking akita inu with tongue out
self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Zen Chung on

My cats spent all day, everyday on the bed with me when I was doing chemo. I couldn’t do much, but I could give them cuddles. It always made me feel better.

Put on some makeup:

You don’t have to go anywhere, you can just give yourself a makeover just because you want to. I did this a lot when I did chemo. Experimenting with the shit ton of random makeup I had almost everyday was something I looked forward to. I enjoyed having the time for myself and it made me look a lot less sickly. No one other than my husband ever saw it. I just did it for me. Through the Fibro Fog covers makeup and chronic illness really well.

black make up palette and brush set
self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by kinkate on

Create a skin care routine:

I make a point of washing my face every morning and before bed every night. No matter what’s going on, I do my skin care routine. It’s always been my guaranteed me time, especially after my daughter was born. I have oily skin, so it’s a good idea anyway.

It’s a little thing, but washing my face, applying serums and moisturizing just makes me happy. Plus it makes me look less dead. I usually use Cetaphil or CeraVe cleansers, a niacinamide and zinc serum, a salisylic acid serum, and a good moisturizer. On the days where I can’t really bend over the sink or can’t stand up too long, I use a face wipe. If I’m not doing my skincare routine, I’m probably not doing great.

Skin care is a classic form of self care for a reason. You’re literally taking care of yourself and you feel good about it afterwards. It’s a great way to start and finish your day.

woman with pink lipstick
self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Shiny Diamond on

Do some baking or cooking:

I absolutely love baking. I never did it nearly as much as I wanted to because of my ulnar neuropathy and shoulder. It can be hard to stir or use a hand mixer. When I could finally buy a stand mixer though, my life changed.

I bake all the time now. It makes me happy and I love having baked goods to snack on. It can be so rewarding to create something delicious. With my husband having Celiac Disease, I’ve had to figure out gluten free baking too, which is honestly even more rewarding when I get it right.

faceless mother with daughter preparing meringue cookies at home
self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Katerina Holmes on

Taking a few cookies here and there are like little bits of self care. If it makes you happy, do it! Which leads into my next self care idea…

Buy yourself something:

I don’t expect everyone to be able to go out and buy a stand mixer or Switch. They’re expensive and chronic pain and illness patients tend not to have a ton of extra cash laying around. It took me about 10 years to get my stand mixer but it makes me ridiculously happy.

You don’t have to go extravagant though. Maybe you’ve been eyeing a particular sweater for a while, but couldn’t really justify buying it. You know what? Getting it because you really, really want it is justification enough sometimes.

Hell, get yourself your favourite chocolate bar next time you get groceries. There are many ways to splurge without dropping a bunch of money. Self care is meant to make you happy. If it costs $1 to make you happy, it’s just as worth it as spending several hundred dollars on something else.

sweet chocolate and coffee on table
self care ideas for chronic pain
Photo by Anete Lusina on

Ultimately, self care is important for anyone but I think it’s even more important for those of us who struggle. We need to try to make time for ourselves that doesn’t focus on our health. It can be hard, I don’t think of it as often as I should. Just a couple of minutes here and there can make a difference though. Now excuse me while I go find a Snickers bar.

What do you do to take care of yourself? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this post. I’m always up for new ways to treat myself.

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Self Care Ideas for People Living with Chronic Pain