Step 7 of Dr. Lavine’s Ten Step Program to Conquer Chronic Illness
Physical exhaustion and low mood, often inseparable from chronic pain, shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, surveys of fibromyalgia sufferers show that more than 80% experience an almost overwhelming level of fatigue that at times is worse than the pain.
The emotional aspect of physical fatigue is depression.
Of course, fatigue and depression are complex, and self-help guidelines such as these can’t possibly address your unique individual issues. I also recommend that you consult your personal physician, nutritionist, or mental health professional as appropriate.
For Step 7 of Dr. Lavine’s Ten Step Program to Conquer Chronic Illness, I recommend two self-help strategies. One is a simple method to address distortions of your mood. The second involves tested sleep strategies to improve the quantity and quality of sleep.
I’ll describe the first of these strategies in this article and the second in a subsequent one. But for a more comprehensive approach, and to receive the individualized coaching that will give you the best chance of success, please subscribe to Dr. Lavine’s entire Ten Step Program to Conquer Chronic Illness. Then you can work on the ten steps in a logical sequence and make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit.
Rewrite Your Mood
You’ll engage in a daily practice by which you’ll learn to literally rewrite your mood. It will only take you at most 20 minutes a day, so fix a consistent daily time to practice your mood rewriting.
Write down up to four sentences that describe a negative aspect of your emotional experience. For instance, if you’re having a really miserable day, you might write: “I have so much pain I can’t stand it”, or “Today I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed in the morning,” or “There’s no one who even cares how I feel.”
Leave a few blank lines between each statement. It’s okay if you have only one or two sentences you want to write. But limit yourself to a maximum of four.
Next to each statement, assign a number from 1 to 10 that measures how strongly you’re feeling that emotion.
Then, below each sentence, write a counter-balancing sentence. For instance, if you wrote “I have so much pain I can’t stand it,” your counter-balancing sentence could be “I have a lot of pain, but the medication I’m taking does alleviate the pain a little.” Or you could write, “I’m in intense pain today, but tomorrow may not be this bad.”
Your counter-balancing sentence doesn’t have to totally wipe away the negative feeling. Don’t pretend everything is wonderful if it isn’t. Just write something that modifies or brings perspective to your situation, even if only a little.
Then save your work. You’re finished for the day. You’ll repeat the exercise again the next day.
Too often, negative emotions try to take over your entire being. As grim as your circumstances might be, there will still be some glimmer of positivity in your situation. By consistently bringing your awareness to balancing thoughts, you’ll soon find that your negative thoughts hold less sway over your psyche.