Wellbeing: Art and Nature as Pain Relief

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I spend a lot of time in pain due to a condition called hEDS. Comorbidities include migraine and frequent joint subluxations, and my scoliosis adds back pain to the mix. It’s a fun combination.  It also means I spend more time than I’d like immobilised by pain and fatigue.

This isn’t a complaint. Many of us cope with our own pain – and the effects it can have on mood. However, I’ve found distractions can help a lot.

For me  migraine is totally immobilising. Aroma, noise, light, touch, food and even water cause me intense pain and nausea. Sleep – when it comes – along with sumpatriptan and occasional diazepam if my neck is rigid are the only things that help. Each attack lasts at least two days and it takes days for my appetite to return. Rosemary and peppermint oil sometimes bring comfort, as do hot baths with ice on my neck, when I am able to move. It comes with a host of other symptoms that are exhausting to go through. All I can do is lie in the dark and hope it passes.

However, less intense pain is more easily manageable using distraction. Here are my favourite ways to take my mind off pain, in case they are useful for you.

Restless Leg

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When my leg won’t stop twitching and the muscles are spasming, I try to fend it off on my exercise bike. I got it for free through the local Wastenot group. It’s old but it can help. It’s also good for exercising when I can’t leave the house, as the cold makes my muscles seize and click things out of place.

Better yet, I’ll go for a walk. Nature is a great distraction. Dusk and dawn are my favourite times to take a gentle stroll along the canal. Even ten minutes can make a difference. You can see beauty in a moment. Just wrap up with lots of layers (and in my case, ankle braces, boots and orthotics).

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Achy Shoulders/Back

I opt for bedbound crafts that I can do while supporting my back. With many cushions and clean pizza boxes as crafting trays to make it easy to tidy away, it can be comfy and helps take my mind off my pain.

I get cosy and mix up the crafts I do depending on the materials I have to hand. Most of what I make – if not all of it – is made from recycled materials and nature finds.

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I like turning rubbish into something useful or lovely. It feels like an apt metaphor.

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Anxiety

If my mind is racing, I opt for audio books, podcasts and music. Rather than just listening to albums, I’ll compile a playlist so I have something to focus on. It’s like making a mix tape without the faff.

I have happy songs, relaxing songs, sing-along-to songs and various other lists that make it less boring to be stuck in the house – and may inspire me to dance if my body allows.

I find Wax and Wane by Alana Henderson fits many lists. It’s uplifting but also soothing to me.

I also write. Pain is particularly great for inspiring dystopian fiction.

Brain Fog

If I’m finding it hard to focus, I read kid’s books. There are so many great nature titles out there and I can learn at a level that suits my foggy mind. Listening to comedy and energising music can also help. And then there’s Netflix. Sometimes, only a binge will do.

Racing Thoughts

When negative thoughts loop, I turn to my journal. I note symptoms, draw pain maps, write poetry, write lists and generally pour my mind on to the page.

I don’t show it to anyone aside from the occasional GP when relevant. However, it’s helped me understand my body and work out how everything is connected, which has made it easier to know the treatment I need.

Reading a book can also help. Taking time to follow words on a page soothes my mind.

Stomach Cramps

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I find something soothing in knitting while a hot water bottle warms my stomach. Counting stitches is a distraction from pain and racing thoughts, and the gentle click of the needles calms me. I keep knits simple to avoid needing patterns or having to count with brain fog.

Additional hot water bottles and wheat pads in abundance also help – along with meds.

General Ache

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Where possible, I’ll go for gardening. Putting my hands in soil to fill tubs with bulbs for christmas presents and spring colour is energising at the moment (if late and chilly).

There’s always some nature moment that can make you focus: a cloud, a late daisy, a hungry blackbird. Let the magic distract you. If it’s cold, make a mini garden indoors and look out the window instead.

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Cooking and baking can also help if I’m able to stand – though I’m learning more that can be made sitting down, as I get more used to my body’s limitations.

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What helps distract you from your pain? Please share your ideas in the comments. We are all different and the above may not work for you. It’s always good to learn new distractions.

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