Mindful Mondays: Learning to Pause with Chronic Illness & Pain

Mindful Mondays. Learning to pause iwth chronic illness and pain
How learning to use a “Pause” can greatly improve our lives with chronic illness and pain

Mindful Mondays: Learning to Pause with Chronic Illness & Pain

The past two weeks have been really difficult for me.  Not only is the insurance situation that I am in one of the most difficult but I am also in pain, which just adds more weight. to the urgency of the issue.  So now I have a bad situation, increased pain and then here comes something else… a major bad attitude.

I hate bad attitudes. HATE THEM! They are one of my pet peeves and I am annoyed when other people walk around with a bad attitude.  Well lately ( at least a few weeks ) I have the bad attitude. So much so that I am annoying myself!  Anyone ever been there?  Be so annoying that you can’t stand yourself??

It is almost as if I am looking in on myself, watching myself react in this very immature and negative manner about EVERYTHING.  The only time I am not traipsing around in a bad attitude is when I am at the gym, with a student at my job or with certain friends and family. But mostly it has been nonstop.

I couldn’t figure it out. (I am a therapist so I am ALWAYS trying to analyze myself and my actions).  Still I was coming up with nothing.  So this weekend I am scrolling through Facebook when I come up on a meditation talk that my mediation teacher had posted on her podcast. It was titled Sacred Pause.  As I read those words, I paused (no pun intended). Those words hit the core of my heart and I knew that was what I needed.  I didn’t know why or what would come out of me listening to this 40 minute talk but I knew something inside of me needed that pause.

I saved the talk to listen to on Sunday Morning.  I sat nestled in the corner of my couch, my pen writing effortlessly flowing across the notebook as I made notes. Hanging on each word that she spoke, suggesting that everyone at some point or another, needs to hit pause.

I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about my world of chronic pain and my recent ridiculous bad attitude. How would this idea of a pause help me?  What was meant by a pause anyway?

Pause: out of the constant doing. To do nothing.  No planning.  No engagement. No playing my own movie narrative in my head over and over.  The pause can be a respite for the hard working mind to do a break.

And it hit me. I was reacting to my situation with an intense amount of fear and couldn’t help but go into the downwards spirals of what-if thinking.  This of course can never be good and I was constantly throwing myself into a state of panic, fear and emotional. I felt unsettled.  I felt angry.  No wonder I had a bad attitude.  I didn’t dislike my life but there were now components that were so overwhelming that I didn’t know how to move forward in a constructive manner.  And that was okay, but I deserved a pause.  I deserved to feel like I was in control of something. 

And so I hit the pause button. The same way that you would pause a movie.  I was able to pause and take a time out.  I was like an angry toddler, being self destructive in my moment of fear and anger and just like a toddler I needed I pause to reset.  I immediately felt better.   With the imploding stressful situations and my pain, I stepped to the sidelines and took a deep breath. And then another deep breath.

Why learning to pause is helpful for those who suffer with Chronic Illness & Pain

We can’t expect professional athletes to play an entire game with out a time out or a pause to regroup, so why are we asking ourselves to do the impossible?  We should be able to implement a pause when we need it and not feel bad about taking a break.

Having chronic illness and pain in addition to life’s typical stress is tough.  We don’t get a break from responsibilities just because we aren’t feeling well.  Therefore it is in our nature to push, push, push to keep up the illusion that we have this all handled.  However we are missing moments that are important, we are trying to run on empty when all the signs point to stopping & filling up. Even a race car, designed for speed cannot continue on its path without pitstops.  The care and the driver are allowed a “pause” to refuel, hydrate, change what is worn so it can continue to run its best. We too need a pause. A chance to regroup. A chance to cool down. Take a breath. To do nothing.

Ways a Simple Pause Can Help:

  1. Unplugs us from the “busy”
  2. Takes us out of the narrative that we tell ourself. (which could be fiction by the way)
  3. Allows us to just be. Just breathe.  Pause.
  4. Provides a sense of relief
  5. Allows a reset.  So we can re-enter our situations with purpose, clarity and a positive attitude.

“A pause gives you
breathing space
so listen
to the whispers
of the real you
waiting to happen.”
Tara Estacaan

As for me, when I hit the pause button, I felt an overwhelming flow of compassion for myself.  I was doing something really hard.  I was fighting a war, and I was fighting it alone.

I didn’t need an attitude adjustment or after work drinks. I needed compassion.  I needed a hug from someone telling me it would be okay.  I needed to be loved.  I needed to know there was support.  I am not a needy person, yet the pause showed me that “Hey woman, this is some serious shit! You don’t have to do this alone. This is hard, be kind to yourself.”

With this new found perspective I felt more energized. Less frazzled. Less of a bad attitude.

Where can you Pause this week?  At the beginning of the day to set your intention on what you need? At lunch? At the end of the day to reflect on what tough things you have been doing?

What does your pause tell you? What happens when you stop your busy narrative about the way that things should be?



Kelly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker & currently works as a Disability Coordinator at a Community College in Virginia. She has a background in Private Practice & continues education in Mindfulness Based Practices.



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