How to get the most out of a pain management program
In this post, I want to give you pro-tips for how to succeed with healthy habit changes, like participating in a pain management program or working on any other healthy habits.
Pain management programs help you target the root causes of chronic pain. It’s not just about taking a painkiller, but making an effort to change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to promote health and well-being. Sometimes this also means needing to face feelings or ideas that can be emotionally heavy.
How do you know if this is the right moment for you to engage in such a program?
First, it’s important to be clear that building a new habit can be difficult because it requires us to change. Can we change? How does change happen? Why can change be difficult?
Let me walk you through the basics of change and new habit building!
Ambivalence to change
Did you know that every time we want to change something in our life (eg. build new habits or new behaviors), we always experience ambivalence: there is a part of us that wants the benefits of the new habit and, simultaneously, our brain doesn’t like change.
Our brain doesn’t like change because change takes energy and effort. Our brain’s default way of working is keeping the same old routines.
That’s why any change is difficult, and it has nothing to do with you being lazy, lacking willpower or not being “good enough”. It’s just because you are human.
So, to summarize, ambivalence means that we want things to change but also stay the same!
Am I ready to change?
The first step to making a change is to evaluate where you are right now in your change process.
Every time we consider changing a behavior, we need to take into account our motivation (“I want…”) and our confidence (“I can…”).
Here is a simplified formula of Behavior Change:
Behavior Change = Motivation (“I want”) + Confidence (“I can”).
This means the higher your motivation and confidence, the higher the probability that you will succeed. But, it doesn’t mean that your motivation and confidence need to be high in the beginning. You can build up your motivation and confidence on your own or with the support of a coach!
For any change process, you need to ask yourself two questions:
- How important is this change for me?
- How confident do I feel that I could engage in THIS change process?
It’s important to understand that change is a process. During the process, or even when thinking about the process, we will feel very ambivalent! Remember: we want things to change but also to stay the same!
So, how do we move forward from our brain’s “stickiness” to ambivalence?
Understanding the Stages of Change
The transtheoretical model of “Stages of Change” (don’t get scared by the complicated name!) gives you an easy and practical way to understand where you find yourself within the ambivalence to behavior change. If we are not aware of the Stages of the Change, we can interpret the ambivalence to change as a lack of willpower or that we are not “good enough”. That would be a pity!
The model of “Stages of Change” is divided into 6 parts:
- Precontemplation - “I’m not ready to change”
In this stage you have not yet given much thought to participating in something like a pain management program, or working on a different healthy habit. Maybe you don’t know what it is about, what it requires from you, or what benefits you could get from such a program.
In this stage, people typically underestimate the pros of changing and overestimate the cons, so to move forward, it’s helpful to make a list of the benefits of making the change.
- Contemplation - “I’m getting ready”
At this stage you are more aware of the pros of changing, and your pros are about equal to your cons. Your ambivalence can cause you to put off taking action. Remind yourself that it’s normal to feel ambivalence and take the next step forward anyway.
- Preparation - “I’m ready!”
At this stage, you are ready to start taking action in the near future.
You might have already taken small steps, like telling your friends about your plans, or thinking how you would feel if you had less pain and more energy.
At this stage the most common concern people have is "what if I fail?". If you can relate to that concern, just remind yourself that ambivalence towards change is normal and that change is a process with twists and turns, not a straight line.
The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to keep progressing.
- Action - “I’m already doing it!”
At this stage, you have started the pain management program and are putting in the effort to keep moving ahead.
You are learning how to strengthen your commitments to change and fight urges to slip back.
In order to keep up with the program, I suggest you substitute activities related to unhealthy habits to positive ones, rewarding yourself for taking steps toward changing, and avoiding people and situations that tempt you to behave in unhealthy ways.
- Maintenance - “Keep going”
The key at this stage is the ability to sustain the behavior change over 6 months.
It’s important to be aware of situations (especially stressful situations) that may tempt you to slip back to old unhealthy behavior.
I recommend you to engage in healthy activities, such as sleep and exercise, to cope with stress, and seek support and talk to people you trust.
- Relapse - “Humans are not perfect, but I can bounce back!”
Relapses are a normal part of the maintenance phase where we slip back to old unhealthy habits. It’s Important not to beat yourself up. Instead, be compassionate to yourself and get back on track.
Key success factor: finding support and encouragement!
We human beings are “tribe animals”, meaning we are not meant to live and survive alone. For us to thrive, we need belonging and connection to others.
In order to better succeed with your habit changes, see if you can find a friend or family member who can support and celebrate with you!
If you need more professional support, make use of a coach! Coaches are experts in guiding people through change processes!
Having a coach on your side or getting help doesn’t mean that you are too weak to do it alone!
It means that you are wise and harnessing all the power possible to make sure that you succeed in what is most important and meaningful to you in life!
Instead of approaching this change as “another task to complete”, let’s see if it’s possible to bring an attitude of curiosity to this exploration!
To help you on your journey we have made a workbook to help you figure out where you are in the change process and what you can do to get to the next phase.
Download your copy of our workbook to understand the process of change and how to get the most out of a pain management program by entering your email address. You'll also receive our newsletter with more reliable information.
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