Guided Imagery: Those that prefer to have time alone to recharge and find a sense of meaning in using meditation or prayer might find guided imagery helpful to cope with pain. The American Pain Association has a free short five-minute video and guided imagery. You can find other guided imagery videos on YouTube such as the longer, 20-minute video for pain management by Rita Hickman. If you are someone who enjoys using an iPod, there are free podcasts available for download on iTunes, such as those from Wellness Workbook.

Prayer and/or Meditation: If you have an active religious tradition or background in one, you are likely already familiar with prayers and/or meditation practices that you can engage in. Both can help to relax one’s mind and, as a result, one’s body and muscles. Focusing on the words or simply your breathing can be helpful in taking your focus off of your pain. You might want to explore the Prayers and Mediations section of Chaplains on Hand® for prayers to start with. You can also talk with your religious leader if you have one, or a professional chaplain through Chat with a Chaplain for ideas and suggestions. One good online resource for both prayers and learning about the practice of meditation is BeliefNet.

Music, the Arts, Nature: As with guided imagery, prayer, and meditation, if you find a sense of comfort or joy in music, nature, or the arts, spending time with these things may help to reduce your pain as you focus on or participate in them as you are able. While at first these may not seem like “spiritual practices”, indeed they are if they bring you comfort, hope, and meaning as they soothe your soul.

Relationships: Being around those who fill our lives with joy and love can actually help to reduce pain. The challenge is finding a balance, both in how we relate to them and how we allow them to relate to us. Remember that a sense of spirituality is that which brings a sense of meaning, comfort, and joy to your life. When we allow others to care for us when we are feeling in pain or to join us in times of enjoyment, whether it is doing an activity or simply being together, then we are nurturing our spirituality. On the other hand, if we spend too much time with persons who make us feel guilty, sad, or bad about ourselves and our experience in living with pain, we are hurting our sense of worth. Find the persons who bring you joy, and spend less time with those who don’t.

God/Our Higher Power/the Universe: Examine what your beliefs are about what is holy in your life and how you define God/your Higher Power/the force of the Universe – however you name that which is greater than us. If we can remember that God’s (as an encompassing word) desire for us is to find comfort and meaning that can help us cope with our pain. If our beliefs tell us that we are being punished by God/the Universe, then that is a belief that we need to explore to understand and perhaps change with the help of someone we trust.

That leads to the next step, the tool provided on Chaplains on Hand® as a Checklist to Determine Your Level of Spiritual Distress. The scale is designed to help you to examine what spiritual strengths you have as well as potential areas of distress. Like the spirituality questions, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. It will simply help you in identifying areas in which you may want to seek further resources or support.

Spiritual struggle is defined as having high spiritual needs and low spiritual resources with which to address those needs. It can lead to what professional chaplains call “spiritual distress” when a person is struggling with such issues as the meaning of life, death, or their belief system, feeling angry towards God/a Higher Power/the Universe, questions about pain and suffering, or feeling as though one is being punished by or abandoned in the midst of their illness or pain. Distress may come from not being able to participate in spiritual or religious activities that have been important to you. You may not feel comfortable with the changes that your chronic pain has brought to your life.

If you are experiencing spiritual distress remember that it can be an absolutely normal feeling for someone who is living with chronic pain. However, if you find that by completing the checklist and thinking about these issues that you are feeling such distress at a high level, it is important that you find support and resources that will help you to manage and reduce your distress. This is because, as medical professionals have learned, chronic pain is an experience not just of your body but also your mind and spirit: the three work together and by focusing on all three areas you will be able to find the best ways to manage your pain.

If you have a spiritual or religious leader, he or she might be the person you feel most comfortable with in discussing these feelings. If you do not have one, or you don’t feel at ease in talking to them about your questions, feelings, and concerns help is available through Chat With a Chaplain available as part of this website.