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President’s Monthly Musings – Mar 2023 The Importance of Making Plans

Make a plan

This month has flown by in a blink of an eye.  We had a carefully laid plan for the month to take our grandchildren on individual camping trips at a local campsite at Hastings Point in Northern NSW.  We had gifted each child a week away individually with us as their Christmas present.  Previous we have taken the weeks spread throughout the year and at different campsites.

This year I had the brainwave that we would set up for the full period at the local site and then just swop children.

Everything went well on the first week, although I was doubting the sanity of our decision to have no break and ploughed on.  By the end of the first week, we were a tad tired, Patricks TN pain was ramping up and we started to worry we would not give the best of ourselves to the second grandchild.

All of those cares were put to one side when we received news that my mother, who resides in an aged care facility near our home, had a stroke on her 87th birthday.  We then juggled her needs with visits up and down the motorway with Patrick taking care of child and holiday management.

It seems to me that although we plan to create quality of life moments, none of us know what is just around the corner.  When things don’t quite go our way, it is very tempting to withdraw, become a bit isolated and have a reluctance to create a plan for the future.  It is easy to justify inaction and no plans by a “what’s the point attitude”.

However, it is so important to have things to look forward to when you are living with chronic pain.  You may worry that an event planned may be too much, that you will not cope, or that you will let your loved ones down by not participating on the date.  I am guilty too often of not evaluating the impact of an event on Patrick’s trigeminal neuralgia pain, but as long as I give him plenty of warning and he can get mentally prepared, he participates and invariably enjoys the activity.  I am getting better at working in his rest periods into the planned timetable too.

During our camping trip we also had a friend who joined us for one of the weekends, she is a huge surfing fan, and she and Patrick spent hours evaluating boards and trying out her current models.   The collaboration not only raised Patricks spirits, but he ultimately bought himself a new board.  Totally not in the plan, but the smile on his face and the enjoyment he derived from surfing the board for the remainder of the holiday was truly wonderful.

Research suggests that support, community engagement and social connection leads to positive wellbeing; heightened self-esteem and self-confidence; improved sense of control and self-efficacy; greater resilience and determination; improved mental and emotional health, including decreased levels of depression and anxiety; greater coping abilities; and may also improve the effectiveness of pain-related treatments.

The 12 Pillars of Wellbeing for Managing Chronic Pain

I am grateful to report that Mum has recovered well with wonderful support from the staff at Gold Coast University Hospital and the Rehab ward at Robina Hospital.  She is due to return home tomorrow.

This is also the last week of my presidency, and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this year.  I hadn’t planned to become President, but I am hugely proud of the work we have achieved and look forward to supporting the next President in their journey.