Get Organized – Chronic Pain is Complex

Objectives

  • Chronic mental and physical pain is a complex problem that requires a systematic approach to solve.
  • How can you address the issues relevant to you without and organized approach?
  • Reprogramming your brain requires repetition but not in a random manner.
  • It is much more efficient to solve chronic pain with an organized approach.
  • Being organized is a learned skill set, not an inherent personal trait.

I had always thought that being organized was an inherent skill that people either did or did not possess. It was clear to me that I was not an organized person. During my college and medical training, it was such a challenge to keep on top of my “to do” list, that I did not need much more structure.

When I began my practice, the structure of rigorous training disappeared, and I realized I needed to learn organizational skills to deliver high-quality medical care. I started with a book, The Organized Executive,1 and I learned that getting organized is an easily mastered skill.

 

 

I read additional books and took classes to deepen these skills.  There are many ways to add depth to it. As you learn tools to solve your pain, it is critical to implement them daily and also to continue to learn. It is hard to step back into the life you want to create without an organizational system. I would suggest the following steps.

  • Pick an organizational system you feel you would like to learn. Take the time to learn it. Learn and practice the skills required to take advantage of it. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Decide whether you want to implement it on paper or use a computerized system.
  • Use it and don’t let yourself off the hook.

Stimulating meaningful neuroplastic changes in your brain requires repetition. But it requires specific focused ones. It has been demonstrated that random repetitions that approximate what you are trying to learn is actually counterproductive.4 Getting organized, in addition to allowing you to implement effective interventions, allows you to control your schedule (life), which will also lower your anxiety (which is the pain).

Other options and considerations

Maybe the idea getting super organized doesn’t resonate with you. There are many successful people who have made it easier for themselves. An option is to carry a blank notebook and take notes as you go. It has ideas, issues, to do items, etc. The bottom line is that you can quickly scan it and keep track of what is going on.

A day planner is also an option. There are many formats, and you can plan as big or small as you would like to.

I happen to gravitate towards David Allen’s approach where he suggests over two to three full days, take every item in your personal and professional life, and get it into one place. If the “to do” item takes less than two minutes to complete, simply get it done immediately. Then he has many suggestions of how to arrange them. A core concept is that each and every project boils down to, “the one next step.” It allows you to simultaneously engage in multiple different arenas. Many times, excellent projects never get started because they seem so big.

One common theme is writing down your vision in general terms. There are categories of being doable and getting them started and others are just dreams. Write them all down regularly. All projects begin with a dream. One of my most impressive mentors challenged me that once you have written them down, the next question is, “am I thinking big enough?”

 

 

For example, with regards to your pain, don’t just try to get better. Do it. Pursue learning the tools to heal and practice them – with a vengeance. How long do you want to continue to suffer? What else is more important to your quality of life than your health. You have heard me repeatedly say that “you can’t fix yourself.” That is still true. However, you can gain many skills to better process adversity, spend less time in a defensive survival state, and allow your body to heal.

There is the issue of being computer based versus using paper. That is a matter of preference Many people, including me, have not seen a big advantage of being computer based (but I am old….).

Recap

My friend and forward-thinking cell biologist, Dr. Bruce Lipton, has succinctly pointed out the huge mismatch between the unconscious brain and conscious brain. The unconscious brain is hundreds of thousands more powerful than the conscious brain. Over 95% of our actions are hard-wired and automatic and beyond our conscious control. We don’t have direct access to them, so what can you do? You can use your conscious brain to reprogram them from automatic survival reactions to more pleasant ones. That requires ongoing repetition. It also has to be focused.

Getting organized is critical because there are so many aspects to both your life and pain, and they all need to be addressed. Although you can improve without being organized, you can move forward more quickly with a plan. It also decreases your stress, which is anti-inflammatory, and decreases your pain – mental and physical.

If you step back and look at the big picture, consider that we have a choice of running our lives in an endless crisis management mode or methodically taking charge. Getting organized is not difficult and is the better alternative. Commit to getting better and learning an organizational system will help you honor your commitment to you.

Questions and considerations

  1. It may be different now, but I was not taught any organizational skills at any point in my schooling or medical training. Were you?
  2. I watched people that were organized accomplish a lot of excellent things, but I assumed that this was an inherent trait. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
  3. Organizational skills are a learned skill set with many ways to attain it. Whatever one you connect with is going to help.
  4. You don’t have to become incredibly organized to experience major benefits.
  5. Being organized will give you control over your life and decisions. We know that a sense of control is anti-inflammatory.5
  6. Chronic pain is a complex problem, and similar to fighting a forest fire, every aspect of it must be addressed. Being organized greatly increases your odds of success.

References

  1. Winston, Stephanie. The Organized Executive. Norton and Co. New York, NY, 1994.
  2. Allen, David. Getting Things Done. Putnam Books. New York, NY, 2015.
  3. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Anniversary edition. 2020.
  4. Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code. Random House, New York, NY, 2009.
  5. Dantzer R, et al. Resilience and Immunity. Brain Behav Immun (2018); 74:28-42.