What Is Coping Flexibility? Can It Help With Chronic Pain?

What Is Coping Flexibility?

Coping Flexibility is a term used to describe a person’s ability to learn new ways to deal with stress or trauma.  It recognizes that some behaviors may not be working to help the person feel better or live better.  So they seek alternatives to coping with life.  Thus they are practicing coping flexibility.  

Waht is Coping Flexibility?  Can It Help With Chronic Pain?

Further Explanation

Never heard of Coping Flexibility?  I hadn’t either, before I started to research the topic.  So, in this article I hope to explain, “What is coping flexibility?”  And further discuss if it can help you manage your chronic pain.  

If you are a chronic pain sufferer like me, then you face each day knowing you will have pain.  Some days are better than others.  As are some nights.  And if you are proactive about your pain management, then you are always searching for ways to feel better.  

If you are doing that, then you are probably dropping practices that don’t work and trying alternatives that may work.  You are therefore practicing coping flexibility.  

Now granted, coping flexibility was first applied to behaviors where psychological trauma had occurred.  But it can be applied to pain situations also.  In other words, we can seek out treatments and practices that might help us manage our pain.

That is what this website is about.  I research regularly to find help for my pain.  And in doing so, I want to tell others about what I found, in hopes of helping them.

Why Should You Try Coping Flexibility?

It’s up to you!  I would hazard a guess that you found this article because you want relief from your pain.  Who doesn’t?  And chances are that some of the medication and practices aren’t working for you.  You’re discouraged but still hope something will help you.

Well, coping flexibility isn’t the final answer, but it is a practice that might lead you to something that will help.  It may be the first step in seeking answers.  With coping flexibility, you realize what you are doing isn’t helping and need to find a solution.

Now that solution may be different from someone else’s solution.  What works for me might not work for you.  Which is why coping flexibility is a practice that keeps on trying and hoping!  Most of my articles are about topics that may help you.  Or they may not.  But most of them cost nothing or very little, so isn’t it worth a try?  That’s coping flexibility.  

Flexibility Is A Mindset

This statement isn’t mine.  I heard it from George A. Bonanno, PhD.  I watched a very helpful video that featured him as one of the speakers.  It is long, but you can view it here if you so desire.

 What does it mean that flexibility is a mindset?  My understanding is that we start with a view that we are going to get through this.  This is opposed to the mindset that feels hopeless and defeated.  You have to start with the view that you can do SOMETHING to feel better.  

From this premise he includes three characteristics that contribute to successful flexibility.  They are: (in my own words)

  • Awareness of the problem and what it involves
  • A set of options to try to address the problem
  • Flexibility to monitor the results and change if need be

Here is the link to his biography which explains things in more detail.  

If this describes you, then you will probably succeed in practicing coping flexibility.  Decide what you can do to feel better, and do it.  If it doesn’t work, then evaluate and try something else.  If this doesn’t necessarily describe you, take heart.  Flexibility is learnable.  Dr. Bonanno says have a self talk that involves saying, 

  • What is happening?
  • What can I do?
  • Am I able to do it?
  • Say I can do this.

Some Suggestions to Get You Started

Remember, taking charge of a situation helps you feel a bit more in control.  Try something, evaluate the results, and keep using it or try something else.  That’s coping flexibility.  

Coping skills can be as varied as each of us is different.  But some of the wisdom suggests that it helps to increase your experience of positive emotions.  Which can be a challenge if you are in pain.

But again, how hard can it be to notice a beautiful sunrise or sunset and be grateful for it.  Be grateful that you can have eyes to enjoy it!  Gratitude is a coping skill.  It refocuses our attention on what we are grateful for.  And by expressing gratitude we are providing our body with endorphins.  Which is a natural pain reliever!

What Is Coping Flexibility? Can It Help With Chronic Pain?

So notice positive events and savor them.  Take a moment to immerse yourself in that moment of positivity.  

Another helpful suggestion is to do an act of kindness.  Doesn’t need to be a big one.  But can you bless someone today?  Think about it.  Just thinking about it can help you feel better.  

On a different note, distractions have proved to be helpful.  I have an article about some suggested distractions.  Check it out here.  

Get creative.  What is happening right now?  If you need to be coping, there is a reason.  In our case, it is chronic pain.  Would any of these suggestions help?

  • Exercise?  Something easy like yoga.
  • Breathing?  Practice some deep breathing which relaxes you and provides more endorphins.
  • Watch some stupid movies?  Or funny ones.  What helps you?
  • Brainstorm with someone you trust and that knows your situation.  
  • Google the topic you are dealing with.  You might find a coping skill there.

What can you control?  What can’t you control?  Figure out what you can control and take charge!

Here’s another article that has more suggestions. It’s about coping with life stressors, but can apply to pain management also.

To paraphrase Dr. Bonanno again, coping is how we face the problem.  We become resilient over time as we practice coping.  Become resilient!


With this concept, remember, one size doesn’t fit all.  We are all different in our response to treatments and practices.  Keep trying.  Above all, practice self care!  Have compassion with yourself.  Pace your day.  Yes, we can’t do what we once could do, but we can take care of ourselves. 

Do you have other ideas? Questions? Please leave them below and I will do my best to respond to them. Your ideas may help someone else who is in pain, so please contribute.


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