Grief and chronic pain

Welcome 🙂

Hello again to the followers of my blog and Facebook page BreathworksMK – Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling.

I hope that you are enjoying the glorious sunshine this weekend. I have had some much needed rest and relaxation with my family following a hectic work period.

A key practice of Mindfulness in Daily life as presented in the 8-week Breathworks Mindfulness for Health program is the idea of pacing of daily activities as a means of avoiding tipping into the boom-and-bust cycle. I will give details of this later in this blog post.

Here’s me enjoying the sun in my garden and definitely enjoying pacing myself! 🙂

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I would like to share with you today some of the ideas from my presentation that I gave this week on ‘Creative Ways of Managing Chronic Pain’.

I had been excited to share this presentation for quite some time, as most of you who follow my page probably know.

I find it healing and motivating for me to be able to share my own experiences and what has helped me in my own chronic pain journey, in order to help others.

One of the key ideas from the presentation was linking the process of learning to live with a chronic pain, or other long-term heath condition to the process of grieving following the death of a loved one, as originally described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1969.

Kubler-Ross

 

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I originally heard this idea in a talk given by Vidyamala Burch (who is shown above) in January 2018 on the Sounds True Mindfulness Summit. Where she linked her life journey and coming to terms with her chronic pain in the stages: Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance and Flourishing.

This immediately resonated with my own life experiences and journey towards accepting my own chronic pain condition and I would like to share some of this with you today:grief 3

Denial

Denial for me was a stage of being cut off from my body, by ignoring my body and it’s pain signals. In order that I could continue with my work and my desire to exercise and keep fit.

There was a lot of losses associated with this stage, including losing jobs, losing relationships and losing independence, both physically and financially, when I could no longer continue to deny the pain.

Bargaining

Bargaining was an interesting and somewhat frustrating stage. This was a phase of my life where I was chasing a fantasy outcome, a magical cure for the pain. On the face of it I was doing lot’s of healthy activities, but I was always feeling like a failure during this time, as these activities didn’t cure my pain. Typical thoughts were:

‘If I do enough Yoga it can cure my pain’

 

‘If I meditate enough it can cure my pain’

 

 

Acceptance

 

Acceptance for me is a stage that took a long time. There wasn’t one thing that helped in this process.

It was a gradual turning towards my body and the experiencing of pain. Realising that I could experience pain, but I need not suffer. As via the process of a regular meditation practice you gradually learn that pain is an unpleasant sensory experience, that waxes and wanes moment-to-moment. Also that the pain I once felt was overwhelming my whole body, may actually only be a pain in my lower back and that I could broaden my experience to include the pleasant aspects of my experience, whilst also softening into the pain using my breath. Pleasant experiences could include, the warmth of the sun on my skin, a pleasant breeze, some relaxing music etc…

I’m not saying that acceptance is an easy process, nor that I feel accepting every day. Every person with chronic pain, or other long-term health condition will know that pain varies from day-to-day and that there are likely to be both good and bad pain days. However meditation for me has given me back control of my chronic pain and on the whole the good days for me now outnumber the bad.

Key to managing pain is the idea of pacing, as presented in the Mindfulness in Daily Life part of the Breathworks meditation program. A summary of the Boom and Bust cycle is summarised in the following document.

boom and bust

Flourishing

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flourishing

Flourishing as described by Vidyamala, sounds like an amazing stage of life to get to. I must admit that this is a stage that I am still working on.

Flourishing is an opening up to life and using your experiences to add value to the world and those around you. This is my exact motivations for wanting to train as a counsellor and mindfulness teacher. Using my life experiences and what I have learnt to benefit the life of others. It is this process of making meaning that is flourishing 🙂

I would love to hear what you think of this process of learning to live with pain and other long-term health conditions and whether it is something that resonates with your own experiences?

I will leave you with this video of Vidyamala talking to Rick Hanson about her experiences of learning to live with chronic pain and flourishing whilst doing so:

https://www.thefoundationsofwellbeing.com/FWBchronicpain

 

Until next time.

Warm wishes,

Mary 🙂

Katie Piper – What’s in My Head

Hello,

Lovely to check in with you all again.

Today I had the fantastic privilege of being able to watch Katie Piper’s new show ‘What’s in My Head’. Katie is touring the country with this show and we managed to catch the show in Kettering.

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So I’m not sure how many of you are aware of Katie Piper’s story, but in 2008 at the age of 24 years, she was attacked with acid and suffered pretty horrendous injuries.

Katie was a model and TV presenter and her face was damaged so much by the acid that most of her face was removed. She lost her sight and as a result of ingesting some of the acid she suffered internal injuries in the throat, oesophagus and stomach and had to undergo numerous procedures to rebuild her face and to open her throat and nostrils up, as it would close up due to the scar tissues from the burns contracting.

It is really scary to think that life and what we expect from our life path can change in an instant like this. This is something that I can relate to in my own life with my teeth and jaw issues and is something that I will be drawing upon in my upcoming presentation on chronic pain.

Here are some photo’s of Katie, before and after the acid attack:

Katie Piper shows just how far she has come as she wows in chocolate one-shoulder dress at TV Choice Awards 4

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This is what Katie Piper looks like more recently:

Katie-Piper-Facebook

I have always followed Katie’s story of recovery since seeing her documentary on channel 4 called ‘My Beautiful Face’.

I have always been inspired by how Katie has used such negative and devastating personal experiences and been able to use this to help others in such a positive way through her charity The Katie Piper Foundation: https://katiepiperfoundation.org.uk/ and some of the TV shows and documentaries that she has done for channel 4.

Here she is explaining her story on a Ted Ex talk:

 

In the show Katie shares really openly and honestly her struggles with losing her identity, as it was during that time, as a young lady in her twenties, who never even considered disability, or illness in herself, or other family members, and who considered herself to be ‘invincible’.

Katie talked of struggles of losing her looks and the struggles of not being able to eat due to her internal injuries and losing tremendous amounts of weight because of this. She also talks of struggles with anxiety and of not being able to make connections with others and struggles with agoraphobia following the attack. She also talks of using alcohol as a means of self-medicating and numbing the pain. Also losing most of her twenties to Hospital treatments for her various injuries.

All things that I think most of us would be able to relate to in one form, or another…

Katie also shared some lovely strategies that she has used in her own recovery. One that I really liked was the use of positive affirmations, which according to Wikipedia are:

“Affirmations in New Thought and New Age terminology refer primarily to the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment—fostering a belief that “a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything. More specifically, an affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should be repeated to one’s self and written down frequently. For affirmations to be effective, it is said that they need to be present tense, positive, personal and specific.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmations_(New_Age)

What she does is collect positive affirmations and print them off, write them down and post them all over her downstairs bathroom. In the interval she had a mock up toilet in the foyer and asked the audience to write down their favorite affirmation and post them on the wall. Here are some pictures:

 

I like positive affirmations myself and tend to collect them on one of my Pinterest boards.

There are hundreds of affirmations that you could use, some examples I’ve found this evening are:

affirmations

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Do you have a favorite positive affirmation/s that you have used and found to be helpful?

The key to making positive affirmations more likely to work seems to be making sure they are in the present tense, they contain positive words, they are relevant to what you are trying to achieve and you repeat them several times over the course of the day.

There’s no formula for how often or how many times you should repeat a positive affirmation.

Many people set a routine that works for them, like repeating the affirmation 20 times, 3 times a day.

The brain is able to rewire itself via a process called neuroplasticity. So similarly to a daily meditation practice, if you are focused when repeating your chosen affirmation, and you repeat it frequently, it is more likely to be successful. Imagine that your brain is like any other muscle that we would train in the gym. The more we train the stronger the muscle gets…

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There were many other strategies that Katie shared for recovery. Such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Writing
  • Spending time with family
  • Spending time with friends
  • More chocolate! 😉

I highly recommend catching the show if you get the opportunity, to learn more about Katie and see if some of these strategies would be helpful to you in your life.

If you can’t catch a show, Katie has written several books. One of the books that was at the show was this one:

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This is available on Amazon at the moment for £4: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confidence-Secret-Katie-Piper/dp/1784295205/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524180529&sr=8-1&keywords=katie+piper+confidence

 

I’ll leave you with one of the slides that she shared on Anxiety Girl. I think this can be one of my super powers too…

katie piper 2

 

Please get in touch and share some of your own strategies for recovery, would be great to hear from you.

Warm wishes,

Mary

Chronic Pain resources

 

Good evening to my lovely page followers!

I hope that you are as well as you can be and having a great weekend.

I have been taking the much needed opportunity to rest and reconnect with my family, here is me and my husband on a walk around a local lake.

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I just wanted to check in with you all and offer you some resources that I have found this week during my preparations for my chronic pain presentation.

Firstly is a fantastic 5 minute video available on You Tube explaining about chronic pain and what to do about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_3phB93rvI

I highly recommend a watch if you have a spare 5 minutes.

Chronic pain is daily pain of 3 months or more in duration and this video explains how the brain still continues to produce pain even after tissue healing has occurred. It looks at a holistic way of treating pain.

  • Medication.
  • Surgical treatments.
  • Looking at thoughts and emotions. Reducing stress and unwinding the nervous system.
  • Diet.
  • Lifestyle factors. 
  • Exercise.
  • Looking at your story, what was happening in your life at the time when the chronic pain first occurred. Making links between the past and the present. 

 

If you haven’t checked out the NHS Choices website recently, there is a whole section on pain and self-management of pain: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Pain/Pages/Painhome.aspx

nhs choices

 

I love Ted talks, there are a vast amount of TED talks available on You Tube on mindfulness, on the experiences of chronic pain.

Here is a really interesting talk on

A Different Approach To Pain Management: Mindfulness Meditation

by Fadel Zeidan.

 

Another useful mindfulness resource that I have come across is the Headspace app, available at https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app. There is a 10-day beginners course available for free and if you enjoy the meditations you could then choose to subscribe. There are a number of simple animations on the app which describes mindfulness really clearly which I really liked.

headspace

Here is an example of one of the animations, enjoy:

 

If you have any resources that you want to share please get in touch, would be great to hear from you.

 

Warm wishes,

 

Mary

Chronic pain presentation

I am very excited to have the opportunity to present on a topic of my choice.

Of course it’s got to be on my main area of interest, which is chronic pain and how to use counselling and mindfulness meditation to manage the distressing symptoms associated with chronic pain and any other long-term health condition (such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, ME etc…).

I am especially interested in highlighting the individual unique experience of pain and have been asking people with chronic pain for a short written piece on their condition and how this affects them on a day-to-day basis.

An excerpt of one written piece I’ve received is:

Male with type 2 Diabetes.

“I suffer from headaches. Especially on front of head and around eyes. Annoying tension headache, to a full blown migraine. 

Migraine. Debilitating pain, can barely function. Wipes you out and all I want to do is lie down in a darkened room with an ice pack on my head. Also feel sick.

Joint pains. Mainly in legs and back. Stiffness, shooting pains from lower back down my left leg, stopping at the back and side of the knee.

Wrist issues. Feel like I have no strength in both wrists. Very difficult to pick anything up heavier than a couple of kg. Things feel heavier than they are in reality. My brain knows I could pick it up, but in reality I can’t. 

Skin condition. Get splits in my skin mainly tips of fingers and thumbs and around the knuckles. Makes holding things very difficult and can interfere with my work. I fix computers and often have to use screwdrivers and small components. Skin is dry and feels like I have constant paper cuts. 

Feet pain. Numbness, starts at toes and works back towards the heel. More like pins and needles rather than no sensation at all.

The joints in the feet feel like they lock up when I am waking. Lots of pain when this happens. Mainly a stabbing pain, makes me limp and then I would need to stop.

To manage the pain I try to manage without painkillers because of the side effects of taking painkillers. If the pain is really bad I will take ibuprofen. 

Some days are more difficult to manage than others.

If I feel really bad with the pain. I can get depressed. I can also be short-tempered towards everyone. This is normally unlike me as I normally have a long fuse and am laid back.” 

 

What is your unique pain story?

 

These pictures illustrate the wide variety of pain symptoms that can present in someone with Fibromyalgia:

Fibromyalgia-Signs-Causes-and-Treatment

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As you can see a wide variety of symptoms, as unique as the person is themselves. Symptoms that are likely to vary from day-to-day. As any person with a chronic condition is likely to tell you their pain and other symptoms will fluctuate on a day-to-day basis and can be influenced by many factors. Stress, lack of sleep, food, other illnesses are some of the factors that can have an impact on symptoms and could lead to pain flare ups.

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One way I’ve found useful when exploring with a client chronic pain symptoms is to work creatively and have an outline of the body in the centre of the page and using post it notes asking the client to write down their thoughts associated with the pain, or actual descriptions of their pain experience.

As shown by the following pictures:

1.

Start off with a blank sheet of paper and you might like to draw, or stick on an outline of a body in the centre. 

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2.

Then you can draw the pain on the body and write down the experiences of pain on post-it-notes around the body.

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Being specific about the pain, it’s intensity, it’s quality, i.e. sharp, dull, shooting, stabbing etc…, it’s specific location, can be helpful in assisting the client to learn about their unique experience and any patterns of the pain throughout the day.

As I’ve heard Vidylamala Burch say during a You Tube talk recently, mindfulness is a turning towards the pain (pain that the client has maybe identified using the above exercise). 

Being with what is actually happening in the present moment with curiosity, kindness and compassion, much as you would comfort, or embrace a loved one who was hurting.

 

A really useful talk I’ve been watching today on You Tube is:

Mindfulness and Chronic Pain – Vidyamala Burch

 

Please enjoy 🙂

 

Warm wishes,

 

Mary

Working creatively with anxiety CPD

I had the fantastic opportunity to attend a CPD with Nettie at Challenging-Behaviour Counselling Services in Dunstable on Saturday 17th March.

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As a trainee counsellor one of my interests is working creatively with some of the issues that clients bring to sessions. The CPD’s offered at Challenging-Behaviour are a good mix of psycho-education and creative exercises. Creative exercises that you can complete for yourself as an individual and then you can take these ideas away with you and apply them to client work.

One of the key ideas that I took from the day was asking the client to draw on an outline of a body whereabouts on the body they would normally notice symptoms of anxiety:

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Now for some people this might be really challenging to identify what exactly is anxiety and what the signs of anxiety might be in their body. Some examples that I might put could include shaky legs, pounding heart, or a tight chest. You could draw pictures on your gingerbread man, use different colours and of course use different words.

Anxiety for other people might also include increased physical pain, muscle tension, light-headedness, headache. A feeling of nausea, or butterflies in the tummy etc….  This is where this exercise is useful, as the client can begin to recognise their unique experience of anxiety.

Strategies for coping with anxiety: 

Once symptoms of anxiety arise, what can help?

Grounding yourself in the present moment can be helpful here. So looking around you, what can you see? What can you hear? What can you feel? Whether that be feeling your feet in contact with the floor, the touch of clothes on your skin, or having something soft and tactile to hold, for example a cuddly toy, stress ball etc…

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Using the senses of your body as a means of checking out that you are safe in the here-and-now. As anxiety can often lead to a spiral of negative thoughts, castastrophising, or even a sense of impending doom. Using your body senses might be a useful means of reducing anxiety responses and reactions in the body before it gets to this stage.

Another useful immediate technique could be some simple breathing exercises. At it’s simplest it could be slowly breathing in for a count of 3 or 4 and then trying to double the out breath. I find that doing this technique for three to four breaths before returning to a normal breathing pattern, relaxes my body and I start to feel calmer.

Another breathing technique is 4, 7, 8 breathing as detailed on this webpage: https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/4-7-8-breathing-stress-relief-techniques.

A similar idea with using breathing to calm down the nervous system. This time you breath in for 4, hold your breath for 7 counts and then breathe out for 8.

Maybe try both techniques and see which one works best for you.

breathing

 

Don’t Feed the Worry Bug

One of the ideas we looked at was a storybook app called “Don’t Feed the Worry Bug”, shown here on a You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8aA-MQbT5A

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Although this app is for children, I think some adults (including myself) will be very taken with this app. It is about a character called Wince, who feeds his worry bug with his anxieties until it becomes huge. On the app you can record your worries on there and then feed it to the bug who then eats them for you!!

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I’d be really interested to hear from you, what you think about anxiety and maybe what strategies have worked for you when managing anxiety. Please get in touch.

 

Warm wishes,

Mary

Happy snow day

Hello to my blog followers where ever you are in the country right now!

Now I’m not normally one for a snow day as I like to get out and about and get all of my appointments done (I’ve had three cancelled today). However, this day has turned out to be an unexpected joy. My children are off of school too and we plan to spend some quality time together and my husband is not working either. Sometimes when life is so busy we do not get to spend that much time enjoying life together – as we are all apart doing different things.

So definitely planning to slow the pace down today and enjoy whatever arises.

Hopefully the snow is not as deep for you as in this picture! 

I don’t know how you feel about the snow – but as I sat and watched it yesterday outside the window – it was actually quite meditative as the snow flakes danced up and down in the wind.

Winter weather Jan 21st 2018

Snow

I’m wondering what activities you would do when faced with an unexpected day, or days at home, freed from the usual routines of work, school, or college?

If it’s safe to do so, a short walk in the crisp snow could be a nice mindful walking meditation. If you do a practice like this be sure to wrap up warm! The cold can play havoc on chronic pain and pain levels.

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I managed a short walk around my local lake yesterday and the views were stunning 🙂

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If you can’t get outside, this calendar for mindful March has some really useful ideas for meditation practices that you could incorporate into each day:

mindful_march

Finally, my ultimate favourite, as many who know me will vouch for. Wrapping up warm in a duvet on the sofa and putting on your favourite TV show, or DVD. Pure bliss!

 

Enjoy your snow day!

Until next time,

Warm wishes,

Mary 

Hello again!

Hi everyone,

Feels like ages since my last blog post! I have been busy these last couple of weeks, in recovery from my latest operation and in the middle of exam season in college.

I am back now and full of some great ideas to share with you all. If there is anything regarding mindfulness meditation, or person centred counselling that you would like to find out more about please send me a message and let’s get a conversation going. My email is: mary@techos-ltd.co.uk and my Facebook page is at the bottom of my blog site.

This week I’ve noticed that the theme of self-care is coming up again and again, both for my clients and myself. Self-care is something that I am committed to developing in my own life as a counsellor and mindfulness practitioner and I am also committed to sharing this knowledge and experience with my clients.

A great question for self care is where on earth do I start?

burn-outWhen as a busy person in this hectic modern day world where we are often forced to multi-task, work through our lunch break, work longer and longer hours in order to earn enough money to pay the bills, and in my case and many of my friends case, raising a family whilst working and studying – the demands and the to-do lists can be endless. You may find yourself and your needs at the bottom of the pile. Finding the time to practice self-care can seem impossible

In my experience going through life in this frantic way can be both physically and mentally exhausting. Leading to physical illness, increased pain and symptoms if you have a chronic illness already, burnout and even mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. All of this can negatively impact on your working life and relationships.

A really good place to start when first thinking about self care can be looking at the self-care wheel:

Self-Care-Wheel-English (1)

As you can see the self-care wheel is broken down into a number of segments, professional, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and personal. What I try to do, and this may or may not work for you, is to focus on a particular segment of the wheel at a time. You could try this maybe over a week, or even a month, whatever you find works best for you, as self-care practices are a very individual thing.  Then, take time to reflect on your progress in this area before looking at the next segment on the wheel.

It really can help you to reconnect with yourself and the joys that are all around us in life, however small these may be!

Physical and emotional self care have been really high on my agenda over the past couple of weeks. Here are some of the self-care practices that I have been indulging in:

  • Having enough sleep
    This has been vital to my recovery from my operation. The following pillow that I found in Costco today is likely to be very helpful with this! It is a full body pillow, which when I am in pain is likely to help bring me comfort and hopefully alleviate some pain.

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  • Having regular massages

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I have really spoilt myself and had two massages this week! One, a massage to help alleviate tension in my neck and shoulders after my jaw operation and one, as a treat for getting through my course exam this week.

Usually, I aim for a massage once a month. To aid with physical and mental relaxation and to get some all important “me” time. I highly recommend it. I would suggest finding some-one that you feel comfortable with, as trusting someone to massage your body, especially if it is a body that hurts, can be a massive challenge.

 

  • Finding a hobby

A new hobby can provide a much needed outlet from a busy schedule. For me I have just taken up ice-skating lessons with my daughter. Torvill and Dean were my childhood idols and ice-skating used to be an activity that I really enjoyed as a child. Reconnecting with this hobby and hopefully passing this onto my daughter has been really exciting and is something that I hope to continue.

The beauty of a hobby is that it could be absolutely anything! Anything that excites you. It could be learning a new skill, playing a sport, going to the gym, or to a yoga class, volunteering for a charity, making time to read your favourite book, or magazine, the list is endless…

My favourite magazine is Psychologies:

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What might you like to do during 2018? Please share if you’d like, it would be great to hear from you and to share some ideas so that we can inspire each other! 🙂

 

  • Food and diet

This final area is a work in progress for me, but I believe a healthy diet is essential to keep your energy levels up and to contribute to optimum mental and physical health. I know that with chronic pain, or other long-term health conditions, nausea can be a real barrier to eating healthily. Eating little and often throughout the day I’ve found is a good way to manage this, as well as taking pain relief medication on a regular schedule.

I have been exploring recently the idea of food supplements and which ones may be beneficial for chronic pain and exhaustion.

I am going to do a separate blog post on this, but two supplements that I’ve found to be really helpful are Vitamin B complex and Turmeric.

I’ve heard from a lot of different sources that Turmeric can be a really useful supplement in helping to treat inflammation.IMG_3385

That’s all for today.

Hope you have a good week,

Warm wishes,

Mary xx

The ‘face’ of my chronic pain

I have decided to share the ‘face’ of my chronic pain with you all via this blog post.

After what was my fourth procedure on my face yesterday, I am feeling a tad swollen and sore today.

I share these images not to upset anyone, or ask for sympathy. My aim of sharing these images is to show that I am on the same chronic pain journey as some of you who may be inspired to join me on my Breathworks 8-week training course. Hopefully through shared experiences and the wonderful practices taught on the Breathworks Mindfulness for Health course we can support and inspire each other on the path of recovery.

 

My question to you is how do you care for yourself when you are ill, or in pain?

My go to self care practices have been lots of rest, personal counselling and meditation.

Love and healing to you all,

Mary

How do you manage your chronic health condition at work?

Good afternoon,

I hope you have all had a good week, I know for many this will have been the first week back to work after the Christmas and New Year break.

It’s been a busy week for me, with a return to client work and starting a new job! This was me on my first day:

 

I am really interested in this blog post to discuss how it is managing a chronic health condition, whether that be chronic pain, or other health condition such as MS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, stress, depression…and either managing the requirements of your current job, or getting back into work if your condition has meant that you haven’t been able to sustain a job, or find work.

My own personal experience covers all of the above! 

In the past having to leave what I thought was my chosen and destined career path within the NHS, due to developing chronic pain and other personal circumstances at that time.

Then having a number of physically demanding jobs that would contribute to the boom and bust cycle that I discussed in an earlier blog, meaning that I spent a lot of time in the bust part of the cycle. In pain and unhappy.

Then struggling to find a job that suits my ultimate career aspirations whilst not escalating my pain levels.

It can be a long journey to finding your ultimate job, or choice of career that suits the best management of your health condition and gives you the job satisfaction and personal fulfillment that ultimately we all want.

In my experience not working can lead to social isolation, loss of self-esteem and confidence, leading to a worsening of the health-condition anyway. So finding the right job can be life changing – boosting self-confidence through interacting with co-workers and customers, having a sense of purpose and something to focus on in life other than the pain (or other distressing symptoms that you may have).

Ultimately the right job can boost the self-management of your health condition, as there is a real link between mental health and physical health.

What job might you want?

This is a really challenging one, especially if like a lot of people you may have found yourself following a career path that ultimately pays the bills, but isn’t 100% what you want to do, leaving you feeling stuck and unsatisfied.

How could you find a job that you want, or a new career path?:

Vision boards:

 

 

Here are a couple of really useful article as a starting point to what vision boards are about and how to make one:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-rider/the-scientific-reason-why_b_6392274.htmlu

https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Vision-Board

 

Similar to the self-care wheel that I discussed in my last blog. You could create a vision board to work on one particular area of your life, in this case your career aspirations. Or you could create a number of vision boards to cover lots of different areas of your life that you would like to develop.

Then dream big! Write words associated with your dream job, find pictures, quotes, objects that are associated with thoughts and feelings to do with this dream job. Put the vision board up on the wall and keep looking at it and working on it.

Then when you are happy with the vision board, you might then want to talk through the ideas that have come up with a trusted friend, or relative. A life coach, or counsellor could be useful here too, to gain clarity and see what steps you could take in the future to start to build experience and work towards the dream you have identified.

I will use counselling as an example.

If you decided you might want to become a counsellor in the future but wasn’t 100% sure that this was the right path for you, or you didn’t have any experience of a job role like this. You might start by investing in a short course that you could do that would give you a flavour of what was involved in counselling. I know many colleges offer a counselling introduction course that is typically around 10 weeks long and could be offered as a day time, or evening course. By doing this course you wouldn’t have to invest too much time, or money, but you would get a good idea of what was involved and good experience that could assist you in your next steps (further study, or getting a care-related job role).

Free online courses that you could explore are available at:

1. Open Learn: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/

Open Learn Logo
Free modules on various subjects from the Open University.

2. Future Learn: https://www.futurelearn.com/

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Free modules on a range of subjects from various Universities.

Along with a short education course you may decide to explore volunteer work that could give you a flavour of what it is like to work as a helper in a helping capacity.

Two related volunteer roles that I had at the start of my counselling journey was as an Assistant in the Inpatient Unit of a local Hospice, delivering teas, coffees and meals to patients and their visitors and I also worked as a Welcomer/ Receptionist at a local counselling agency, welcoming clients to their appointments, answering the phone and taking cash and card payments for appointments. Both related to counselling and both roles requiring a commitment of a couple of hours per week.

 

How to manage chronic pain at work?

In my experience there are a number of strategies that can be useful to managing chronic pain, so that you can perform effectively whilst at work.

I will share a few of the best ones that have worked for me. I would welcome any suggestions of things that have worked for you in the comments. Let’s get a discussion going and see if we can help each other.

  1. Self care

    Self care here can include making sure that you take your medication on a regular basis. Ensure that you adequate food and fluid intake throughout the day. Try to get adequate sleep every night, or if you have broken sleep that can often occur with chronic pain, maybe include a nap in the day. All of these simple self care activities can help you to ensure that you can maintain your energy levels and your concentration throughout the day.

 

  • Regular appointment with a counsellor
    In my experience a regular appointment with a therapist can be revolutionary in chronic pain management. Enabling you to ‘get things off your chest’ and to reduce stress levels. Put simply, stress can lead to increased physical tension in the body and this tension can increase pain levels.

 

  • Physical exercise, stretch breaks.
    I know that physical exercise can be extremely difficult if you have chronic pain, or any other chronic illness. But in my experience regular physical exercise and keeping the body moving can be very beneficial to pain management. This could be something as simple as going for a short walk in your lunch break, or getting up at regular intervals from your desk (maybe once an hour) to stretch and walk around for a couple of minutes to minimise stiffness and pain from prolonged sitting.For me yoga is extremely helpful to maintaining strength and flexibility. I would recommend that it’s helpful to discuss your physical conditions with the teacher before the class, so that they can offer you modifications to the moves in the class if required. Hopefully it will help you to feel more comfortable in taking breaks during the class as well, if your teacher is aware that you may need to do this.

 

  • Meditation/ pacing.

 

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This one goes without saying. I am a huge advocate for a regular meditation practice (even 10 minutes per day) and pacing of daily activities, so that you can sustain your activities without getting into bust mode and having a pain flare, that means you can’t do anything!

I hope these ideas have been a useful starting point to your reflections. Any questions please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me.

 

Warm wishes,

Mary