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! 🙂

9B7C3060-52DC-409A-8553-BF0D1DC36656

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

 

Picture1

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

IMG_4118

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 🙂

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.

30712014_10156347089714637_940491248277968090_n

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

maxresdefault

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.

IMG_20170803_155145

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. 

29573274_869797536533200_4077866610394531272_n

2.

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

29541369_869797539866533_4884359596689364592_n

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

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.

20180127_215617

 

  • Having regular massages

c700x420

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:

161118

 

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/

download
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.

 

download (5)

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

 

Self-Care

Self-Care

What is self-care and why is it important?

 

I am really interested to find out today what you know about self-care and why this might be important for you and your well-being?

As a trainee Counsellor we are taught that self-care is essential for us in the counselling profession. It is written into the ethical framework of good counselling practice, as published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP for short!).

Basically as a Counsellor it is essential to balance both work with clients and home life, in order to maintain the optimum health and well-being of the Counsellor. So that as a Counsellor we can be fully present with and of most help to our clients during sessions. As the picture above says, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.

I would say that this way of working is essential to everyone, balancing your own needs, both physical and mental, with the obligations of your own working life, or other roles that you may have in life, such as parenthood. So that you can maintain yourself in optimum health and well-being and avoid ‘burn out’, due to prolonged stress and exhaustion.

As a person with chronic pain, or other long-term health condition, if you can look after yourself through self-care, in my experience this will help to turn down the volume of your pain (or other symptoms). By turning down the volume of your pain through self-care activities, the pain becomes more of a background noise, rather than the pain taking the driving seat and taking over control of your body and your life.

I did a presentation on self-care at college and a really helpful resource that I came across when preparing my presentation was the self-care wheel.

I have included two different versions of the self-care wheel, as follows:

Wellness-Wheel-2015.Clear_

 

Self-Care-Wheel-English

The self-care wheels split up different areas of your life that you might want to look at and offers suggestions on ways that you can cultivate more of the different areas in your life, in order to find more of a balance.

So, if you wish to you could look at one area of the wheel over a period of time, maybe a month (or more) and have a go at some of the activities mentioned. For example, if you were looking to work on the spiritual side of yourself you could potentially go outside into nature, take a yoga class, meditate, or volunteer for a local charity, or cause that is close to your heart. Have fun with it and see what happens…

If you wanted to work on your psychological health, you might decide to find a counsellor, or mentor to work with. You could read a self-help book, journal about what is on your mind, or take up drawing, or painting. All very helpful ways to work with exploring your emotions.

Here are some ways that I have been working with self-care over the last couple of days:

1. Mindful colouring and drawing.

I find both of these activities really helpful to relax and unwind.

With mindful colouring you can pick up adult colouring books virtually anywhere and they are not too expensive. You can use coloured pencils, or felt pens, again these don’t have to be too expensive either. Then if you have a spare 10-20 minutes per day it is an easy way to care for yourself.

2. Meditation

As I mentioned on a previous post, I have the Mindfulness for Health audio book on my phone and tend to listen to the meditations from the Mindfulness for Health course from my phone, either in bed, or when I am out and about. The meditations are only 10 minutes long, so I find they quite easily fit into my day.

If you are after different, or slightly longer versions of the meditations from Breathworks they are also freely available on Sound cloud, or You Tube.

Another source of meditations that I highly recommend if you have a Smart phone, is the Calm app:

It costs something like £3 for the year and they have a number of different meditation programs to follow, for things like sleep, managing stress, managing anxiety, 7 days of happiness, 7 days of gratitude, 7 days of self-esteem, loving kindness etc… Also if you have trouble sleeping they also have a section of sleep stories. I have found these to be really helpful at times when I have trouble sleeping.

 

Have fun with looking at self-care and what this might look like and feel like for you in your life.

Best wishes,

Mary 🙂

How do you manage on a bad pain (flare) day?

What are your strategies for managing a bad pain (flare) day?

 

 

 

So you may be thinking well my pain is bad all of the time anyway, however a pain flare up is a dramatic increase in a person’s level of pain that occurs suddenly.

Pain flares (also known as breakthrough pain) aren’t a new pain, but an increase of an already existing pain. Flare-ups are highly subjective to the individual person. Some people may have a pain flare up that lasts for a few minutes or hours, while others can have flares that last for days or even weeks at a time.

Sometimes a pain flare up may be triggered by an injury, or by stress. Other causes of a pain flare up may include every day activities, such as working, or exercise.

Frequent pain flare ups can be debilitating, potentially stopping you from being able to engage with your life, it may stop you being able to look after the kids, stop you from working, stop you from being able to do the housework, study, the list is endless…

So how can you manage?

My number one recommendation is personal counselling and mindfulness meditation 😉

Regularly taking your medication as prescribed by your GP, or Hospital Consultant is important in managing symptoms of pain.

I would also like to look at some self-management strategies that I have used for my pain, that may be helpful for you too…

1. Rest

images

If you are able to, my number one suggestion is pacing of daily activities and rest.

The best present I’ve ever received and one that revolutionised my pain management is a heated blanket that I have on my bed. Even half an hour resting in bed with the heated blanket on makes me feel a million times better.

If like me, sleep is an issue due to pain, being able to rest for a short period of time in the day can also be very helpful, so that you can sustain your energy levels throughout the day.

2. Relaxing bath

 

One of my other top tips is a relaxing bath. If you have sleep issues, a relaxing bath before bed can be part of a bedtime ritual to help you relax and unwind.

What I have found really helps with muscle tension is adding a couple of handfuls of Dr Salts Bath Salts to the water and if you have it, a few drops of lavender essential oils.

IDShot_540x540

3. Watching your favourite film/s, or TV shows.

 

If you are stuck on the sofa, or in bed with a pain flare and feeling pretty low, one of my favourite ways to manage this is to put on one of my favourite films.

I have a selection of ‘go to’ films for just this situation. I won’t disclose too many, as they are a very varied selection of musical, ‘cheesy’ numbers. One of my all-time favourites is Rocky Horror, I can put it on, not have to think too much about the story-line and enjoy the music! It is guaranteed to lift my spirits 🙂

If you are feeling more mobile during a flare, perhaps you might find seeing a film at the cinema a good way to manage pain. In my experience, being out of the house can be a good distraction from the pain and being at the cinema you don’t have to be too physically active.

I’ve seen two great films recently that I can recommend:

 

 

4. Gratitude/ focusing on the good…

Finally, I have found that a gratitude practice is highly effective in managing during a pain flare.

I know that this will probably sound very strange and you may ask how on earth can I be positive, or grateful when the pain is bad and I feel terrible? There is a lot of science to back up that fact that a gratitude practice can literally rewire the brain over time, enabling you to feel more positive.

I will do another blog post on this as it is a really interesting and helpful topic.

It is an idea explained really well by Dr Rick Hanson. He has done a Ted Talk called ‘Hardwiring Happiness’, which you can find at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpuDyGgIeh0

There are loads of ways to develop a gratitude practice.

I have used a gratitude journal where you identify three, or four positive experiences every day and then review them at the end of the week and write a list of your highlights for the week.

I also received this fabulous gift for Christmas:

IMG_3150

The Universe Has Your Back affirmation cards by Gabrielle Berstein. The idea with these is that you pick a card from the deck to focus on for your meditation practice. They have lovely quotes on and beautiful artwork. I will be exploring this gift over the coming weeks and months as part of my meditation practice.

Another gratitude practice that I have used with clients is a gratitude jar:

download (5)

You fill it with written post-it notes about positive things that have happened, however small and on days where you are feeling low you can open it up and read through the messages to remind yourself of the good stuff.

You can decorate the jar however you like, with stickers, ribbons etc…and have fun with getting creative.

One positive that would definitely go in my jar for today would be my new unicorn leggings – I am in love!

IMG_3156

I would love to hear your self-management strategies for your pain, or health condition. Please comment, or get in touch!

Warm wishes,

Mary 🙂

Role Models

Lady Gaga, Vidyamala Burch and Wendy Loughlan.

Lady Gaga

Five Foot Two documentary

gaga

After watching the Lady Gaga documentary on Netflix I was inspired to write this blog post. To talk about my thoughts on the Lady Gaga documentary and about role models in general. Finally, to talk about the part that various role models have played in my personal journey through pain and how they have shaped and continue to shape the person that I am today.

So to begin, in my experience chronic pain is a lonely place:

ead3879fda478e1545432f27702e68ec--mists-sunrises

Watching the Lady Gaga documentary last night was really eye opening for me. Someone who is a world famous superstar, glamorous, beautiful and extremely talented has similar pain issues to those that I have experienced:

How you see Gaga:

I was blown away by Gaga’s talent in the documentary, with her beautiful singing voice, heart-felt songs and terrific stage presence.

However behind this glamorous pop star, she has been fighting a silent battle with chronic pain.

The reality behind the stage persona:

Gaga has chronic pain and is shown at various points in the documentary receiving physical treatments for the pain, such as massage and trigger point injections. You also see her stuck on the sofa during a pain flare, crying as she is embarrassed about the state that she is in.

I have totally been there, isolated and alone in my pain. Thinking there is no way that friends and family could understand what is going on. Friends you once had drift away, stop calling, family don’t know what to say…

So if you haven’t seen the documentary I highly recommend it, Gaga is helping to break down the stigma of living with a chronic illness and she is proof that it is possible to live along-side daily pain and still lead a fit and active (and indeed fabulous) life.

She could definitely be a positive role model to many.

I agree that not all of us will have her income and access to top health professionals, although there are a lot of steps that you can take to self-manage your symptoms that don’t have to cost an astronomical amount.

My first steps into the self-management of my pain was to download the mindfulness for Health book onto the Audible app on my phone and as it was my first audio book, it was free!

If you haven’t heard of, or tried Audible, check out the Mindfulness for Health audio book here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Health-Personal-Development/Mindfulness-for-Health-Audiobook/B00EOT9NPG/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1514503490&sr=1-1

41qfAE5t4mL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_

The beauty of having the Mindfulness for Health audio book on your phone is that you can then meditate anytime, anywhere!

My Role Models 

Having a role model as a child is important, we learn how to be and develop our behaviour patterns from the adults around us, including, parents, teachers and other professionals such as the Police.

I feel that having role models as an adult is equally as important. These role models can either be people in your day-to-day life, who have the skills, or personal qualities that you aspire to.

Or as discussed above it could be a pop star, film star, sports star etc…

As mentioned above, I started off my pain journey in a very isolated place. I have found along the way various role models. People who I admired, people who are living a really good life despite their own difficult circumstances and people who had positive qualities that I want to develop in my own life. Having these role models has kept me motivated during some of the darkest periods of my life and inspired me down the career path that I am following today.

Let me introduce a couple of my role models:

Vidyamala Burch

11895976_895323680536075_8902615508726644365_n

I have been fortunate enough to meet Vidyamala on a few occasions. You will see her name come up a lot in this blog and on my Facebook page.

Vidyamala truly is a role model to me.

After sustaining life-changing spinal injuries through a life guarding injury and two car accidents, Vidyamala has had chronic pain for over 40 years and now uses a wheelchair. Instead of giving up on life, she has used her experiences in a positive way and describes her life in the present as flourishing. Something I definitely aspire to…

After being a sporty teenager Vidyamala found major difficulties in adjusting to this new life and pushed her body to it’s limits in a bid to overcome the pain, but eventually had a complete physical breakdown. This is where I find a lot of similarities to my own life experience.

Vidyamala used her own life experiences and how she had learnt to manage her pain through mindfulness meditation, to set up the organisation Breathworks. Developing and delivering eight week mindfulness programs to other people with chronic pain and other long-term health conditions and people with stress. Breathworks also train people to teach this program and now have trainers all over the world.

Vidyamala’s life story has been a huge motivation for me to take up a daily meditation practice to manage my own pain. I also started the teacher training program, attending my first teacher training meditation retreat in January 2016 and my second teacher training retreat in July 2017.

Starting to learn meditation also inspired me to start training towards becoming a Counsellor. So I could develop the additional skills of helping people to cope emotionally with the impact of chronic pain on them and their life.

Wendy Loughlan

23905621_10156238619485663_5288897743839235282_n  

This is Wendy my yoga teacher. If you are in the Milton Keynes area check out her website for further information about her and her classes: http://www.theyogaboutique.co.uk/

Wendy is a role model for me as she truly embodies her yoga practices and radiates kindness, compassion, authenticity and a real heart-felt self-love. All qualities that I aspire to, both as an individual and as a professional mindfulness teacher and Counsellor.

Thank you Wendy for always being there for me and giving me a gentle nudge of encouragement at times when I have needed it!

 

So, who are your role models in life, or who would you like as a role model and why?

I would love to hear what you think 🙂