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

How to Meditate day at Milton Keynes Meditation Association

It was with a sense of excitement and trepidation that I set out to the How to Meditate day held by the Milton Keynes Meditation Association.

The day was held at Simpson Village Hall and put on by the lovely members of the Buddhist group of Milton Keynes. I had a really friendly and wonderful welcome and it almost felt like a coming home for me, as I used to attend the Tuesday night sessions held by the group. However, and often as life goes, my schedule and commitments became such that I could no longer go.

There was a mixture of experienced meditators and new meditators in the group. The two main meditations as taught by the group were explored and practised in detail. They were the Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation and the Metta Bhavana.

The mindfulness of breathing meditation is most similar to the breathing anchor meditation as taught on the eight week Breathworks course and I would describe the Metta Bhavana meditation as being most similar to the Open Heart meditation, or the Connection meditation.

If you would like to listen to these particular meditations, please visit: https://soundcloud.com/hachetteaudiouk/sets/mindfulness-meditation/s-chcYB

Mindfulness of Breathing

The mindfulness of breathing meditation was taught in four stages and it was explained that this meditation is taught as a means of increasing self-awareness, knowing exactly what is going on for us at this moment in time and in this process developing wisdom.

Here is a breakdown of the stages:

1st Stage: Breathing naturally, count after each out breath 1, then after the next out-breath 2, the next out-breath 3 and so on, up to 10.

Then when you reach 10, start the process of counting again from 1, up to 10.

When your attention wanders away from the breath, as mine did several times today, you gently guide your awareness back to the breath and start counting again from 1.

 

2nd Stage: Instead of counting on the out-breath, during this stage you count on each in-breath. As with stage one you count the in-breaths from 1, to 10.

When you attention wanders away from the breath, as mine did, you gently guide your awareness back to the breath and start counting again from one. The noticing that your mind has wandered from the intended focus of your meditation, in this case the counting of your breath, is in itself an act of mindfulness and it absolutely a sign that you are doing it right!2012-12-14-825880_thumbnail

 

3rd stage: In this stage you drop the counting and attend to the sensations of breathing.

For me this would most vivid in my tummy and at the nostrils. At this stage I also felt more physically relaxed in my body and mentally calmer.

 

4th stage: In this stage you shift your attention to the point where the air enters and leaves the body.

For me this was noticing the cool air entering my nostrils on the in-breath.

 

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Metta Bhavana

Metta is an attitude of well-wishing, loving kindness and friendliness.

Metta Bhavana was described as a balancing meditation to the mindfulness of breathing, in the mindfulness of breathing we are working on ourselves and in the Metta Bhavana we are working on developing an attitude of loving kindness, first towards ourselves and then spreading these feelings out towards other people in our world. Like the mindfulness of breathing, the Metta Bhavana meditation is practised in stages.

1st stage: Self.

Contact and develop an attitude of loving-kindness in relation to yourself.

2nd stage: Friend.

Extend this attitude of loving-kindness towards someone you like, or appreciate.

3rd stage: Neutral person.

Now extend your well-wishing and loving kindness towards a ‘neutral’ person, preferably someone who you have contact with, but for who you have no particular feelings of like, or dislike.

For me this is the Cashier who often serves me in Sainsburys.

4th stage: Person you are currently having difficulties with.

Include in your loving-kindness a person who you dislike, or currently have difficulty with. Preferably not someone who you loathe as this may overwhelm your metta.

5th stage: Everyone.

In this final stage of the meditation we were encouraged to imagine ourselves, our friend, the neutral person and the person we are having difficulty with, all together. Then spreading metta equally between all four people.

Then gradually extending the well-wishing to include all beings, those in the same street, those in the same town and all those in England and beyond.

 

 

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this day if you are looking for an introduction to mindfulness meditation and a friendly group in which to practice.

Until next time,

Metta,

Mary

Mindfulness:MK new year retreat

Saturday 6th January was a lovely day. Went for a full day mindfulness retreat ran by one of my mindfulness teachers Helen (below in the photo).

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I have attended this retreat for the past few years and it is always a fabulous opportunity to step out of the usual day-to-day routine, to slow down and to reflect on the year that has been and the year to come.

The following quote from the day I found particularly helpful:

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The story that went with this quote was a famous violinist who had polio and frames on his legs to enable him to walk, had a really important show to perform. He walked on stage and took his frames off and couldn’t stand. In the process of falling he broke one of the strings on his violin. Instead of giving up, he got back up and continued to perform his music piece (with the violin and the broken string) and was ultimately successful and his music well-received.

I felt this was a really important metaphor for those of us with chronic pain, a chronic health condition, body parts missing or not working so well. If we can still continue to make music, to live well whilst making the most of what our bodies can still do, then to my mind we will have lived well.

I found this to be truly inspirational. It sits well with all of  the ideas taught on the Breathworks 8-week courses and definitely represents how I aim to live my own life.

Living with pain, growing around it and flourishing…

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Shine on friends,

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:

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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 🙂