be present and treat yourself tenderly

Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Wellness | 2 comments

Barbara and StasjaIt’s been over a month since I’ve been here to write a blog. My life has been turned upside down, and I just haven’t been able to focus on writing this type of content. I’ve missed being here—researching and writing on chronic pain. But life is what it is.

The short version of the story is that our granddaughter, an 18-year old fabulous firecracker of a young woman, died in a automobile accident on October 18. In the last four weeks, our family has cried many tears. We have pulled out old pictures, and told a stream of funny and poignant stories. We’ve come together with her community of friends and family to mourn our collective loss. The grieving and healing process goes in waves, and we have what feels like an eternity of waves to ride.

Cris and I are also dealing with another significant downturn in my mother’s health. That’s a different kind of grieving, but grieving just the same.

The world also joins us in grief and shock after the terrorist bombings and activity of the last few weeks—the Russian airliner, the Beirut and Paris attacks.

There’s just so much sadness in these weeks and days and moments. Sometimes it just feels overwhelming, doesn’t it?

In the midst of a month like this, it’s hard to remember to take care of myself. Here are some of the issues I’ve faced:

  • Should I keep the physical therapy or massage appointments I have scheduled?
  • How can I be sure to get enough sleep?
  • Are there food choices that will keep my relatively pain free, while accommodating my reduced desire to eat?
  • What are the other activities that will feel nourishing to me?

Perhaps you can relate to this list. No matter what the challenges are in our lives, it’s a delicate balance to manage the urgent needs of our family (or business or the world) with the ongoing needs of our own body and soul.

I’ve been reading a book this month by one of my favorite authors, Toni Bernhard. Last year she published a blog called “13 Tips from 13 Years Sick.”

From the seventh tip, this helped me remember to treat myself tenderly during our time of crisis:

“I used to think it would be a “one-time-through-the-stages” of grief process (the stages usually broken down into denial, anger, sadness or even depression, and then…acceptance). I thought that once I passed through a stage, it wouldn’t return. But now I see that acceptance can give way at any moment to a new round of grieving, maybe with just one of those “stages” popping in for a visit, such as anger or sadness. When this happens, I’ve learned not to push the grief away in aversion because that just strengthens it. Instead, I allow it to be present, treating myself as tenderly as I can until it passes.”

So no matter your challenge or crisis, be present and treat yourself tenderly. And I promise to do the same.

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bodyworker, coach, patient, warrior

Posted by on Oct 7, 2015 in Articles | 6 comments

bodyworker_coach_ patient_warrior

 

I wrote this poem / blog after seeing this picture online several times in one day. It started me thinking.

 

I am a bodyworker, a healer, a coach.
I am a patient. I am a warrior.

I may not always hear your words, but my intuition feels our connection.
My hands feel your tension. My eyes see the light in your eyes. Or the darkness.

I am vulnerable but stronger than I usually know.
I want you to learn from me because I’m brave enough to put the real me out there for you to see.
No one has a perfect life, and we all struggle to find the grace to deal with the rest.

I cried this morning in my darkness, but this afternoon a young friend was inspired by my honesty.
I cry different tears now, and they show me my path is not a downward path into the valley, but a hill I am climbing up.

I don’t teach by making you wish you were good enough to be like me.
Instead I coach by showing you we are the same and will climb the hill together. Hand in hand.

My connection to my own body’s wisdom is the beginning of a circle that helps you and I both heal.
When I am sick or ignore my health, I disconnect from my body wisdom.
I disconnect from the tools I have to help you – my hands, my intuition and my soul.
I reconnect to care for myself and for you.

I commit to self care, so that you will commit to care for yourself as well.
Sometimes it means I can’t help you right in your moment.
But if help you without helping myself first, no one wins.

 

 

 

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our emotions and pain

Posted by on Sep 9, 2015 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

Our Emotions and PainWhen we hurt emotionally, we hurt physically. It’s been studied and the connection is real. I believe that understanding this connection is a big part of holistic pain relief. Plus, I think that most of us have experienced this in one way or another. For example, when the stress in my life increases I usually find that one of my nagging pain issues will return. Right now it’s the lower back and hips, because I have some extra family stresses.

From Mel Pohl, M.D. who blogs about chronic pain at PsychologyToday.com, “Especially in our culture, where we resist pain and want to move away from it at all cost, we create a vicious cycle where our attempts to move away from the pain actually intensify the pain. The fight to tighten up in response to a painful experience or be angry that it hurts makes the pain worse. By accepting and investigating the emotions we experience with chronic pain with curiosity, rather than judgment, we can achieve substantial improvements in our well-being. Emotions are as real as the pain that causes them, and I firmly believe that if people with chronic pain don’t deal with their emotions about their pain, they will never get better.”

So not only do the emotions in the rest of our lives affect our pain, but the emotions we feel about our pain affect it as well. It’s a frustrating feedback loop: emotions lead to pain, which causes emotions, which lead to pain and so on.

What can we do to break the cycle? My friend Susanne Spurlock, MSW, ACSW shared these strategies at a recent meeting of Lancaster General Health’s Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Awareness and Education Group. My comments are in parentheses.

  1. Optimism (the glass may be half empty, but it can be refilled)
  2. Help others (volunteering, interacting positively on social media especially pain or condition-related groups)
  3. Journaling (start one or pick your dormant journal up and write)
  4. Laughter, Fun, Play, Jokes (funny movies or TV shows are a good place to start)
  5. Verbal detox (appropriate expression of emotion with friends, family or a professional)
  6. Socializing (even just a phone call to a friend works)
  7. Exercising (be sure to choose something you find fun!)
  8. Cognitive behavioral therapy (or another type of professional counseling)
  9. Yoga, especially gentle or restorative classes
  10. Meditation (even simply deep breathing for a few intentional quiet moments)

My advice is to first pick one of these strategies that you aren’t already doing. Then incorporate it into your life in a way that’s both meaningful and appropriate to your pain levels. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the new strategy, choose another.

So let’s say you haven’t been spending much time with friends lately. Call a supportive and loving friend and suggest a get-together. It can be a cup of tea or coffee at home, or even out at a local café. Reach out to plan something every week or two.

Or try a yoga podcast at home. Here’s an example from Kelly at Sunrose Yoga that I’m going to try this week. Once you get comfortable with a bit of yoga at home, maybe a class near you would be a good option.

See how this works? It’s all baby steps forward. There’s no pressure or stress to the process because the idea is to reduce stress and manage emotions and pain. So be easy with yourself as you try these strategies to break the cycle of pain and emotions.

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are you ready to do a reset
so you can thrive this fall?

Posted by on Aug 21, 2015 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Cooking at Home, Gluten Free, Healthier Choices, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

Reset & Thrive Library Logo_MOD-Reset and ThriveIf you’re anything like me, summer is all about relaxation with flexed schedules, vacations with delicious indulgences, and a lighter list of to-do’s and to-don’ts. Don’t you savor every second of summer, and feel startled when autumn approaches? All too soon come the early morning alarms, lunches to pack, heavy project lists in the office, seemingly endless after school activities, and so very much more that seems to snowball so quickly!

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holistic therapies for pain relief, part 3

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

SaunasI’m just like you. I want remedies for chronic pain to be easy to use and cost effective. But more than anything, I want them to WORK. Since I think of myself as a skeptic with a strong tendency to believe, I’ve probably tried more remedies than most people. If I’m convinced it won’t hurt me and it’s affordable, why not give a new remedy a try? That’s the approach I have to this post’s two therapies: magnets and far infrared saunas and mats. They certainly can’t hurt me, so it’s worth a try no matter what scientific studies have or haven’t proven.

Magnetic therapy can include many things – jewelry, wraps for specific body parts, mats, mattress pads, shoe inserts, etc. It’s been around for many thousands of years. In fact, I found reference to it in 16th century Switzerland with lodestones, a naturally magnetized mineral.  However, it’s also been questioned for thousands of years.

In the late 20th century, a study was done with 50 post-polio patients who lived with chronic pain. Study participants were asked to use either a sham magnet or a true magnet for 45 minutes. At the end of one therapy session, “The 29 who received an active magnet reported a reduction in pain to 4.4 from 9.6, compared with a smaller decline to 8.4 from 9.5 among the 21 treated with a sham magnet.” It’s a small sample of just 50 people, who were only treated one time. But that’s a significant effect.

How do magnets help chronic pain? According to proponents, they increase blood flow, decrease swelling,  and change the functions of nerves carrying pain messages to the brain.

A few years ago I tried some magnetic insoles from a friend’s company, aVivoPur. I was having significant foot pain, and I often stand for several hours when I’m in my massage office. Just a few weeks later, I realized my foot pain had decreased significantly. Now I have magnetic insoles in a few different pairs of shoes.

It’s important to say that these therapies are NOT diagnostic. If you don’t know why you’re having chronic pain, see your doctor. Magnets should not be used if you have a pacemaker, or other electrical implant such as an insulin pump or brain stimulator. And it may be wise not to wear them 24/7.

Far infrared therapy has been controversial, but generally seems to have science to back up its claims. You can receive far infrared therapy from sitting in a sauna, lying on a mat, or wearing a belt-type device. There are saunas in spas and treatment locations that can be booked by the session, or you can purchase a small unit for your home.

Essentially, the heat from the sauna or device is where the benefits start. Far infrared heat works differently because it heats your body’s core to a cellular level, rather than just at the surface. Infrared heat has different spectrums, which provide different results. The most effective for chronic pain would be mid infrared, but there are also pain-related benefits from far and near infrared. You may want to find a full spectrum infrared sauna to gain all types of benefit.

A 2006 study published in Pain Research & Management found that infrared therapy was an effective way to reduce chronic, intractable lower back pain. The sample was small (21 patients) but, “The mean numerical rating scale (NRS) scores in the treatment group fell from 6.9 of 10 to 3 of 10 at the end of the study. The mean NRS in the placebo group fell from 7.4 of 10 to 6 of 10.”

Another study, published in 2005, found that infrared therapy as a part of integrative therapies was a promising method for treatment of chronic pain.

In truth, I haven’t given infrared saunas a full try yet. It’s challenging to find time to schedule sessions nearby. However, I did purchase a far infrared mat a few months ago. Most days I use it for about an hour, while I’m sitting still. It feels good and seems to have helped my pain levels.

Before you try infrared therapy, please make sure you’re properly hydrated with at least 8-32 ounces of filtered water. Consider starting with some partial sessions before you move up to a whole hour of sauna therapy. And always listen to your body during a session – if it’s uncomfortable, it may be you’ve had enough for that session.

Let me know what you decide to try and how it goes!

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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