…and continuing from yesterday’s post…
5. Create a new self.
If we hang on tightly to the “old self” we were, finding the value of our “new self” becomes increasingly difficult. (You may even exaggerate how fit that person was: “I didn’t need any sleep, I never felt bad, I could do anything!”).
This does not mean we should totally discard our previous conception of self; rather, we need to find a way to integrate the two. In other words, you should seek to find in your new body new ways to enjoy and experience the things that you had done before. Consider all the aspects of yourself that you like, and the things that you most want to do; then step by step, find ways to achieve as many of these as you can. At the same time, recognize that your expectations must shift so that you can once again meet them.
6. Don’t forget the good stuff.
While the physical symptoms of FM can feel all-encompassing, there should be other parts of your life – your social relationships, passions, family – that also exist. By focusing on the positive aspects of your life, you become more aware of how many there are: the friends that stuck by you, the things you still enjoy, and the accomplishments you have been able to make, however small, under very different conditions. Because each task now represents a challenge, we should celebrate whatever we manage to accomplish. As we have been told many times, if we shorten the list and pace ourselves, whatever we do eventually adds up to something to be very proud of.
7. “Oy, it could be worse.” (The Jewish mantra).
As comparisons shape our view, it is helpful to find comparisons that will provide a fuller appreciation for what has befallen us. OK, the ‘eat because children are starving in (fill in the developing country)’ did not work for you as a child. But try to think of it this way: Many bad things happen in the world. The odds are that some of them will happen to you. Not because of anything that you have done, but because, as the saying goes, shit happens. It takes only a short view of the evening news to remind ourselves of the horrors occurring every day. So, this is what has happened to you – you, too, were caught. Let us examine what we have:
- We know our condition is not terminal, so we need not begin contemplating our pending mortality.
- As bad as we sometimes feel, our underlying condition is not going to get worse. We have already experienced the worst, and, to our credit, have gotten through it.
- Although only a few people achieve permanent remission, many improve significantly. As we understand how our actions and emotions influence our general well-being, we can find ways to partake in more and more activities.
8. Keep the hope alive!
There is so much room for hope. It has only been since the 1990s that our condition has acquired any legitimacy from the medical community (okay, mostly!). We are in a far better position than the generations before us who suffered without ever receiving validation. We know much more about the important roles of exercise, medication, stretching, pacing and meditation to bring relief and a sense of control. Furthermore, as medical research increases, it is only a matter of time before better therapies (and perhaps even a cure!) are introduced.
9. Lean on me!
A single most important predictor of how we do is the support network we create. We certainly appreciate what it means when someone helps us when we feel especially lousy. Make sure that, within your abilities, you continue to be a good friend to those you care about. We still have lots to give. During a good moment, write to a friend that you are thinking about her. Help your family and friends find ways to maintain their relationship with you. Invite them to your place to eliminate travelling (and do not worry what your place looks like! They came to see you, not your house-cleaning abilities).
Try to be open with family members, while at the same time supportive of their needs. Put yourself in their shoes as often as possible – it can be scary to have someone you love be sick! Also make sure to seek help outside of your immediate circle so as not to drain your closest friends and family. There are now all sorts of support groups, both live and in virtual computer space (hey! Right here!)
10. Indulge whenever you can.
We have lots of time to focus on our thoughts. Most people do not have the luxury of taking time to relax and think. OK, we did not ask for these ‘time-outs.’ They are demanded by the needs of our bodies. Nevertheless, we have control over how we use this extra time.
Instead of dwelling on what our bodies are not doing, give your fantasy life full freedom. Turn these rest periods around to be indulgent time. In our mental playground, we can practice dance steps we used to know (for there WILL be some times we can dance!). We can use the time to think through problems we face and how we want to spend time when we are feeling ready, or we can analyse a movie we recently saw, say prayers, or mentally write a letter to a friend.
Meanwhile improvements in spirit have an added impact on our entire well-being. Laughter is good medicine; while dwelling on our troubles tends to compound them.
Many of us suffer from depression, as well as FM. But did you suffer from this horrible black dog before you developed FM, or after?
You’ve heard people complain that they’re depressed after a breakup, a layoff, or an overall terrible week. But are these people really experiencing depression? Are you really depressed?
When a stressful situation is particularly hard to cope with, we react with symptoms of sadness, fear, or even hopelessness — a type of reaction that’s often referred to as situational depression. Unlike major depression, when you are overwhelmed by depression symptoms for a long time, situational depression usually goes away once you have adapted to your new situation.
The problem for a lot of us is that FM is not going away – we can only manage it, so we need to adapt to our new situations as soon as we can.
In fact, situational depression is usually considered an adjustment disorder rather than true depression. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored: If situational depression goes untreated, it could develop into major depression.
“Situational depression means that the symptoms are set off by some set of circumstances or event. It could lead to major depression or simply be a period of grief,” explains Kathleen Franco, MD, professor of medicine and psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine in Ohio. However, she adds that situational depression may need treatment “if emotional and behavioural symptoms reduce normal functioning in social or occupational arenas.”
Who Gets Situational Depression and Why?
Situational depression is common and can happen to anyone — about 10 per cent of adults and up to 30 per cent of adolescents experience this condition at some point. Men and women are affected equally.
The most common cause of situational depression is stress. Some typical events that lead to it include:
- Loss of a relationship
- Loss of a job
- Loss of a loved one
- Serious illness (hello? anyone recognising themselves here?)
- Experiencing a traumatic event such as a disaster, crime, or accident
What Are the Symptoms of Situational Depression?
The most common symptoms of situational depression are depressed mood, tearfulness, and feelings of hopelessness. Some other symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous
- Having body symptoms such as headache, stomach ache, or heart palpitations
- Missing work, school, or social activities
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Feeling tired
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
How Is Situational Depression Diagnosed and Treated?
A diagnosis of situational depression, or adjustment disorder with depressed mood, is made when symptoms of depression occur within three months of a stress-causing event; are more severe than expected; or interfere with normal functioning. Your doctor may do tests to rule out other physical illnesses, and you may need a psychological evaluation to make sure you are not suffering from a more serious condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder or a more serious type of depression.
The best treatment for situational depression is counselling with a mental health professional. The goal of treatment is to help you cope with your stress and get back to normal. Support groups are often helpful. In some cases, you may need medication to help control anxiety or for trouble sleeping.
Situational depression and other types of depression are a common problem today, notes James C. Overholser, PhD, professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “Many people are struggling with social isolation, financial limitations, or chronic health problems,” says Dr Overholser. “A psychologist is much more likely to view depression as a reaction to negative life events. Many people can overcome their depression by making changes in their attitudes, their daily behaviours, and their interpersonal functioning.”
If you have (or think you have) situational depression, you should know that most people get completely better within about six months after the stressful event. However, it is important to get help, because situational depression can lead to a more severe type of depression or substance abuse if untreated. For many people with situational depression, the coping skills they learn in treatment can become valuable tools to help them face the future.
I absolutely love making goals & creating plans. It inspires me to dream & make positive changes to my life. I can take time to reflect on what in my life is or isn’t working, & look at ways to move in the direction I want for my life.
I find that making goals in life works best when it starts with listing out my own values. This gives me a framework for deciding where to invest my time, & when it might be best to change a course. Because my values are also about relationships, this helps me to include people in my goals, not just concrete goals around accomplishments. I include values of self-improvement & character traits I aspire to. Though these may not be as measurable, my personal integrity is more important than the accomplishments I make.
I have a list of seventeen top values that I have revamped over the years. My overall mission statement is: I will strive for growth, healing & deeper spirituality, where I can truly love others, giving joy, grace, & peace to those I meet. Some of my values include building strong relationships with family, friends & neighbours. Others are about personal traits such as saying I am sorry, being forgiving, having fun & living a life of integrity. I also include fitness & health, making a difference, being financially secure & helping people in need.
Next I start with a free-write (brainstorm) of goals & hopes of what I would like to accomplish. This might be short-term or long-term ideas, as well as self-improvement type of goals. I try to avoid thinking too rationally when writing out my dreams, as this is something I will do later. For some, this might be better done by writing in paragraph form visualizing the life they wish to have, others prefer lists. It can sometimes help to look around at people you admire, & what are the traits & actions that draw you to them.
Once I have a list of goals & dreams, I begin to group them into categories & time lines for further evaluation. I will group together health goals, relationship goals, spiritual, personal trait goals, finances, etc. With each group I will think about what I can do in the next year to make progress in this area. For relationship goals it might be scheduling dates with my husband, planning some vacations &/or having a game night. For health goals it could be losing weight, going to a new doctor, trying a new exercise &/or meditating self-compassion.
One thing to remember with goals is that it is about progress, not perfection. In 2012, I had a list of about 40 goals & I accomplished about 60% of them. Some of these goals were minor, such as putting pictures in frames & going through donations. Other goals were more significant like starting my blog & going back to yoga class. I never did finish doing touch-up painting around the house, but I am okay with putting this off another year. Even though I didn’t finish everything on my list, I can see that the year 2012 was filled with some new adventures & progress in areas that matter to me. The other goals I didn’t finish I can evaluate whether this is something I want to reconsider in the next year. Fortunately, 2013 brings new opportunities.
I am excited for what 2013 can bring & my personal goal of implementing the 15M plan. For 2013, I am going to focus more on making life style changes in increments. The 15M plan allows me to make progress even in the more difficult health days, as I focus on spending 15 minutes on the desired activity each day. Often when I am tired or feeling a great deal of pain, I lay on the couch a good part of the day & isolate. If I can focus first on 15 minutes of some type of exercise, it is a goal I should be able to attain most days, resulting in less discouragement & better health. When I am feeling good, I will most likely do more, but on a bad day this can help me shift gears. I will add other areas that I want to progress in such as writing, family time, cooking & doing chores.
Like many of us, I have goals for improving my health in 2013. I plan to do some experiments with the types of food I eat to see if they may be adding to my symptoms. I also will be doing health coaching for other people who want to improve their health. I hope to be able to make an impact on people struggling with chronic health problems & to give hope. I want to strive for more consistency in my life, & learn to work around the tough days.
Making goals can be a simple process or something you spend weeks processing & planning. The most important thing is to make some progress. Taking 15 minutes to write down 10 goals is a great beginning. For the artist among us, one can draw or clip out pictures from a magazine instead. You can post the list on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Others may prefer to spend some time evaluating last year, writing out values, & creating a detailed plan for 2013 like I have done. Finding a buddy to share it with might help keep you motivated & encourage a friend at the same time.
May 2013 bring you some great learning experiences & opportunities. May you see an impact towards the values you hold dear & be an encouragement to those in your path.
A University of Sydney study of more than 350 long-term meditators, defined as those who have meditated regularly for at least 2 years, points to improved health outcomes and greater well-being The area of greatest difference between the meditators and the general population was in mental health where the meditators scored 10% higher. And the most significant factor appears to be how frequently the meditators achieved a state of mental silence.
I don’t know about all of you (I think I have an idea) but I love silence…although achieving mental silence (stopping all those thoughts running round and round in my head) seems impossible.
“We found that the health and well-being profile of people who had meditated for at least 2 years was significantly higher in the majority of health and well-being categories when to compared to the Australian population,” said Dr Ramesh Manocha, Senior Lecturer in the discipline of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney, who led the research.
He worked with Prof. Deborah Black, Sydney medical School and Dr Leigh Wilson, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University.
The national study is a world first health quality-of-life survey of long-term meditators. It used the same measurement instruments as the ones used by the federal government’s National Health and Well-being Survey.
While we did expect that there would be differences between the meditators and the general population, we didn’t expect the findings to be so pronounced.
“We focused on the definition of meditation as mental silence and surveyed practitioners of Sahaja Yoga meditation who practice a form of meditation aimed at achieving this state rather than relaxation or mindfulness methods that are usually the focus of other forms,” said Dr Manocha.
The meditators were asked how often they experienced ‘mental silence’ for more than a few minutes at any one time.
Fifty two per cent of respondents said they experienced ‘mental silence’ several times per day or more, while thirty-two per cent were experiencing it once or twice a day.
Most markedly there was a robust relationship between the frequency of experiencing mental silence and better mental health. This definition is based on it being the form of meditation practised for centuries.
Our analysis showed very little relation-ship between how often the person physically sat down to meditate and mental health scores. However, the relationship was clearly apparent in relation to how often they experienced the state of mental silence. In other words, it is quality over quantity”.
Reprinted from the September 2012 issue of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA - like it? Subscribe for the next issue HERE
Give yourself a gift this holiday season…find the essence within.
We, as people, are forever attempting to be someone other than who we authentically are. We read an array of self-help books with the idea of attaining skills enabling us to connect with our true essence. Many of us have read it all before and yet we continue to strive to be that being outside of ourselves. Why would we endeavour to change the essence within when perfection comes from our own uniqueness?
Society, our peers, upbringing, education and the media gently, yet effectively, drive us to believe we are not quite good enough and change is desirable. In actual fact, the opposite rings true.
Our authentic self is never lost, only hidden. Some ideas I have personally discovered in order to rediscover the true essence within myself are:
- Repeat as often as possible, “I am perfect exactly as I am”.
- Ask yourself, what did I enjoy as a child? Singing, dancing, writing, public speaking, creating, poetry, carpentry etc.
- Then reintroduce at least one of these activities into your life. Who knows where it may lead. You may meet new friends or create an innovative business idea from something you actually love doing.
- Ignore societal views regarding age barriers. Who says you cannot be a famous violinist? Did you know current neuroscience research demonstrates that our brain is plastic and forever changing, growing and learning, irrelevant of age. Dreams are not just for the young (or perfectly healthy)!
- Say what you think and feel (of course, with a splash of diplomacy). It is not your job to tiptoe around others, making them feel comfortable at the expense of your own needs. Allow yourself to be lazy occasionally. There is too much pressure to be amazingly driven and goal oriented. It is okay to do nothing at times, staring into space thinking, dreaming and being vague – this is the space where connection with your inner voice is sometimes heard. Goals can be considered only once you have heard your inner voice, as there resides your base for building your life.
- Make choices based on YOUR OWN dreams. For example, many find it desirable to own a home; but, perhaps you would prefer to be a resident of the world and rent in different cities. Maybe you would rather own a business and inject your earnings into a creative idea.
- Be motivated by your soul, not by guilt. We are easily driven off our path through guilt. Guilt is not a good motivator. Guilt is instilled through various means that create a belief system from which we operate in later years. Let us all tame guilt and be free.
You may note a general theme running through the above ideas. You discover you by allowing yourself the freedom to make choices and decisions only for you. It may appear self-centred to approach life in this manner. The opposite is true. People who genuinely love you will be happy you are treating yourself as your own best friend. Your authentic way of life will encourage others to do the same and this will impact on their circles as well.
Reprinted from the December issue of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA - like it? Subscribe for the next issue HERE
- Striving for Perfection can often lead to Suffering… (responsiveuniverse.wordpress.com)
In response to a research study I found, I wanted to ask you guys the same question – to see if our results match the study. The answers may need explanation; and you will find then below the poll.
After we have answers, I will publish a precis of the research study as compared to our answers
- Trust in Divine Help in response to disease addresses non-organized intrinsic religiosity as an external transcendent resource to cope (i.e., trust in a higher power which carries through; strong belief that God will help; faith is a strong hold, even in hard times; pray to become healthy again; live in accordance with religious convictions).
- Trust in Medical Help addresses patients’ reliance on an external medical source of health control (i.e., trust in the therapeutic potentials of modern medicine, take prescribed medications, follows advice of health professionals, full confidence in doctors and therapists).
- Search for Information and Alternative Help refers to external sources providing additional information or alternative help (i.e., thoroughly informed about disease; get thorough information how to become healthy again; find people who can help; search for alternative ways of healing).
- Conscious Way of Living addresses cognitive and behavioural strategies in terms of internal powers and virtues (i.e., healthy diet; physical fitness; living consciously; keep away harmful influences; change life to get well).
- Positive Attitudes refers to internal cognitive and behavioural strategies (i.e., realization of shelved dreams and wishes; resolving cumbering situations of the past; take life in own hands; doing all that what pleases; positive thinking; avoiding thinking at illness).
- Reappraisal: Illness as Chance addresses a reappraisal attitude referring to cognitive processes of life reflection (i.e., reflect on what is essential in life; illness has meaning; illness as a chance for development; appreciation of life because of illness).
- Escape from Illness (i.e., fear what illness will bring; would like to run away from illness; when I wake up, I don’t know how to face the day”
- Reappraisal Defuses Strong Emotional Responses to Israel-Palestine Conflict (psychologicalscience.org)