Chronic Illness and the Holidays

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As we move into December and the start of the Festive season, it can be a time of great stress for those of us who live with Chronic Illness. I wanted to share some strategies for getting through this time of year without increasing your pain or stress levels.

Here are some of my top suggestions:

Plan In Advance

As Christmas, Hannukah and New Years get closer, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what you’ll do and where you’ll go. Are there family traditions that can be changed in regards to who hosts events? If it’s been you in the past that hosted a large group, perhaps someone else could do it this year and you could be the guest. Start to prioritize the things you most want to do (attend a Santa Claus parade, a Festival of Lights, Religious Services, visiting certain friends, etc.) and then build your schedule around that.

Keep Managing Your Chronic Illness

Once you have a schedule in place, you can start building in rest days before and after events. Don’t forget about the day of the events themselves and how you need to ration your energy to have the greatest chance of being able to participate.

Go to your scheduled doctor’s appointments and take care of yourself. It’s so tempting to cancel these things at this time of the year, but don’t. Make sure you are taking your medications as prescribed. If you have special dietary needs, keep them in mind when eating out and preparing meals. Now is not the time to go off a medically necessary diet.

Make Lists

Make lists of things you need or want to do. Prioritize those lists. Delegate and let some things go. Take advantage of online shopping to save your energy.  And don’t be a perfectionist. There’s no room for perfectionism in a chronically ill person’s life.

Pace Yourself

If you know you have a party to go to in the evening, that morning is not the time to scrub out your tub. This is another area in which I struggle. Pace yourself throughout the day and over a period of several days. If you are planning on going shopping with friends on Saturday, plan on Friday and even Thursday being light activity days.

Be Honest

If you’re going somewhere else to celebrate and you have energy limitations, let your host know that you may not be able to participate fully in the activities. If you aren’t able to host at your house like usual, ask others to chip in and host instead. Being honest with people in your life about your limitations can be helpful for avoiding hurt feelings later. Think through what you need to explain to others ahead of time to allow the events to go smoothly.

Enlist The Help Of Your Spouse Or A Friend

Enlist the help of your spouse or a good friend to be part of your team during the holiday festivities. This should be someone who knows you well and will be able to read your responses to situations. This person will help you feel safe in the situations you’re entering and will watch for any indication that you aren’t feeling well.

My husband Ray, serves in this role for me. Another friend or family member could also do this. Basically, Ray notices when I’m getting worn down and my health is going downhill. He’s particularly aware of my flagging energy, and will often ask me how I’m doing to gauge whether it’s time to leave. I also know I can tell him I’m ready to go and he’ll take me home immediately if I need to leave.

Be Okay With Your Plans Changing

This one is a big part of normal life with chronic illness. Flexibility is important because things can change on a moments notice when health issues are a concern.  Even if you have everything planned and scheduled, do yourself a favor and release expectations. If you are religious, prayerfully plan your schedule but then hold those plans loosely. Ask God to cover you with perfect peace in whatever situations you may encounter with your health over the holidays.

Ask For Help

Ask for specific things. I don’t like to depend on anyone for help, but if it means making the holidays more manageable, I think it’s worth it. Sometimes, people will offer to help, but they don’t say what they are willing to do. Having a list ready with ideas of what others can do for you will come in handy when people make those kinds of offers. Do you need help with laundry? Running errands? Housework? How about help with wrapping gifts? Think about all of your regular and holiday tasks and delegate some of them to family members and willing friends.

Connect With Others

Try to make time with friends you might not otherwise get to see, even if it’s just for a short while. Have a quick get together at a coffee shop, chat with a girlfriend about a sappy Christmas movie you’ve both watched. Make an effort each day to reach out to someone. Text, Facebook, instant message, make a phone call. You don’t have to carry on an hour-long conversation, just a brief connection can be enough.

Find “Me” Time

Build in some time just for yourself during the holidays to read, craft, rest or do whatever else will help to give you some “me” time. It’s important to recharge your batteries. If being surrounded by people is what energizes you, then do that…it’s all about what makes you feel good.

Make Time For Your Spouse Or Significant Other

It’s so important to carve out time for the two of you. With all the busyness going on around you,  communicating can sometimes take a backseat, especially if you aren’t feeling so well. Be honest about how you are feeling and ask for help when you need it. Try to sneak in a few inexpensive “dates.” Drive around and look at the Christmas lights, stop for some hot chocolate, attend a Christmas program together. Just enjoy each others company.

Laugh As Much As You Can

This one is one of my favorite pieces of advice. Laugh. Just do it. I’ve found that no matter how horrible I feel, laughter can be a source of medicine for me. Laughing helps lift my spirit and makes me feel more alive. Try to enjoy yourself while you celebrate the holidays, and be sure to include laughter in your days!

Remember The Reason For The Season

It’s so easy to get caught up in the baking, partying, shopping, decorating, etc., but that’s not really what it’s all about. If you are a religious person, keep attending church services and go to the special holiday programs. Listen to religious Christmas songs along with the pop tunes. If you aren’t particularly religious or are a nonbeliever, meditate, attend holiday community events, and enjoy finding ways to nurture your own spiritual side.

Remember….There Is Always Hope

Fibromyalgia and Dark Thoughts

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The following statement was made by a fellow poster and I want to address the subject. Here is what she wrote:

“I am living in constant pain, can’t sleep and often feel very low. Thoughts of not existing often creep into my head.”

Now, there is often a difference between wanting to commit suicide and simply not wanting to exist any longer. Wanting to commit suicide is a deliberate act that you want to take because you are in so much pain, you simply can’t bear to be a part of this world any longer. Thoughts of no longer existing are different. It’s not so much that you want to die, it’s just that if you didn’t wake up in the morning, you’d be okay with that.

Fibromyalgia and Chronic or Intractable Pain is a Life Sentence for the person who has to live with it. Imagine for a moment that everything in your life suddenly changes. You can’t work, you can’t go out to parties or outings with your friends. You have to give up your hobbies and all the things you enjoy. You can’t spend time with your family or friends or loved ones because you are in so much pain and are so exhausted every day, all you want to do is be in bed sleeping. Depression seeps in…you have nothing left to live for. Everything you’ve loved in life has been taken away from you. Why should you bother being alive…what’s the point? Every day is exactly the same as the next…pain and exhaustion, exhaustion and pain. There’s nothing positive to look forward to, so why bother? It would be a relief to just not wake up in the morning.

To just not wake up in the morning.

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These are the type of dark thoughts that can creep into the minds of people who live with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain. It’s important to find purpose in a life that has radically changed so you don’t find yourself sliding into this dark hole. Here are some suggestions that may help you find that purpose in your life.

Finding Your Faith

If you are a person of Faith, you may be wondering where God is in all of this. You may be feeling abandoned by God or feeling like you’re having to go it alone. Please know that God hasn’t left you at all, but perhaps you’ve left God. Now more than ever is the time to reach out to Him and to immerse yourself in the Bible. Read about Job again and all that he went through, and remind yourself how God didn’t abandon him and how He won’t leave you either. Now might be the time to start listening to some Christian music that helps you reconnect with your faith. If you engage in a different religion, you can reconnect to the ceremonies that enrich you from those practices.

If you are not Religious, but are Spiritual, there may be rituals of comfort that you’ve moved away from and it may be time to implement them again. Meditation, chanting, incense, sage, singing bowls, whatever you find comfort in – bring them back into your life.

Moving In Comfort

Often when we are in Chronic Pain, we forget that exercise is actually beneficial to us, both physically and mentally. Gentle exercise offers benefits to our body such as delaying muscle atrophy, increasing strength, and creating an environment to help us heal. Although exercise may hurt, it’s not causing us further harm and will inevitably help strengthen the core muscles, which benefit the entire body. Walking, swimming, Aquafit and bicycling are all good starts, even for just a few minutes a day. This post can help you with more detailed information. The bonus is the better you feel physically, the better you feel mentally.

Volunteering

It’s often been said that the more we give to others, the more we get in return. Volunteering is such an example. Mention volunteering to people who live with Chronic Pain, and the first thing they say is “oh no, I’m much to sick to volunteer”. Stop for a moment though, and think about it. You have the lived experience of a Patient and could be the perfect Patient Advocate for Healthcare Partners in your area. If there isn’t a dedicated organization where you live already doing this, call your local hospitals and ask if they ever need Patient Partners for their Health Care Initiatives. The same goes for the big medical organizations in the area…The Cancer Society, The MS Society, The Diabetes Association…and the list goes on. If you live with a health condition beyond Fibromyalgia, call your Organization and see if they need volunteers. You can specify the type of work you can do, and the hours you are available. Giving back fills a huge need in the community and in your own life.

Spend Time With Loved Ones Again

As awful as you may feel, cutting yourself off from family and friends actually makes you feel worse. Try to find times where you can get together with loved ones, even if it’s for shorter amounts of time. Have a coffee time in the evening instead of a longer drawn out dinner. Join a friend for lunch. Chat on the phone or via Skype and stay in your Pajamas! People want to spend time with you, they don’t care what you’re wearing. The ones who truly love you will understand the circumstances – the ones who don’t really don’t matter much, do they?

Finding purpose in life can help lift you from the darkness you may be encountering because of your Chronic pain. It is possible for you to find joy again, even in the simple things. I’d like to leave you with a list of 20 of my top items that bring joy – taken from a previous post I’ve written called That Which Brings Me Joy.

  1. Watch a sunrise or sunset
  2. Send someone you love snail mail
  3. Volunteer
  4. Get crafty
  5. Bake something
  6. Keep a journal
  7. Take a walk
  8. Do a good deed
  9. Read a novel
  10. Go to the museum
  11. Sing
  12. Take a class
  13. Enjoy a power nap
  14. Log off Facebook
  15. Practice positive affirmations
  16. Mentor someone
  17. Plant a garden
  18. Have a warm bath
  19. Go to an art gallery
  20. Give more compliments

And finally, remember…

There Is Always Hope

Living Well With Fibromyalgia

How do you Live Well with Fibromyalgia? When your body hurts all the time because of this painful condition, it’s hard to remember to do things like exercise and eat well, but these are critical components of staying well. First off, let’s look at what Fibromyalgia is.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain, fatigue, and tender points around the body. It can be hard to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. It can also be hard to treat. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor who has experience treating Fibromyalgia. Medications are available to help alleviate some of the pain you might be experiencing, but there is no cure for the condition and a lot of what makes you feel better will come from the things you do for yourself.

 

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And what are those things? To start with, eat a well-balanced diet, make sure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated and try to do some gentle exercise every day.

Diet:

1. Aim for a well-rounded diet

Eating a balanced diet is a good idea for anyone, regardless of whether you have fibromyalgia. That diet should include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, such as chicken or fish. Avoid unhealthy foods, including anything processed or fried, and excessive amounts of saturated fats. Also, limit the amount of salt and sugar in your diet.

2. Eat for energy

Fibromyalgia can make you feel tired and worn out. Eating certain foods can give you more energy. Avoid sweets, which will only give you a quick sugar boost. Your body will burn right through them, and then you’ll crash. Instead, eat foods that will give you more energy to get through your day. Combine protein or fats with carbohydrates to slow down their absorption. Choose fresh, whole foods high in fibre and low in added sugars, such as:

  • almonds, walnuts and other nuts and seeds
  • broccoli
  • beans
  • tofu
  • steel cut oatmeal
  • dark leafy greens
  • avocado
3. Go Vegetarian or Vegan

A few studies have looked at how eating certain diets affect fibromyalgia. There’s evidence from studies done that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, which is high in plant antioxidants, might offer some symptom relief.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Another benefit of eating a healthy diet is that it can help keep your weight under control.  People who had been on a weight loss program had less pain and depression, fewer tender points, and they slept better after taking off a few pounds. Studies suggest that weight loss can be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment.

 

Here are some of the best foods to eat for people with Fibromyalgia:

FOODS HIGH IN ANTIOXIDANTS:

  • Kidney beans
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Artichokes (boiled)
  • Cilantro
  • Berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries)

FOODS HIGH IN AMINO ACIDS:

  • Red meat: lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Poultry: chicken or turkey breast
  • Fish: halibut, tuna or salmon fillet
  • Dairy: non- and low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt
  • Plant-based proteins: quinoa, tofu, soybeans

FOODS CONTAINING COENZYME Q10:

  • Organ meats (heart, liver, kidney)
  • Beef
  • Soy oil
  • Sardines and mackerel 
  • Peanuts

FRUITS WITH LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX:

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Citrus

All of these foods are great for the body whether you have Fibro or not so why not incorporate them into your diet and see the difference they can make. The healthier you are, the better able you are to fight Fibromyalgia or any other auto-immune disorder you might have.

Exercise:

Will exercise make you hurt more? Some muscle soreness is common after exercising in the beginning. But ultimately exercise should relieve fibromyalgia pain, not aggravate it. Try these tips: Start off small and build slowly. Massage or apply heat to sore muscles before exercise and apply cold after.

1. Keep it simple, doing activities such as walking, Aquafit (easy on the joints and muscles), or bicycling (stationary is fine).

2. Use light weights if you can to keep your muscles toned and at the very least, make sure to stretch several times a day.

3. There’s nothing worse for a Fibro body than to sit or lay down all day because your muscles stiffen up even more than usual and it takes even more effort to relax and loosen them. Do some simple stretches 3-4 times a day and work to expand on them as you get stronger.

So there you have it, some simple tips for Diet and Exercise that should help everybody but especially those with Fibromyalgia. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

There Is Always Hope

 

Exercising With Fibromyalgia

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I belong to a Facebook group called the Fibro Blogger Directory and we’ve been challenged to send in and answer questions relating to Fibromyalgia in the month of November. One of the members asked this question:

Can you please help explain how I can get started with exercising – I want to but can’t get up off the lounge most days and can’t even do all my housework.

From Fleur in Pasadena

Let’s start by talking about something called “Fear of Pain”

If you’ve ever attended a Pain Management course, one of the first things they talk about is the mechanism of Pain – and the fear that comes with having pain. We’re afraid that pain is our body telling us that something is wrong and more pain means more is wrong. That’s not always the case though and the trick is determining what is “bad” pain and what is “good” pain. Exercise is generally considered to be “good” pain because it’s not causing further harm to your body. Your mind needs to be convinced that what you are feeling isn’t more harm, but simply a response to the muscles and tendons being used in a way that you’re not used to. No actual damage is being done, so while you may need to start slow, exercise is encouraged when you have Fibromyalgia. In fact, the worse thing you can do is to remain sedentary as that causes your muscles to atrophy.

There are simple moves you can do to get started on an exercise program at home that will be easy on your joints yet still give you a workout. As always, make sure you get your Doctor’s approval first.

Start with simple Stretches:

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Move on to Squats, Wall Push Ups and Bicep Curls (with or without light weights)

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Finish off with walking, swimming, Aquafit, or Bicycling. Even walking one block a day is a good start – add an extra block as you grown stronger, or an extra lap in the pool. The goal is to move just a little bit each day (i.e.: do 1 squat a day for a week then try 2 the next week).

Nordic Pole walking is extremely popular and works your upper and lower body while giving you stability while you walk:

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The added benefit is the more you do, the more you’re capable of at home. Doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, folding laundry – they all count as movement and exercise as well. I’m not saying you need to run a marathon or do everything at once, but start slow, and realize that yes, you might feel a bit more pain in the beginning, but it’s simply your body getting used to something it hasn’t experienced for awhile. Give it time to adjust and you’ll see a difference before you know it. It takes 21 days to make a habit so give yourself 3 weeks before you “give up”. I’m willing to bet that if you’re honest with yourself and you don’t cheat, you’ll notice a positive change at the end.

There is always hope.

Turning Shame to Victory

I should on myself today.

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As a person living with Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and a host of other conditions, I tend to live with a lot of shame. I blame myself for not being able to keep up with the chores around the house that I should be able to do. I blame myself for not being able to work as an Administrative Specialist, a job I adored. I had a pity party about a lot of things as I stared at the dust on the TV stand. That’s right…I should upon myself today. I do it often. Too often.

Most people with Chronic Pain do the same thing. When we lose the ability to stay on top of the chores we used to do easily before, we start to feel guilty and ashamed. Dishes pile up, laundry goes unwashed, showering and personal grooming falls by the wayside and moving from bed to couch often becomes our biggest accomplishment. It’s not that we want to feel this way, but pain and the side effects of medication often make us this way. Most of the medications we are given include fatigue as one of the side effects. Others include weight gain, which can slow us down tremendously, nausea, constipation and/or diarrhea, dizziness, and other unpleasant things.

And that brings up another issue. All of these side effects do little to help us feel pretty. In addition to feeling pain and fatigue, we’re often left carrying extra weight so now we feel even less attractive than before. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

So how do we get over “shoulding” on ourselves. We feel like we should be able to keep up with the chores around the house, while we’re still taking care of making dinner and watching the kids and staying on top of their activities and doing everything else expected of us, plus making sure our spouse’s needs are met.

What happens when you live with a spouse who expects you to manage everything exactly like you did before you became sick? A spouse who doesn’t believe that you’re really ill and who thinks it’s all in your head? What if you live without a spouse – if you’re a single parent with no support? Who takes care of you?

In order to find victory in the midst of this shame, try answering some of these questions*, being as honest as you can.

  • What three words/phrases best describe you in a POSITIVE way? Don’t settle for neutral or slightly positive words to describe yourself. Be bold.
  • What do you do best? Everyone has unique talents and abilities — find yours by taking an accurate inventory of your life.
  • What is your biggest accomplishment in the last year? If fibro and depression have been a longstanding part of your life, you likely feel that the last year has been void of any accomplishments. Look deeper — achievements come in all shapes and sizes. Depression works to minimize your triumphs, but shedding light on them magnifies their impact.
  • What are three successes in your life? When you look at your lifetime successes, you begin to see how effective and valuable you can be. You understand your value and build your self-esteem.
  • What are you working on? Having goals and direction in life limits depression. Completing those goals adds another accomplishment to your list and boosts esteem.

Fibromyalgia may change many things in our lives, so it’s important that we remember to find the positives and celebrate them. No more shoulding on ourselves!

So, I’ve decided to give up the guilt about what I’m NOT able to do around the house. I’ve even found new hobbies and activities that I’m passionate about and that I’m actually good at! I’ve become a volunteer for an organization in BC, my home province in Canada, that uses Patient Partners to work with Health Care organizations to help make real change in how health care is delivered. The Patient Voices Network has given me opportunties to speak in front of large crowds, attend educational events and become part of several committees. I’m careful to choose to become engaged according to how I’m feeling and I don’t take on engagements that require weekly participation. Most of what I do involves 3-4 hours of my time per month which is manageable. Twice I’ve had to regretfully pull out of engagements that became too involved for me to manage. Even at the last conference I attended which lasted for 3 days, I was able to build rest time into the daily schedules. I wouldn’t have been able to manage otherwise.

That being said, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m underestimating how awfully painful it is to be forced to change yourself or how hard it is to find new passions to give you a sense of purpose. These are not simple to apply or instant fixes. Please don’t think I’m minimizing the pain of the loss. I want you to know that I think you’re incredible because of the fact that you’ve survived those things and have continued moving forward, no matter how slow. That is victory!

Even when you’re sick and you haven’t found new activities or even if you can’t get out of bed, what I just said about you being incredible is still true. You’ve survived so much and you’re still here fighting! I mention finding new things to do as a way to better self-esteem because I know it’s something helpful when possible, but there are so many things I feel are more important and that have been more fulfilling for me.

Being sick has forced me to learn a lot of lessons that other people might not ever learn – lessons about patience, how to deal with pain and difficulties with grace, good humour and empathy. I’ve learned that the little things are often the big things in life.

All That Matters

It’s the Little Things That Matter
They’re the things that mean a lot
They’re the things that I can count on
When I’m giving things a thought

Oh there’s lots of big grand gestures
That are meant to mean big things
But in the end, they aren’t the ones
That tug at my heartstrings

I prefer the smaller hidden ones
The things that seem quite shy
The little acts that are given out
Not meant to catch your eye

It’s the little things that matter
That make a quiet sound
I love them best from all the rest
They make the world go round

Also, I think I understand more about pain and can truly empathize with others who are hurting. I feel like I can truly help people because of the pain I’ve experienced. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darn cool. And I feel like it takes immense strength to not only survive chronic illness, but to continue appreciating life and showing love to others when in constant pain. It’s also taken strength to rebuild myself and my self-esteem. I have to give myself credit for that. And finally, as much as I wish I was healthy, I fight for my life every day and I’ve won every single time. If that’s not victory then I don’t know what is! And the last thing I know is that if I’m capable of all this…you are too.

There is always hope

 

 

 

* https://fibromyalgia.newlifeoutlook.com/self-esteem-fibromyalgia/

Tired vs. Exhausted

I’m so tired, I’m repeating a post from the past!!!

Have you ever felt exhausted? So exhausted you could barely move?  The kind of exhausted that leaves you feeling almost helpless? Guess what…I have a new word for you!!!

Actually, I think there are many people in my life who this word could apply to…the warriors who struggle along every day despite the illnesses that try to hold them back. My friends and fellow Warriors…you are simply Quanked!!!!!!

Quanked

Taken from Grandiloquent Words:
Quanked
(KWANK’d)
Adjective:
-Overpowered by fatigue.
-To have the strength reduced or exhausted, as by labour or exertion; become fatigued; be sleepy. Origin uncertain Used in a sentence:
“After sprunting all weekend, then frooncing to get my chores done, I’m well quanked.”Quanked is a condition in which one’s energy and vitality have been consumed. One who is quanked has used up his or her bodily or mental resources, usually because of arduous or long-sustained effort. To feel quanked at the end of the day; quanked after a hard run; feeling rather quanked; quanked by a long vigil.-See forswunke
Now, in all seriousness, I think the word is an excellent one to describe how it feels to be exhausted when you live with an Invisible Illness. It’s beyond any type of tiredness you’ve ever felt before. It’s sleeping for 12 hours and waking up just as tired as you were before you fell asleep. It’s like climbing a mountain when all you did was go up one flight of stairs. When sleeping on the couch is easier than trying to get up to go to bed.
Now add in being in pain constantly and what do you get? You get you. You get me. You get people like us, who have been living in varying stages of agony for varying periods of time.  I’ve talked with several friends who live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue plus various other Invisible Illnesses and they’ve described their fatigue and pain like this:
  • It’s like swimming through concrete while being on fire at the same time (this was mine).
  • It’s like constantly having a “pins and needles” sensation that never goes away
  • I feel like I’m being randomly stabbed by a crazed maniac, but that crazed maniac is inside my body and I can’t stop it.
  • There are parts of my body that are numb and parts of my body that are burning and other parts of my body are throbbing and it all happens at the same time.
  • My brain is foggy and I can’t remember things like I used to. I hurt everywhere all the time and I’m always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I don’t like this me that I am anymore.
  • I feel like I’ve been in a war, but you can’t see my wounds
  • Do you remember when you were young and you could stay up for hours and hours at night and never feel old? Yeah, well I can’t do that anymore. I’m lucky if I can stay up past 7pm and I don’t even have kids. I’m too tired and achy and sore.

There are ways you can try to improve your sleep with Fibro and Chronic Pain and the key is consistency:

  1. Sleep in a quiet dark room with a slightly cooler temperature than normal. Wear a sleep mask if necessary.
  2. Power down the electronics (TV, computer, Smartphone, etc.)  one hour before bedtime. The light from your bedside clock is also enough to disrupt your sleep, so check and see if there is a dim light setting, or face the clock away from you at night.
  3. Set a regular bedtime and wake up time. Establishing a schedule can help the body recognize good sleep habits.
  4. Consider downloading and listening to “sleep music”. There are many recordings that are free, including delta wave music which works with your brainwaves to help lull you into a natural sleep. A “white noise” machine may do the trick for you. These can be found in almost any electronics store and come with various sounds and settings, designed to help your body relax and let go.
  5. Limit Alcohol before bed.  You know you’ve read this before but for good reason. Alcohol may make you “feel” tired but actually will wake you up more often.
  6. Eat a healthy snack 45 minutes before bed. This would be something with protein in it like half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain low-sugar cereal, milk or yogurt or a banana. Eating like this before bed helps stave off the “midnight munchies” where you wake up starving in the wee hours of the night.
  7. Get some exercise! Regular exercise like walking or swimming can help the body to rest well in the evening. Start slow and build up over time. Work with a personal trainer if possible who can help you set up a routine tailored to your specific needs and abilities.
  8. Check with your Doctor to ensure there are no other underlying health issues that could be causing your fatigue (i.e.: thyroid issues, anemia, etc.).
  9. Don’t just lay there – get up! If you haven’t been able to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Read or do something that doesn’t involve your TV or computer/Smartphone until you feel sleepy and then try again. The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. The longer you lay awake in bed for, the more used to being awake in bed your body becomes. You need to break that cycle so getting out of bed and moving to a different room is the smart choice.
  10. Medications should be the last resort but are available to help if needed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for information about over the counter medications to try first.

If you tend to be a worrier at night, with a million things running through your head, allow yourself 10 minutes of this. Set an alarm and let your thoughts go wild. At the end of those 10 minutes, it’s time to stop. It takes practice but it gives you the opportunity to get all those worries out without mulling them over for hours. This isn’t the time for solutions, just the time to acknowledge that they’re there. In the end, say something like “I’m glad I had this time to worry about everything, but now I’m going to sleep on them. I’ll deal with them in the morning”. It tells your brain you’ve acknowledged the worries, and you’ll do something about them later. And off to sleep you go.

Another way to sleep better at night is to be organized during the day. The less you leave to chance during the daytime, the less you need to stress at night. “Did I sign Johnny’s papers for camp?”  “Where did I put the chequebook?” “When is the next Book Club meeting?”  Whether you use your smartphone, an organizer or the calendar at home, by having a regular system for keeping track of appointments, meetings and paperwork, you’ll stress less knowing you have it all in one place and you’ll sleep better at night.

Sleeping better isn’t always about being in less pain. It’s about doing all the things you can to make your environment as sleep-conducive as possible which may result in less pain. Removing as much stress as possible from your sleeping area is one of the biggest and best things you can do, so try and think of all the things that will make your bedroom area the most comfortable it can be. The key is, whatever you do, do it with consistency. None of us wants to feel quanked.

Remember…there is always hope

Relaxation for Chronic Pain

Research has shown that pain is influenced by emotional and social factors. This needs to be addressed along with the physical causes of pain. Chronic stress is one factor that contributes to chronic pain. The good news is that you can get natural pain relief by making relaxation exercises a part of your pain-management plan.

stress-title-image_tcm7-162632

To understand how natural pain relief works, it’s important to understand how stress affects your body. Our body has a natural “fight or flight” response when it comes to stress and pain and stress have a similar effect on the body: your heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes fast and shallow, and your muscles tighten.

With chronic stress, the nervous system keeps the body on constant alert. This takes a big toll on your system. Levels of stress hormones increase, and muscles remain in a nearly constant state of tension.

Chronic stress hurts.

Relaxation calms the mind and helps the body unwind. It is particularly important for people who live with pain. Pain increases muscle tension which in turn, creates more pain. When muscles are tense, they tighten and increase pressure on our nerves and other tissues which can make the pain worse. Relaxation can help break the pain-tension cycle. There are many forms of relaxation techniques so it should be easy to find one that works best for you. 

The easiest one to begin with is deep breathing. Shallow, rapid chest breathing results from tension. Deep breathing from the diaphragm helps relax you. To begin, find a warm quiet place, where you won’t be disturbed. Once this technique is learnt, you can use it in almost any situation you find yourself.

Deep breathing

  • Make yourself comfortable
  • Loosen any tight clothing
  • Begin by listening to your breathing as it is
  • Breathe through your nose whenever possible (use your mouth only if your nose is blocked)
  • Put your hands over your stomach area and feel them rise and fall.
  • Imagine you are breathing into your hands. Relax your stomach muscles. Take deep, slow breaths. Remember to breathe at your own pace
  • As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in peace. As you breathe out, imagine you are blowing away tension.

Foursquare Breathing

  • Inhale to a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale to a count of four, then hold again to a count of four
  • Breathe deeply, so that your stomach rises and falls with each breath
  • Repeat for ten cycles

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tense and relax each muscle in turn unless it hurts, in which case, leave that one out.

  • Sit or lie down quietly in a comfortable position
  • Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Breathe easily and naturally
  • Slowly tense each muscle in your body. Begin with your right hand. Squeeze your right hand into a tight fist. Feel the tension in your right hand. Hold this position for a few seconds. Now release the tension slowly. As the tension disappears, your hand feels relaxed.
  • Repeat this for your left hand.
  • Arms – tense both arms. Make your arms rigid and tense. Hold and release
  • Shoulders – lift your shoulders. Hold and release. Hunch your shoulders to touch your ears. Hold and release.
  • Toes – curl your toes up. Hold and release.
  • Feet – pull your toes up towards your face. Feel the muscles working in your shins. Hold and release. Then point your toes away from your face. Feel the muscles tensing in your calves. Hold and release.
  • Legs – clench your thighs. Hold and release. Clench both buttocks. Hold and release.
  • Eyebrows – raise your eyebrows as high as they can go. Hold and release.
  • Frown – pull your eyebrows together. Scrunch up your whole face. Hold and release.
  • Eyes – screw up your eyes tightly. Hold and release
  • Jaw – Open your mouth wide. Hold and release

Now your muscles are relaxed. You feel calm and still

Relaxation exercises calm your mind, reduce stress hormones in your blood, relax your muscles, and elevate your sense of well-being. Using them regularly can lead to long-term changes in your body to counteract the harmful effects of stress.

There is always hope

Guest Post – Mary Gutierrez

I am pleased to share a post by a Guest Blogger today by the name of Mary Gutierrez
Mary just published the following article and I thought it was important enough to feature here:

Mental Health Advocates Share How To Prevent Suicide in 60 Seconds

What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life?

Image from Pixabay

I was flipping through my new SoulPancake book when this question jumped off the page.

What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life?

I froze and my mind went blank. This can happen in my lifetime and I didn’t know what I would say.

So for this National Suicide Awareness Week, I’ve asked some mental health advocates to answer this question.

I hope you will never need the suggested responses and tips below. But if it happens, may they help you save a life.

Here’s What They Shared

  1. “The pain you are feeling must feel overwhelming but If you live another day I will show you that life can be better than what you are living.” — Saaim Ali
  2. “I can’t promise you it gets better. I won’t tell you sunny platitudes or promise you rainbows.
    What I will do is ask you stay, because you’ll never know what’s ahead if you don’t.
    I will do my best to help you look for the rainbows and walk in the rain with you until you can, because I’ve been there, too.” — 
    Selena Marie Wilson
  3. “What you’re considering doing is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Whatever it is — I promise to help you to resolve it — but we can’t do that if you’re dead.” — Kathy Reagan Young
  4. “ I have been where you are. I know it feels like there is no other way out, but there is hope. People care, I care. Take my hand, I will walk with you through this. Your loved one will be lost without you. One step at a time, one minute at a time. We can do this together. You are not alone.” — Crystal Fretz
  5. “I’ve been there, and I just want you to know that even though it doesn’t seem like it right now, at this very moment, there is hope. You are loved. If you can’t think of a single person who loves you, know that God loves you. I love you because you are a beautiful creation of God. I’ll go with you to find help. I’ll stay with you until you feel safe. You are not alone.” (coupled with questions about the person and things they like/dislike, points we may have in common, and non-threatening body language — adopt the same gestures they use, sit and or stand in the same posture — mirror them so that they can feel the empathy and love). — Anita Ojeda
  6. “There’s a whole bright, beautiful world that needs your spirit in it. It feels dark, lonely, and hopeless right now, but it’s not. There’s help for you, there are people who care about you, and you are so, so much more valuable than you realize. Let’s talk about what resources are available and which one you think will work for you, and I’ll help you make the call if you want. You’re not alone. I’m here to help you. It will get better.” — Olivia Sod
  7. “Trust me I understand how you feel, I’ve been there myself. But hang in there. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense, but just hang on. Hang on. Hang onto life.” — Sheryl
  8. “A lot of times, people who commit suicide believe the people in their lives would be better off without them, so I’d tell them they wouldn’t and I know. My brother committed suicide and it was the worst thing I have ever experienced. I’d tell them there would be way more people than they realized that would be impacted by this choice and there were more people that cared about them and wanted to help than they realized.” — Rosanne
  9. “As worthless and hopeless and terrible and dark as you feel, this isn’t the end of your story. You can have light and hope and worth and joy. Don’t make a permanent choice that will affect your family and friends long after you’re gone. They need you, whether you think they do or not. You need them, too. Cling to the life God’s given you, even if you have to hold on by your fingernails and it feels too hard. This isn’t the end of your story.” — Anna Huckabee
  10. “Keep them talking basically. When it came down to it and my friend threatened to jump off a multi-storey car park, I told him that if needed I was going to rugby tackle him and sit on him until the police arrived and could restrain him properly (they were already on the way anyway). Probably not the most official way to deal with it but while doing it, it kept him focused on me and talking to me rather than the other things that were going on. My friend has since been diagnosed with a version of Bipolar rather than depression. Unfortunately, it took a number of years to get past the diagnosis of depression or stress.” — Hannah
  11. “What can I do to help you? (And I would start to tell them about my mother and ex-boyfriend and how they took their own life and that it’s okay to ask for help.) Everyone needs some kind of help throughout life. Just let me try to help you.”  Chasa Fulkerson
  12. “The pain you feel right now? If you allow it to end your life, the same pain will attack your family and closest friends because they will miss you. After you are gone, the pain will be allowed to grow bigger and bigger! Let’s fight this together now and end the pain, but keep your life. You DON’T want to suffer through all this darkness for nothing, do you? Because on the other side of this darkness, this grief, this pain is something worth living for joy and hope. Let’s find some of that for you! I have a list of great resources!” — Chris Moss
  13. “Listen, I’ve been there too. Right where you are. 10 years ago. So much can change in the next year for you. Don’t convince yourself that there’s no hope. That’s a lie from the pit. You have a gift and worth and value, and the devil is trying to keep you from giving it to the world. God cares about you and loves you, and has plans for you for a purpose and good. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through or done, there is hope for a happy and joyful life! Come with me. Please let me tell you my story.” — Abby Karbon
  14. “This may be hard to hear right now but you are worth so much, just by being the only you in the world. You will be making a decision that you can not take back while going through emotions that will very well pass, even if it takes a little work. You are not alone, even if you feel like it. There are millions of people who feel just like you. Talk to me. I’m here to listen. I’ll never shut you down. You can trust me. I know what it’s like to feel like the world would be better off without you. Don’t listen to those negative thoughts. You are worthy and you will get through this.” — Cortney Kaczmarek
  15. “You are needed. You are necessary. You are loved.” — Barbara Moore
  16. “That life will be good again soon and that it’s an illness causing all the pain. They can get better and they can enjoy life once more they just need some help.” — Hazel Jackson
  17. “Hey there, I know you don’t know me but I’m here and I care. Please just come, talk to me, let’s get a coffee and restart. You won’t be able to take this back. I get it but I also just want to know your story, I don’t want this to be an end to our conversation. All the things you are feeling must be overwhelming so let’s just calm down and breathe. We can talk when you’re ready.” — Emerson
  18. “Being on the other end of it, I was told ‘it’s not worth it. This will pass and I will stay by your side and be there always.’ And that person to this day is still always by my side making sure I’m okay. And this was a few years ago. — Hailey Giambelluca
  19. “You are loved. You are taking an easy way out, but what about the ones that love you? What about the ones that fight for/with you? We would be slowly dying inside if you were not here!” — Angel
  20. “I can’t tell you what to do but I see you and I care. You’ll leave a hole in the universe that no one else can fill. This world is more meaningful with you in it. Please sit with me and tell me where it hurts. I’m listening.” — Emma Frances
  21. “There is help out there. This solution you are considering is permanent. There is no coming back. You may feel you’ve tried everything, but there are specialists that can ease your suffering. There are many options available to you, and I will help you each step of the way. The symptom of suicidal ideation leads you to believe there’s no other hope. I can attest as someone who’s been in your shoes there is. And I’m glad I didn’t make that permanent choice. So please come with me and we can find help right now.” — Ben Barrett
  22. “Give me your hand. Come closer. *if okay I’d give them a hug* I truly do understand this feels like the only way — I’ve had the same thoughts and experienced it with a loved one. I’m not going to tell you the usual things …the things you know. Just, remember that there is hope. I’ll come with you. I’ll help however I can, even if it’s just to listen…I will not judge you for your experience is yours and must be heard. Give me your hand.” — Eleanor Catalina Stevens
  23. “Up close it’s hard to see a way out or the greater plan, but everything always works out in the end. So many people find times in their lives hard, but keep going and when you look back, you will see that it was all part of a greater plan.” — Laura P
  24. “Let’s get you help! Who knows, you can overcome your depression and help others who are struggling, one thing is certain we need people who understand us, come with me, we’ll get you help, we’ll keep trying until you find a therapist you are satisfied with.” (this is just a note that I will help him/her get the help they need even though I don’t know them and they don’t know me). — Jazz Williams
  25. “Things do get better. There are brighter days ahead but you have to stay here to see them. The world needs what you have.” — Wrae Sanders
  26. “It’s okay to not be okay. And it gets better. Just stay. Use your voice to breathe life into a conversation that must be had. You are worth more than making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion or thought. You are loved, and you can rise up once again.” — Maria Thomas
  27. “You matter. You have people who care for you and will miss you. Your death will not relieve anyone else of a burden or make someone else’s life easier. Hold my hand. I am here for you and the journey ahead. It will get better.” — Teresa Colón
  28. “Choosing to live, even though you are in deep pain, is courageous. That choice will help you take a step out of the darkness and into the light. That choice will prove to the world that you are stronger than your pain. That choice will prove to your pain that you are ready to fight back. That choice will begin your path to the help and support you need. I am here, talking to you, which proves to you that I care. I want to help you. And I will lead you to another person who will help you. And that person will lead you to another person who will help you. And another. And another. That path of people will be there for you as long as you need them. That path of people who care about you will lead you to safety, kindness, strength, and love. Take my hand right now, and let me help you start that path toward love.” — Kate Johnston
  29. “Life is full of challenges, but that’s what teaches us to appreciate the good stuff. Today might be a challenge, but we’ll figure out a way to make tomorrow better. You matter in this world, and you are loved.” — Christalle Bodiford
  30. “Think of those who love you and how it will destroy them to see you go my friend come with me to a better life.” — Robin Tomlin
  31. “I would say that this is a very permanent decision for a temporary problem and ask them to talk to me, no matter how long it takes until they realize that someone cares. I would also tell them that there is always hope, that things can get better and that I will support them in getting the help they need to find their happy again.” — Pamela Jessen
  32. “The Universe Thought You Were A Good Idea! So Hold On Tight And Stay, The Sun Is Coming For You! You Are Loved And You Are Needed In This World!” — Kristal @ The Fibromyalgia Pain Chronicles
  33. “I know you think this is the only way to make the pain end. I don’t think you want to die. I think you’re just tired of living I’ve been there. I UNDERSTAND. I think you want to end the pain and suffering. I understand. But, don’t make a lifetime decision on today’s emotions. Emotions are fleeting. You might feel worthless. I bet you think you’re a burden or nobody will notice you’re gone. I would. I noticed one of my best friends every day is gone. I will be here for you. Keep talking to me. I will talk to you as long as you need to talk. I will be here for as long if you need me to be. We will get you through this together. The world needs your story to continue. You are destined for greatness.” — Jamie
  34. “I would answer that ‘Hi this is Roger’ and if they said ‘I want to kill myself’ I would ask why and let them answer — then depending on what they said and how they said it — I would either ask them a few more questions or engage in a conversation letting them know that I was there and would listen and that I wanted to help — then let God be the Guiding Force while letting them know that I cared and they were precious and worthwhile.” — Roger Potter

Your Turn

How about you? What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life? Let us know in the comments below.


If you liked this post, you might also like the Spoonie Secrets series. It’s a safe space for people with chronic illness where they can share their deepest and darkest secrets anonymously. Check out the first issue here.

https://medium.com/@mary_gutierrez/mental-health-advocates-share-how-to-prevent-suicide-in-60-seconds-94ac2f0c97ce
What a powerful post, Mary!!! Thank you for allowing me to share it on my blog. As I always say:
There Is Always Hope.

Stream Of Consciousness Saturday – Notice

The Stream of Consciousness word for this past Saturday is Notice.
I have noticed an influx of hummingbirds in our area lately, so I recently put a hummingbird feeder in our backyard. We live in a complex of 12 townhouse units, all single level, and ours backs on to a small greenbelt. Almost all of the neighbours have feeders as the trees here are filled with hummers – I’ve seen upwards of 20 of them flitting around at any given time.
After putting up my feeder, I also noticed we had a huge problem with wasps. The first feeder type I had, the wasps were able to get into the nectar, so I swapped it out for a better design. On this one, the wasps can’t get to the delicious goodies within, but they still try, and it was keeping the hummingbirds away, so I purchased a wasp trap and hung that nearby, filling it with a combination of sugar water and two drops of detergent. It was quickly found and became very attractive to the wasps, and the hummers were able to enjoy their own feeder again without any problems.
Unfortunately, there were so many wasps we realized there must be a nest nearby. My hubby took a look around and sure enough, we found a nest in the outside dryer vent. He did give it a good spray with wasp killer, as much as I hate we had to do that but there were just too many of them to leave it alone. Our neighbours next door, Gail and David have a nest somewhere too, and so we are considering calling in Pest Control. Gail hates to kill anything and said that she had a wasp trap once, but it took too long for the wasps to die and she felt she was torturing them, so she took it down. Mine was also getting a lot of ants, but once I oiled the string on it, they stopped climbing down.
So, I’ve just cleaned out the old wasp trap and there were probably 20 dead ones in there plus a couple of live ones. I dumped them down the kitchen sink and used hot water on the live ones to flush them out and down the drain as well. I’ve never been stung before, but they don’t scare me. I cleaned out the trap, re-baited it and hung it back outside and from where I am sitting, I can see it’s already caught two more. The hummers probably won’t be back until later this evening when it cools off again, but they’ll be happy to know they won’t be bothered. I’m hoping I’ll get multiples at the feeder – it’s designed to hold 4 birds at a time. I promised my dear friend Charlotte I would send her a picture of the birds feeding but so far it’s only been one bird at a time, and they choose the back of the feeder where I can’t see them to take a picture. Typical!!
I love watching how delicate the birds are, but how aggressive they become when they feed…their lunging beaks almost attacking the yellow bulb of the feeder as they hover in mid air, sipping and thrusting and sipping and thrusting. I have a “birds eye” view of the action and they are such a marvel to watch, with their jewel colour bodies flashing in the sun. Here in our area (Victoria, BC) we mostly get Rufous and Anna’s Hummingbirds,

Yet as delicate as they may appear, they are a hardy species, with the Rufous variety here during the spring and summer, and then spending their winters on the U.S. Gulf coast and Mexico. Although an unusual sight fifteen years ago, Anna’s are now winter regulars at many Victoria feeders. Anna’s are with us year round and we notice their presence at feeders is more obvious because their numbers are increasing locally. Both types are entertaining, and I get such joy watching them.
I strongly advise anyone to research the type of birds you get in your area, and then to put up a bird feeder, especially if you get hummingbirds. Making the nectar is as easy as making sugar water for them, and they are so fun and a real joy to watch.
There is always hope.
 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Are you grateful for your life?  Are you grateful for the things you’ve been given? Are you grateful for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue? What about your other Invisible Illnesses? For Fibromyalgia? I am, and let me explain why.
I have had my Invisible Illnesses for over half my life now, and they have been a predominant part of my life since 2004 when I went into a major flare that I’ve never recovered from. That was the year I had stomach surgery for severe Gastric Reflux disease – a procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication. The surgery itself was successful, but I suffered nerve damage in the sternum area from where an instrument being used was pressed too hard against a nerve for an extended period of time, causing it to be pinched for over an hour. This caused me excruciating pain that didn’t resolve for almost a year and had me addicted to morphine pills to the point that I was hallucinating. In fact, at one point, the general surgeon called in a Thoracic surgeon, who was going to crack open my sternum to try and fix whatever the problem was – a drastic solution indeed.
I’m grateful this didn’t happen and the Thoracic surgeon had the sense to suggest a drug called Gabapentin for nerve damage which is what he suspected was the problem, and he was right.
I spent almost a year in a hunched over position, trying to “contain” the pain, it was so bad. I ended up having to go for physical therapy and massage in order to loosen up my muscles to where I could stand in a straightened up position again.
I’m grateful for the therapists that helped me.
I’m grateful there are medical teams in place when we need emergency surgery, such as when a cyst I didn’t even know I had on my ovary burst, causing me horrid pain. It needed immediate removal and there was a team to do that. Just like there was a team to remove my gallbladder and my other ovary when it went rogue as well.
And I’m grateful for my three doctors who have worked with me and my overall health issues over the last five years, Dr Leong, Dr Winston and Dr Burnett, my orthopedic surgeon who did my hip replacement.
Okay, you say…it’s easy to be grateful to the people who help us, but how can you be grateful for having Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia and all the other stuff. Well, I’ll tell you.
When you have Invisible Illness, you tend to miss out on a lot of life. You may have to give up your job or volunteer activities, your hobbies and family life. You end up losing a lot more than you seem to have left. But what having a Chronic illness does is force you to dig deep to FIND what you’re grateful for. I made a list:

  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Quiet mornings after a good sleep
  • A perfect cup of coffee
  • A day where the kids get along and no one is fighting
  • A day where the cat or dog doesn’t barf all over the place
  • Feeling energetic enough to accomplish a few things on the “to do” list
  • Feeling rested
  • Feeling less pain than normal
  • Being able to go for a coffee date with a girlfriend or two
  • Having dinner with your family together instead of needing to lay down
  • Date night with your spouse
  • Watching a movie together instead of early to bed
  • Having a bath or shower
  • Having enough food on the table and money in the bank
  • Laughter
  • A sense of safety and security
  • A roof over your head
  • Feeling loved
  • Having a close friend you can confide in
  • Books to read and art to admire
  • Social media like Facebook and Pinterest
  • Ice cream or a favourite treat
  • Family and friends to share memories with
  • Vacations

I could go on and on…the point is, there is so much to be grateful for, but when you live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness, it’s easy to get stuck wallowing in the negatives, to the point you forget to stop and remember to be grateful. Take a moment now to list a few things that you’re grateful for and make it a habit each day to say thank you. An Attitude of Gratitude is easy to cultivate, but like a good garden, you need to tend to it every day.
Remember…
there is always hope!