10 Tips to Improve Your Mental Health

Previously posted on The Zebra Pit

Mental Health is a hot topic these days. More and more people are recognizing that they suffering in some way with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental health issues.

Today I’d like to share 10 things that can help to improve your mental health. I hope you find these helpful.

1. Recognize There’s A Problem

The very first step to improving your mental health is recognizing there’s a problem. You may be feeling a sense of the blues that you can’t shake, or a generalized anxiety that you can’t control.

Perhaps you’re feeling out of control and going through severe mood swings from mania to depression. All you know for sure is that something is “off” and you need to figure out what it is. Whatever the case may be, recognizing something is wrong is the first step to making things better.

2. Ask For Help

Perhaps one of the hardest things we face in life is asking for help. We like to think we’re capable of handling whatever life throws at us, but it’s not always that simple. You may find that at work, you’re more than capable of tackling whatever you face, but at home it’s a different story. Or, perhaps you’ve faced challenges at home that seem easy, but at work, you’re struggling to find your place.

When you’re dealing with your mental health, you may already feel like you’re a failure. Asking for help could prove to be a very difficult thing to do, but if you don’t ask, you tend to stay stuck in the situation you’re finding hard to manage. Talk to your doctor about what you’re going through, or find a counselor or trusted friend that you can share your concerns with. Sometimes just the very act of sharing with someone can help you feel better without further steps.

3. Accept Help

Once you’ve asked for help, the next step is to actually accept the help that’s offered. This might mean medication for depression or Bipolar Disorder if diagnosed, or your doctor could have other recommendations such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Meditation, Yoga for stress, etc.

Accepting help doesn’t mean you will end up with a mental illness diagnosis. However getting a diagnosis simply means that your body may not be producing the right chemicals to help you feel the best you can. There are hundreds of diagnoses, including Depression, Schizophrenia, Narcissism, Bipolar Disorder, and more.

Basically, your mental health can be simple or complex. A doctor or counselor can help to diagnose what’s going on and offer you treatment options. There is no shame in having problems with your mental health. Mental health issues are not your fault and are no different than having a medical condition. With changing times, terminology should no longer hold the stigma it used to. We live in an age where awareness is everything and more and more people are admitting to mental illness in the hopes that we can eliminate the stigmas all together.

4. Get Active

It’s time to get active with your mental health treatment plan. Exercise is a great place to start and many doctors will encourage you to get out and do something physical to help you feel better. Biking, walking, swimming, golf, tennis…whatever you like to do is the best fit. Even 30 minutes a day of exercise can help to balance hormones, improve mood, lessen anxiety and encourage better sleep. Especially if you can do it in the sunshine!

5. Explore Medication

Your doctor may recommend that you start on an anti-depressant or other medication for your symptoms. Please realize that taking medication is not a sign of weakness…it simply means your brain isn’t producing the right chemicals and needs a boost.

I liken it to other diseases…you wouldn’t refuse medication for heart disease or a kidney problem and you wouldn’t have an issue taking something for Diabetes, so why would this be any different? If your brain isn’t creating the right chemical mix, medication is an easy way to correct the problem and bring things back into balance.

Of course ultimately, it’s your choice. Psych meds can have a range of scary side effects and it can sometimes take years to find one that will work right for you. There are also alternatives to medication use. For a list of options, click here.

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6. Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, improving your emotional response and aiding in the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.

CBT rests on the idea that thoughts and perceptions influence behavior. Feeling distressed, in some cases, may distort one’s perception of reality. CBT aims to identify harmful thoughts, assess whether they are an accurate depiction of reality, and, if they are not, employ strategies to challenge and overcome them.

CBT is appropriate for people of all ages, including children, teens, and adults. Evidence has mounted that CBT can benefit numerous conditions, such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and many others. Research also indicates that CBT can be delivered effectively online, in addition to face-to-face therapy sessions.

This link gives you a quick overview of what CBT is and how it works. Ask your doctor for a referral to a certified CBT professional if you think this type of therapy could be helpful for you.

7. Yoga* and Tai Chi

As discussed, exercise is a good way of helping you feel better about yourself. Some people find Yoga and/or Tai Chi to be of great benefit when they are struggling with mental health issues.

The discipline involved with following regulated steps in a slow and deliberate fashion helps to calm the mind and put the focus on your overall well-being. Feeling your muscles working together can be very soothing and the slow movements are safe for just about everyone. Mastering the various forms gives you a sense of success which can be great incentive to keep going.

*Please note: Yoga is not recommended for people with hypermobility. Thank you.

8. Nutrition

Your body needs fuel to function and good nutrition is key to feeling well physically and mentally. By following a healthy eating plan and getting plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein, you are aiding your body in running in top condition.

Caffeine may or may not fit into your life – some people find it makes them jittery, others have no problems. Try adding more water to your daily intake – it helps lubricate your brain and joints and keeps you hydrated for optimal function. Avoid sugary beverages as much as possible – they don’t add any value to your health.

9. Spiritual Practices

Being spiritual doesn’t mean being religious, but both can have a place in your life. If you are religious, you may find prayer to be of comfort while you deal with your mental health. If religion is not your thing, spirituality can come from the sense of a Higher Power, Nature, Music or other practices.

Try to engage in your Spirituality/Religion on a daily basis – you may find a time of prayer, being in nature or listening to music to be of value when done at the same time every day. Some people like to do this in the morning, when the day is fresh in front of them. Others prefer to do this at night, so they can reflect on the day.

Whatever time you choose, it’s your time to be honest with your beliefs and to honor them in a way that feels authentic to you.

10. Journaling

Many people who live with mental health issues find journaling to be of value. Being able to honestly reflect on your life without fear of others reading your words can bring great comfort. The key is to write honestly about your feelings, not worrying about recriminations and criticism.

Choose a time to journal when it’s quiet and you won’t be interrupted. Set the stage with a cup of tea or other beverage, find a quiet writing nook and let yourself go. Don’t worry about impressing yourself with perfect grammar – just let yourself go and free flow with the writing. Unless you choose to share your journal with others, this is for your eyes only.

The freedom that comes with writing can bring clarity to your life and help you recognize areas that might need improvement, which then leads to greater understanding and happiness.

A Few Final Thoughts

I hope these 10 steps help you to realize that mental health issues are important and need to be taken seriously. You deserve to feel your best and when you’re not, everything else seems to get bogged down.

By attending to your mental health, you are actually doing your physical body a favor as well, since you’re bound to feel better in all ways when you’re feeling better mentally.

Recognize the problem, ask for help and try some of the steps above and see if things improve. Your doctor is always a great place to start and counseling is almost always worthwhile. You owe it to yourself to be your best version of you. Remember,

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Common Questions About Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that affects millions of people around the world. There are many questions that people ask when they first find out they have Fibro, and I thought I’d answer some of the more common ones, to help provide some education.

What Are The First Signs Of Fibromyalgia

There are many signs of Fibro but the ones most people experience first is widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body. You may experience pain in only one or two areas, or it may be your entire body. Typically, there are tenderpoints at 18 specific sites on your body, and these are used to help determine if you have Fibro.

Other symptoms of Fibro include:


What Are Tender Points?

Tender points refer to 18 locations on the body that are ultra-sensitive to pain when touched or pressed. Fibro is frequently diagnosed using the Tender Point Test…if you have 11 of the 18 points, you are considered to have Fibro.

Is Fibromyalgia An Autoimmune Disease?

Fibromyalgia is NOT considered an autoimmune disease. Instead, researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Fibromyalgia doesn’t qualify as an autoimmune disorder because it doesn’t cause inflammation. Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar or associated with other conditions, including some autoimmune disorders.

In many cases, fibromyalgia can occur simultaneously with autoimmune disorders.

How Does A Person Get Fibromyalgia?

Healthprep.com offers this information on how a person gets Fibro.

Emotional or physical trauma can cause the development of fibromyalgia and trigger symptom flare-ups. The mechanism behind this is associated with the affected individual’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Emotional stressors can cause the physiological stress response to become activated, and lead to the delivery of sensory input information to the brain.

Repeated and excessive stimulation of the functional units of this response in an individual can cause their effector systems to become more sensitive. Greater sensitivity causes alternative or less significant stressors to activate the stress response easily.

The combination of the stress response, emotional reactions, physiological responses, and biological reactions that occur and interact with each other due to physical and emotional trauma can cause the development of fibromyalgia.

Of the population of fibromyalgia patients, around half has existing post-traumatic stress disorder, and two-thirds of these individuals had developed fibromyalgia after the commencement of their PTSD. Some individuals may be at an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia due to the failure of certain psychological buffers to work effectively on emotional stress that is caused by everyday life events.

Physical trauma contributes because it causes emotional stress. These mechanisms related to the patient’s brain may primarily drive the chain of neurophysiological responses known to cause fibromyalgia.

Is Fibromyalgia Real or Fake?

Doctors and patients alike state that fibromyalgia is a very real condition. Pain is often subjective and can be difficult to measure. Because there are no lab tests that can show Fibromyalgia, people assume that it is fake. As a result, the most common misconception about fibromyalgia is that it isn’t a real condition.

In both Canada and the United States, fibromyalgia is now considered a condition that qualifies for Disability. The European Parliament has signed a declaration calling for the recognition of fibromyalgia as a disease which causes disability with a right to claim exemption.

What Are The Best Medications For Fibromyalgia?

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) don’t appear to work for fibromyalgia pain. Opioid narcotics are powerful pain-relieving medications that work for some types of pain, but they don’t always work for fibromyalgia. They can also be harmful—and addictive.

The narcotic-like Tramadol (Ultram) has been shown to have some effectiveness with Fibromyalgia for pain relief. Low-dose amitriptyline can also be helpful. Tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine are muscle relaxants that help treat muscle pain from fibromyalgia.

There are three medications that have been approved for use for fibromyalgia. These medications include Cymbalta (duloxetine), Savella (milnacipran) and Lyrica (pregabalin).

Each of them works in the brain: Cymbalta and Savella belong to a class of medications called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) whereas Lyrica is a drug that targets nerve signals. It has long been used to relieve nerve pain in patients with shingles and diabetic neuropathy. It is also used to treat partial seizures.

For other treatments, this post offers several suggestions for ways to help with Fibro pain. Another option is to try Cannabis or CBD Oil.

How Life Changing Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia can affect you in both mild and severe forms. You may find that with medication, you are able to continue to work and engage in other activities without discomfort. Other people find that even with medications, they are in too much pain to maintain their previous lifestyles.

Disability may need to be sought if you are unable to continue working because of your Fibro. You may need to modifiy activities, use mobility aids or adaptive devices or otherwise change your lifestyle to accomodate your pain and fatigue. Every individual will feel their Fibro differently and you may find that your condition changes constantly as well.

What Helps Fibromyalgia?

Good Nutrition Month

Rest, good nutrition, mild exercise and a positive frame of mind all go a long way in helping to live with Fibromyalgia. Lack of movement is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you have Fibro. It causes your muscles to tighten even more, so exercise such as walking, biking or swimming can be helpful in keeping you flexible and having less pain.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein and good carbohydrates is essential. If you are overweight, you might want to try losing some extra pounds to help with joint pain.

Getting the proper amount of sleep can be very difficult with Fibromyalgia. Follow a sleep plan at night to get your best rest possible and nap if you need to during the day in moderation. A well-rested body is better able to function fully.

Finally, try to maintain a positive perspective. If you find yourself struggling with negative thoughts, it may be helpful to seek counselling or coaching. Support groups either in-person or online can also be very helpful.

Conclusion

Fibromyalgia can be a very difficult condition to diagnose and treat, but as you can see, there are things you can do that make a difference. The more you can educate yourself, the better your outcomes can be. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

Complementary Medical Treatments for Chronic Pain

Living with Chronic Pain is never easy. You’re desperate for the pain to end, but most doctors are unprepared in helping you live with Chronic Pain. They seem to be limited to treatments like prescription medications and that’s about it.

There are many ways that you can help improve the quality of your life and I’d like to share several of them with you. I have not personally tried every technique listed, but all of them are worth investigating so you can gather as much information as possible on whether they are worth it for you. Let’s get started.

Massage

There are various types of massage available and all of them have the potential of making your Chronic Pain feel better. Styles include:

Each style works the body in a different way and all styles have the ability to help with:

  • Fatigue or pain caused by cancer
  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Osteoarthritis in the knee
  • Post-operative recovery and pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome relief
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Boosting immune system function
  • Decreasing frequency of headaches
  • Blood pressure
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

This is a great link to the many types of massage and what they can do for you

Chiropractic

Chiropractic is a discipline that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. Chiropractors have proposed, especially those in the field’s early history, that such disorders affect general health via the nervous system

Chiropractic care provides diagnosis and treatment without the use of drugs or surgery for problems related to your muscles, joints, nerves, and spine. Common conditions that are treated include low back pain, neck pain, sciatica, headaches, and sprains. Chiropractic doctors can also provide advice on nutrition and exercise to support recovery and promote prevention.

Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine (“Ayurveda” for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India.

It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems.

In North America, it’s considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Students of CAM therapy believe that everything in the universe – dead or alive – is connected. If your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe, you have good health. When something disrupts this balance, you get sick. Among the things that can upset this balance are genetic or birth defects, injuries, climate and seasonal change, age, and your emotions.

Those who practice Ayurveda believe every person is made of five basic elements found in the universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called doshas. They control how your body works. They are Vata dosha (space and air); Pitta dosha (fire and water); and Kapha dosha (water and earth).

Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. But one is usually stronger than the others. Each one controls a different body function. It’s believed that your chances of getting sick — and the health issues you develop — are linked to the balance of your doshas.

Ayurvedic Treatment

An Ayurvedic practitioner will create a treatment plan specifically designed for you. He’ll take into account your unique physical and emotional makeup, your primary life force, and the balance between all three of these elements.

The goal of treatment is to cleanse your body of undigested food, which can stay in your body and lead to illness. The cleansing process—called “panchakarma”— is designed to reduce your symptoms and restore harmony and balance.

To achieve this, an Ayurvedic practitioner might rely on blood purification, massage, medical oils, herbs, and enemas or laxatives.

Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Many have reported miraculous results.

Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It may be effective in helping Chronic Pain, and generally creates a beneficial effect. It may also work in conjunction with other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.

Myofascial Blasting

Healthline.com says that in recent years, the treatment of fascia has exploded in popularity. The idea is that the fascia, or myofascial tissue, contributes to pain and cellulite when it’s tight.

For this reason, fascia manipulation, a technique that aims to loosen the fascia through physical manipulation and pressure, has become a trending topic in the health and wellness realm.

One widely popular method is fascia blasting. This technique uses a tool that’s designed to loosen the fascia, which is supposed to reduce pain and cellulite.

The always excellent blogsite The Zebra Pit has some wonderful posts about Myofascial Blasting and you can find them all here.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

A non-physical method of managing Chronic Pain, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, aka CBT is a structured, time-limited, problem-focused and goal oriented form of psychotherapy. CBT helps people learn to identify, question and change how their thoughts, attitudes and beliefs relate to the emotional and behavioural reactions that cause them difficulty.

It works on Chronic Pain by helping to remove limiting thoughts about your pain, and move you towards a better understanding of what pain is, and how you can manage it. Pain doesn’t always mean something is getting worse…and when we catastrophize pain, we can actually amplify it. By using CBT, you:

  • identify distortions in your thinking
  • see thoughts as ideas about what is going on, rather than as facts
  • stand back from your thinking to consider situations from different viewpoints.

Acupuncture

Therapist performing acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for centuries. It’s based on the theory that energy, called chi (pronounced “chee”), flows through and around your body along pathways called meridians.

Acupuncturists believe that illness occurs when something blocks or unbalances your chi. Acupuncture is a way to unblock or influence chi and help it flow back into balance.

Acupuncture is done by putting very thin needles into your skin at certain points on your body. This is done to influence the energy flow. Sometimes heat, pressure, or mild electrical current is used along with needles

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many alternative forms of treatment that might be worth looking into. Which ones have you tried already? Which ones would you like to try? Leave your comments below. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

It’s A Bad Pain Day (Coping With Chronic Pain)

Note: this post contains Affiliate Links which provides me with a small income at no cost to you. Clicking on the links will take you to specific products I suggest. You are under no obligation to purchase, these are simply my recommendations. 

When you’ve been living with Chronic Pain for an extended period of time, you know that you’re going to have good days and bad days. What do you do when you start worrying about the bad days – when they’re going to hit, how long they’re going to last and how can you manage to get through them?

I think one of the most important things you can do with Chronic Pain is to acknowledge it. Just because you live with it every day doesn’t mean you’ve come to peace about it. You may try to ignore it, hoping it will go away or you may confront it head-on. It’s important to recognize it for what it is though…pain that disrupts your life and causes your world to spin on a wobbly axis.

Chronic Pain is a force to be reckoned with. You may live most of your time with your pain at a manageable level, but inevitably, there comes a time when a flare-up happens and you find yourself struggling to manage. There are tips and tricks for flare-ups that might help and I’d like to suggest the following:

Relax

Easier said than done, but when your body has launched into “fight or flight” mode, you need to find a way to slow that adreneline down to where you are back in control. This is a good time to try some deep breathing techniques such as the 7-4-7 approach.

Breath in for a count of 7, hold for a count of 4 and breath out for a count of 7. Do this several times until you are able to feel your body starting to relax a bit. By focusing on the breathing, you trick the body into believing the danger is over, so your heart rate returns to normal. You will likely still feel pain, but it should be more manageable.

Heat and/or Cold

Heat and cold are both equally good for dealing with pain. I personally prefer heat as it helps to relax my tense muscles. Cold is better for acute injuries or when inflammation is a problem. Using a heating pad like this one can offer the benefits of a steady source of heat without injuring the skin:

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Cold Pack

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Essential Oils

Many people find that Essential Oils offer them benefits to help relieve their Chronic Pain. Certain blends of Essentials can help to control pain, relax you and ease your state of mind. There are many sources of Essential Oils – I like these ones on Amazon.com:

Healing Solutions Blends

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Knowledge

Knowing more about Chronic Pain can help you deal with it better. There are numerous books out there that serve as excellent resources for knowledge. I personally have read these two and found them extremely useful:

Managing Chronic Pain

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You Are Not Your Pain

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Yoga

Therapeutic Yoga has many benefits, including enhanced sleep and general well-being. This book provides you with the basics of a beginning yoga practice to help you manage your pain.

Yoga For Pain Relief

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Support Groups

Support Groups, either in person or online can be so valuable when it comes to dealing with Chronic Pain. Just knowing that others are going through the same thing as you can be empowering. To find a support group in your local area, trying Googling “Pain Support” and your city’s name.

Online, I suggest finding a good Facebook group. There’s one for almost every Invisible Illness (and Visible Illnesses as well) and can be easily found by searching by name in Facebook. One that I recommend is here:

Medical Musings With Friends

Based in Australia, they have members from around the world, but predominantly Australia, the USA and Canada. I am a member here and the group is extremely outgoing, friendly and they “get it”. Everyone lives with their own medical challenges, so they understand what you’re going through and are super supportive.

For Fibromyalgia, you can check out Fibro Connect, for EDS and POTs, try The Zebra Pit and for all Spoonies, you can visit Connected Spoonies. I belong to all of these groups and find them all wonderful and helpful.

Remember,

There Is Always Hope

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Positive Things About Chronic Illness

Living With Chronic Illness

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a small percentage from the total purchase price at no extra cost to you.

Living with a Chronic Illness such as Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Ehlers-Danlos, etc. can be a challenge. So much of your time is taken up with medical appointments, tests, daily pain and discomfort, mobility issues and more.

We sometimes forget to take time to spend on positive, “non-medical” moments. Maybe it’s because we have to look for them, rather than have them always there. Maybe it’s because we’re so tired from being ill that it’s too much effort.

I believe it’s important though, to find those good things in the day or to create moments when necessary. I’d like to share a few ideas with you today to help you fill your time with positives.

Moments

Pets

Our pets bring us so much comfort, whether you live with Chronic Pain or not. If you do live with an Illness of some sort, this is especially true. Pets seem to have a way of knowing when we need an extra cuddle or two, and they’re always there for us. I have a wonderful cat named Dorie, who loves to lay on my legs when I’m on my laptop (like right now)

Dorie my cat, sitting on my legs, and bringing comfort from Chronic Pain

I can feel my stress dissipating as soon as Dorie lays with me. It’s a tangible and therapeutic benefit of cat ownership and a wonderful feeling period. If you don’t currently own a pet, it’s something to consider.

Books

I love to read and a good book can completely transport me away from a painful day. I get so caught up in the story I’m reading that everything else fades into the background.

My personal preference for books is stories of people who have overcome challenges, especially Chronic Illness of their own. I also love autobiographies and biographies in general, and books on True Crime. Ann Rule is a favourite author in that category.

A couple of suggested books and authors I adore:

Salt In My Soul is a wonderful book about a young woman who lived with Cystic Fibrosis. Mallory’s story is both joyous and sad as she talks about being a young woman with a fatal disease. Her mom takes up the story when Mallory can’t and shares her daughter’s life and dreams.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is by one of my favourite author’s, Jenny Lawson. This is a true account of her life growing up with mental illness and is absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious. I also recommend her second book, Furiously Happy as a follow up!

You can also follow Jenny on her blog site, The Bloggess

Music

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to music that makes them feel better. I have one friend who loves to rock out to death metal and another who prefers classical music.

I find that listening to the old classics is what works best for me, to distract me from pain and discomfort. I love Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra and so many more. When I can sing along with the songs, it’s easy to put pain behind me.

Choose a gendre that suits your style, or even your particular feelings for the day. Light and upbeat or dark and moody, the goal is to move beyond pain so your focus is elsewhere. Living with Chronic Illness is never easy, so music can often be a great distraction.

Videos/TV/Movies

Living with Chronic Illness often leaves you with a lot of free time. Some people are more visual than others and find that movies and/or TV are what helps them best. With services such as Cable, Hulu, Netflix and more, there’s an endless variety of content available.

One new thing that’s all the rage is ASMR videos. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and is a sensation of tingling that you get in the head and spine after viewing/hearing certain sounds or sensations. Hair brushing can bring this on, along with many other stimuli.

This Wikipedia article sums up ASMR nicely and you can find many videos on YouTube to help you experience the sensation. I haven’t personally tried it yet, but if you have, I’d love to hear about it…just leave a note in the comments section.

Another way of relaxing is by sitting outside and soaking up the sounds of nature. Birds, crickets, frogs…all of these can be peaceful and induce a sense of calm in the body.

Hobbies

I am just starting a new hobby of “Paint By Numbers” and have been given this kit by a company called Winnie’s Picks. I will be doing a full review of this product at a later date, when my painting is complete, but I wanted to share with you here what a wonderful kit this is.

Inside the solid mailing tube is everything you need to complete a full size painting. There is a canvas as well as a paper copy of the painting, several different sized brushes and all the paint you can possibly need to complete the work. You do need to frame this yourself when it’s done, but everything else is there. The prices are incredibly low for the quality of product too!

There are many hobbies that you can do when you live with Chronic Illness. You want to be able to work on things that you can pick up and put down when needed, but that still give you a challenge at the same time.

Some of the best hobbies to consider are needlework, knitting, crochet, felting, colouring, painting and working with paper, such as cardmaking. You can also get into more detailed work, such as embroidery, jewelry making, candle making, soapmaking and so much more. Tell me about your hobbies in the comment section. I’m always up for learning new things!

Conclusion

I love watching the hummingbirds that come to our feeder. They bring me such joy as they sip at the nectar I’ve left for them, and I can almost feel my blood pressure going down as I observe them.

Finding ways to live with Chronic Illness doesn’t have to be difficult. We generally have everything we need for distraction in our own homes. Sure, there are days when we just feel too ill to watch a movie or play around with a hobby, but for the most part, we can use the above techniques to distract ourselves.

What sort of things do you do on a daily basis, to manage your Chronic Illness? Share with me in the comments so we can all benefit. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

10 Mental Health Habits to Try (That Really Work)

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I am featuring another guest post from my friends at MadebyHemp.com. This article first appeared on their website.

2018 was the year we saw a strong surge of mental health awareness. The public’s focus on health broadened to also include taking care of one’s mental and emotional health. People have finally realized that one of the keys to maintaining a healthy body is to have a healthy mind.

Throughout 2019, mental health awareness will continue to be one of the bigger focuses on overall well being. Learning a few habits that will promote and improve your mental health will be a great start to your fabulous year.

1. Exercise

The secret to a sound body is a sound mind. But it could also work both ways. The secret to a sound mind is a sound body. It might not work for everybody, but for a majority of able-bodied people, a great way to boost endorphins is to go out and move. Find an exercise that you love. You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. Some people prefer lifting weights, some like yoga, some even run marathons. Find that one exercise you want to stick with and run with it.

10 Mental Health Habits to Try This 2019

2. Gratefulness

Being thankful for the things you have instead of focusing on the things you don’t is a good way of bringing positive energy into your life. It will, more importantly, make you realize you are lucky to have the things you do. Practicing the habit of being grateful will help you become a more positive person.

3. Be kind

Be the person you wish other people would be to you. Make someone’s day by smiling at them, or helping them carry a heavy load, or even just opening the door for someone who has their hands full. A bit of kindness paid forward will cultivate a world of kindness. It doesn’t take much to make others smile.

4. Sleep

Get enough sleep. Sleep can do wonders for a tired mind and body. Don’t overdo it though. Get the right amount of sleep in order to feel rested and ready to tackle your day, every day. Put your screen away close to bedtime and concentrate on relaxing. Give your body and mind the time to recover and recuperate.

10 Mental Health Habits to Try This 2019 - Sleep

5. Hang out with friends

Socialize. Even the most introverted person has someone they prefer to hang around with. It does wonderful things to your soul to share your time with the people that matter.

6. Chocolate

Better yet, try Therapeutic Chocolate with Cannabidiol (CBD) oil.  Cannabinoids are non-psychoactive and can reduce anxiety. If you are looking to incorporate CBD into your diet, but is not very much of a fan of its earthy taste, chocolate is the way to go. Cannabinoids are found to keep the body in neutral state, and support the functions of the brain, as well as the central and peripheral nervous system. Get your chocolate fix for the day, and get CBD’s benefits while you’re at it.

7.  Laugh

When they said laughter is the best medicine, they were not kidding. Laughter helps ease stress and anxiety. Hang out with a funny friend, or watch a comedy show. Or maybe learn a few jokes and share them with your friends. Laughter is one of those things that multiply when shared.

8. Eat well

A few desserts won’t hurt you any but for the most part, feed your body the things it should be fed. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. This will ensure your body will feel healthy and will give you less things to stress or worry about. Avoid things that will harm your body like smoking or excessive drinking.

10 Mental Health Habits to Try This 2019 - Eat Well

9. Love yourself

Tell yourself something nice every day. Most people are generous with giving away compliments to others but are stingy when it comes to themselves. Start your day by giving yourself a sincere compliment. It could be something simple like “oh my skin looks very nice today”. Or “I do make an amazing omelet.” And develop this into a daily habit. Because loving yourself will allow you to love others more freely.

10. Meditate

Give your mind a chance to empty itself out of the negative energy that is pervasive in the world. Give your mind the space to breathe and relax. And as you relax your mind, you relax your body. Meditation is a great way to connect your mind and your body into one plane. It is a good way to relax and to relieve yourself of any stress that you may have. Meditation also complements therapy.

Remember,

There Is Always Hope

10

 

Chronic Pain and Mindfulness Meditation

What does the word meditation mean to you? When you hear it, what is the first thing you think of? Someone sitting with their legs crossed, going “ommmmm”?  Someone doing yoga? A different culture or religion?

Mindfulness meditation can have many meanings, but ultimately, it’s a way of connecting with yourself. It’s a mental training practice that involves focusing your mind on your experiences (like your own emotions, thoughts, and sensations) in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation can involve breathing practice, mental imagery, awareness of body and mind, and muscle and body relaxation.

So what does mindfulness meditation have to do with Chronic Pain? Well, it’s a way of focusing on your body and using the relaxation techniques to reduce pain and tension. With the right amount of practice, you can utilize meditation to counteract against various types of pain including joint pain and nerve pain. Here are some tips and tricks to help you.

Getting Started

Learning mindfulness meditation is straightforward, however, a teacher or program can help you as you start (particularly if you’re doing it for health purposes). Some people do it for 10 minutes, but even a few minutes every day can make a difference. Here is a basic technique for you to get started, from the website Very Well Mind:

1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff.

2. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present.

3. Become aware of your breath, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, and the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.

4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don’t ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.

5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens.

6. As the time comes to a close, sit for a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.

Breathing

Learning how to breathe sounds so simple, but many of us don’t do it properly. We tend to breathe from the chest instead of the diaphragm, which leads to shallow breaths. Deep belly breathing is preferable and can be easily learned. Try breathing in tune with this Hoberman Sphere:

Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain

 

Guided Meditations

Guided meditations can be an excellent resource to help you connect the mind and body. The good people at Mindful.org have several excellent starters that you can access right here.

For content specific to Chronic Pain, these videos may be helpful for you:

Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain #1

Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain #2

Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain #3

Conclusion

Just a few minutes a day is all it takes to learn this simple practice, but the benefits can last for much longer. Used in conjunction with heat, ice and medications, you may find Mindfulness Meditation to be just the thing to ease your Chronic Pain, one breath at a time. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

 

Chronic Pain And How To Manage It (With Real Solutions)

Note: This post contains Affiliate Links which provides an income to me at no cost to you.

In 2016, an estimated 20.4% of U.S. adults had Chronic Pain and in Canada, the numbers say approximately 1 in every 4 people lives with Persistant Pain. Chronic/Persistant Pain is described as pain that extends beyond 3 months of the estimated recovery time of an injury.

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The author dealing with an Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia flare up

Causes

Chronic Pain can be caused by the following:

  • Past injuries or surgeries
  • Back problems
  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Nerve damage
  • Infections
  • Fibromyalgia, a condition in which people feel muscle pain throughout their bodies
  • Other invisible illnesses such as Lupus, MS or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Symptoms

Chronic pain can range from mild to severe. It can continue day after day or come and go. The pain can feel like:

  • A dull ache
  • Throbbing
  • Burning
  • Shooting
  • Squeezing
  • Stinging
  • Soreness
  • Stiffness

Sometimes pain is just one of many symptoms, which can also include:

  • Feeling exhausted despite rest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances (I’m writing this at 2:30am)
  • Mood changes
  • Physical Weakness
  • Depletion of energy

Chronic Pain and Your Mental Health

Chronic pain can interfere with your daily life, keeping you from doing things you want and need to do. It can wear on your self-esteem and make you feel angry, depressed, anxious, and frustrated. A persistant feeling of sadness may accompany Chronic Pain. Often, people with Chronic Pain have to give up work, hobbies and activities they enjoy, which leads to further depression, etc.

Fighting Back

With such a high prevalence of Chronic Pain in North America, how does one fight back? How do you manage living with Chronic Pain and still maintain quality of life? There are a number of ways to manage, such as:

Pain Management Courses

These courses can be a combination of Cognitive Behaviour Theraphy, Meditation and Mindfulness, Injections to help with certain types of pain, and group talk where you have the support of others in a healthy moderated environment. There are also online pain management courses for those unable to get to programs in other locations. These include:

Pain Foundations BC

Online Therapy Pain Course

Pathway Through Pain

Mind Body Pain Clinics

On Amazon.com, you can also purchase the following – click each title to link directly to Amazon:

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Pain Management Tools

There are a number of tools available that may help you with your Chronic Pain, and are worth trying.

TENs Unit

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Mindfulness For Pain

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Mindfulness Solution

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Infrared Solutions

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Hypnotic Techniques for Pain Management

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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Workbook

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It is my sincere hope that some of these suggestions may be just what you need to help you manage your Chronic Pain. Don’t forget to check for Pain Management Services at your local hospital as well. They often run classes of 4-8 weeks that can help you learn how to support yourself.

Medication And More

Medications play a huge role in managing your Chronic Pain. Opioids are in the news now as doctors across North America are being forced to scale back the number of prescriptions they write, but there is still a useful place for them and it’s worth discussing with your doctor to see if you can benefit.

Other medications that help include drugs like Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella for Fibromyalgia pain, Gabapentin for nerve pain, Amitriptyline for anxiety and pain, and supplements like B12, Glucosimine, Magnesium, SAMe and Vitamin D

This article from Medical News today lists a number of essential oils that can help with pain, and discusses other complementary tools such as acupuncture and yoga.

Yoga For Pain Relief

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Yoga Essentials

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Essential Oils

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I hope that some of these suggestions will help you manage your Chronic Pain and give you some relief. If you have any suggestions for products that work well for you that I should consider in a future post, please feel free to leave a comment using this form

Remember…

There Is Always Hope

 

 

11 Steps For A Better Night’s Sleep

If you ask someone how they slept last night, chances are you’ll get one of two answers – “fantastic” or “not at all”. It seems like a lot of people have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. The reasons can be many – having young children, an uncomfortable bed, too hot, too cold, too much stress…the list goes on.

When you live with Chronic Pain, it’s an entirely different story. Pain is usually the main factor in keeping us awake, and the likelihood of a good night’s sleep is generally not to be expected.  Read on to find out more about what it takes for a good night snooze. 

man sleepless in bed

 

Sleep And Your Immune System

Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on shut-eye.  Chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond.

Stock Up on Naps

To stay healthy, especially during the influenza season, get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. This will help keep your immune system in fighting shape and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  If your sleep schedule is interrupted by a busy workweek or other factors, try to make up for the lost rest with naps. Taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each —one in the morning and one in the afternoon—has been shown to help decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.  If you can’t swing a half-hour nap during the workday, try grabbing a 20-minute siesta on your lunch hour, and another right before dinner.

Other Healthy Tactics

Person washing their hands

Of course, there’s more to boosting your immunity and guarding against illness than getting ample sleep. It’s also important to practice smart stay-healthy strategies such as washing your hands with soap regularly, avoiding close contact with people who are obviously under the weather and talking with your doctor about getting an annual flu shot.  And remember: Even if you do come down with a case of seasonal sniffles, you’ll be able to bounce back faster if your body is well rested. 

11 Tips For A Better Sleep

  1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
  2. Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  3. Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  4. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  5. Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  6. Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  7. Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
  8. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
  9. Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  10. Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
  11. Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
  12. Take your medications on a regular basis. If you take sleeping meds, take them on a regular basis as directed instead of just hit and miss each night. 

Some Items to Help with Sleeping

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Yolmina 3D Contoured Eye Mask for Sleeping

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ZzzQuil Pure zzz’s Sleep Aid

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Contoured Heating Pad for Neck and Shoulders

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White Noise Machine

Conclusion

Good sleep is available to all of us, but it can take some work to achieve it. Just think of the benefits at the end though…those zzzz’s are worth it!

There is always hope

Ending The Year

It’s December 29th and the year is drawing to a close. I want to take this time to simply recap the year and say thank you to my Dear Readers for spending your time with me in 2018.

From the beginning of the year, when I really got started blogging, I started out by writing Happy New Year .  My main theme at that time was to talk about my hip replacement surgery which was the real reason this blog came into existance. I had been searching for personal stories of “younger” women who had undergone hip replacements but hadn’t found much, so I thought I’d share my story for others who might find it helpful for themselves. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was writing about my other health issues, including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illnesses.

I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts about body image, intimacy when you live with Chronic Pain, the sleeplessness that comes with Fibromyalgia and Invisible Illnesss, and how the simple loss of bathing can mean so much heartache. On the other hand, I’ve been able to share about gratitude and finding joy on more than one occasion, so I’ve tried to focus on the positives as much as possible, whenever possible.

I couldn’t do this without you. Without my Dear Readers, there wouldn’t be much sense in putting this out there, so I appreciate each and every one of you who comes to my blog and reads what I have to say. You may not comment on every post, heck…you may never comment on a post I write, but the numbers don’t lie. My stats show that you are there and that you keep coming back. In fact, when I took a week off and didn’t do a thing to market the blog…no Pinterest, no Twitter, no Social Media at all, the numbers dropped, but a bunch of you still came by to see if there was anything new.

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You can see where I was away for the week. On Nov. 15th and 16th, I was in Vancouver for a volunteer meeting, and away from my computer the whole time. When I put the effort in, you do the same and come back to see what’s new…the numbers don’t lie, and I am forever grateful.

So, to wrap up 2018, I want to say thank you. You’ve helped me reach a far greater level of success than I ever thought I’d make, simply because you like to read my thoughts. That’s pretty amazing to me. I just want to provide as much information as I can to anyone who is living with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue or Invisible Illness. I want you to know you’re not alone. I’m right there with you and for as long as I’m able, I will continue to write and bring you articles and information to help you thrive.

I wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. May you be blessed in 2019 with the very best the year can offer. Remember…

There is always hope