Easter 🐥 Greetings

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Magnolia Photo by Nick

In this Easter week I wish you peace, happiness and relaxation.

I thought I would post some photos from my walks in parks nearby.  Everything seems to be coming alive at this time of year.

The flowers and trees look so beautiful, it would be great to share them.

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White Narcissi Photo by Nick
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Park Photo by Nick
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Bluebells Photo by Nick
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Genista Photo by Nick

I’ve added a short poem based on the seasons of the apple tree.

 

Apple Tree Seasons 

 

In Spring, pink apple blossom grow delicate buds

New life springs forth

 

In Summer, fully grown blooms take shape as apples

Warm,strong sunlight help them form

 

In Autumn, rosy red, sweet tasting apples

Ready to pick from the tree

 

In Winter, a bare tree stands out amongst

White snow, goodness going back to the roots

Poem by Nick

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Keeping Active with Fibromyalgia

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Now that Spring is here and we are beginning to have lighter evenings. It’s a good time to consider reviewing your fitness and exercise regime if you have one.

After I was was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2004, I found that exercise helped me a lot as I struggled to find things I could do. When you have Fibromyalgia it is a daunting prospect, keeping fit. Particularly starting out for the first time, with a new exercise.

It’s really important to keep as healthy as possible, as your level of stamina fluctuates so much.

I have made a list of everything that has helped me that you could try.

Walking

I found walking to be the most accessible and best for my circumstances.  Walking can help to boost your energy levels and enjoy nature.

If you suffer from low mood, walking on a regular basis is a good non medical therapy, to help feel more positive.

If you are on a low-income, it’s no problem to try out as there is no sign up charges.

If you are new to walking it is best to start with 5 to 10 minutes at first and gradually increase this as your body gets used to the exercise.

You will need to try out a pattern that suits you.

When you first start you may need to get some comfortable shoes and wrap up well with thermal layers on cold days.

Have a look at my post on walking  for more tips.

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Hydrotherapy

I found gentle exercise in a warm water pool can help. The water supports your body and has less impact on muscles and joints.

Research has shown that lying in warm water helps the body to relax and lowers pain perception.

A therapist that specialises in hydrotherapy or a qualified physiotherapist that has a good understanding of fibromyalgia, can help you to work out some exercises.

Your local sports centre or gym may have these facilities and let you have a couple of trial sessions.

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Pilates

Pilates strengthens the body as a whole, the main aim is to improve core strength. Regular sessions can help to reduce the risk of injury by increasing flexibility.

I  developed my own tailored exercise routine, by trying out different exercises, from visits to a physiotherapy practitioner.

If you go for physio ask the practitioner for advice and help about what exercises are best for you.

I practice these regularly once a day, for about ten minutes in total. Although, I had to work up to doing this amount gradually at first.

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Sitting Exercises

If you have limited mobility, sitting exercises could be a better option than other ways of exercise.

The NHS website has sitting exercises along with flexibility exercises that might be worth trying.

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The NHS live well  website has a lot of really useful tips to get you active.

I hope this short post has given you some new ideas on exercise for Fibromyalgia. My goal is as always to help others with Fibromyalgia and similar invisible illness.

I’m interested in hearing from any fellow sufferers of Fibromyalgia, particularly if you would like to share your experiences on my blog.

Inspiring people with illnesses and injuries

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In Britain we need to hear about an inspiring leader, at the moment, who despite personal injuries and constant illness overcame these and became a national hero.

I have fibromyalgia. What gets me through bad pain days?

After reading a Facebook post, asking fibromyalgia sufferers to swap ideas about what helps on bad pain days.

I immediately thought… chocolate. 

Then I thought…

Banish the bad if possible, like excessive stress.

My symptoms get worse on stressful days, as most people do when under pressure.

An invisible illness like fibromyalgia can mean it’s difficult to explain how we are feeling to others; especially people close to us.

It’s not like having a cold or broken leg, which over time recover. The pain and other symptoms are always there in some guise and will never go.

Its good to remind myself occasionally of the good things l can enjoy.

Perhaps making a list…

1 Chocolate!

2 Reading a gripping book

3 Writing a post

4 Chatting to friends 

5 Watching a good film

6 Walking

7 Inspiring people…..

Thinking more about this got me imagining what it might of been like for someone many years ago, who fell ill or was injured. Perhaps a famous person in history who has shown great courage and achievements, despite suffering from numerous illnesses, debilitating wounds and depression.

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson; a British Navy admiral, may not immediately come to mind.

Nelson is a celebrated hero in Britain for his great victories in the Napoleonic Wars and at the Battle of Trafalgar.

He was born on 29 September, 1758 at Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk. Accounts of him from the time describe a slightly built, sensitive child. Perhaps not obviously someone who would become a great courageous hero. Although early biographies describe Nelson as a brave and honourable boy. His mother died when he was just 9 which upset him for years to come. He joined the navy at the age of 12.

In his lifetime Nelson contracted malaria and survived. He was hit by musket ball distroying his arm and had it amputated. Nelson was reportedly giving orders again, after half an hour of the amputation. In 1798, Nelson lost his sight in one eye during the Battle of the Nile.

Sailing on his most famous ship called Victory, in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson invented a new strategy for steering his fleet of ships. The Spanish and French fleets were trying to invade Britain. The British fleet won the Battle with Nelsons leadership but Nelson was hit by a musket ball and fatally injured. He died after hearing that his fleet had won the battle. A state funeral took place at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on January 9th, 1806.

A memorial to Nelson, named Nelsons Column stands to this day in London in the middle of Trafalgar Square.

Its inspiring to read about Nelson and visualise living on board ship back then. I visited the Nelson Museum  in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk and discovered more about him and the illnesses and injuries Nelson suffered. The most incredible thing, I thought was his heroic achievements in spite of these. 

How did he do it? 

He fought and won battles; showed incredible courage and determination to succeed. Throughout all this he described himself in a selfless way, writing in a letter;

‘I got a little hurt this morning’. Nelson had been hit in the face when a shell exploded and was blinded in the right eye.

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Dreaming about spring

 

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Spring Blossom by Nick

Whenever I think of spring it reminds me of visiting the University town of Oxford in England.

Described as the ‘city of dreaming spires’ by poet Matthew Arnold, because of the amazing architecture of the university buildings. 

It’s an inspiring place; author Lewis Carroll wrote his famous novel Alice in Wonderland here in 1862.

The story is based on a girl called Alice who follows a white rabbit into a rabbit hole and arrives in wonderland.

During her adventure she goes to a mad tea party in chapter seven, or more popularly know as the Mad Hatters tea party.

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to fall down a rabbit hole and explore wonderland for yourself? Inspired by the tea party; I’ve written my own short story based on this idea.

Two Versions of an Amazing Dream by Nick 

A strong smell of tarmac rises from the ground. 

“Yes, that blue teapot tastes good, its made from blue chocolate!” 

From a car window a teacup is thrust out,

“Lovely tea dear, one sugar or two?” 

The ground is hazy, full of green, large, grass; it smells fresh.

Food spread over the grass; doughnuts with jam, pies covered in cream and a red jelly cake with a palm tree in the middle.

A recognisable face dressed as a orange bear eating pies. Cream all over his face. A clown face looks directly at her and disappears in clouds of cream. 

“Pies everywhere I go; I can see pies raining from the sky” Cream covers her, she can feel it on her nose.

Jane looks again at a large pillow. She is awake.

***********

As Jane walks along in the park a stranger rushes up to her and says

“Yes that blue china teapot tastes good, you have a similar one to mine, it was made of blue chocolate. All I can say is it tasted good, when can you bring me another to try?”

A car pulls up next to Jane, the window winds down and a passenger passes her a cup of tea.

 “Lovely tea, dear, one sugar or two?”

Jane’s vison blurs, she shuts her eyes, opens them, and notices in front of her a mass of green, huge blades of grass. 

She is laying on the grass now and in front of her is an amazing picnic. Doughnuts oozing with jam, pies covered in cream, and a red jelly cake in the middle decorated with a pineapple. 

Her friend’s face is visible. He seems to have turned into a giant orange bear and he is hungrily tucking into a pie, covering him in cream. Next to him an inflatable clown snatches the cream pie from his hands and hurls it into the air. The clown shouts 

“Pies, Pies everywhere I go, I can see pies raining from the sky” 

The cream lands all over everything. Jane notices a large blob of cream on the end of her nose. She tries to wipe it off with a tissue and finds she can’t.

Jane moves her head and looks down at a large pillow, she is lying in bed and has woken up. What a crazy dream, did I really dream that!

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Tell me the truth about…Cheese

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I am a cheese lover, I particularly like goats cheese for its strong unusual flavour.  In the past, I would regularly tuck into cheese sandwiches every day; selecting different cheeses to eat every week. 

I’m not in a minority enjoying cheese with around a third of us eating cheese regularly in a meal. 

The top five most popular cheeses in Britain at the moment are:

English Cheddar

Red Leicester 

Brie 

Mozzarella 

Parmesan

This trend seems to be growing with the increase in popularity of vegetarian foods recently. More people are becoming aware of the health benefits of cutting down on red meat and are also aware of the environmental impact of production processes. An appealing alternative to this appears to be cheese.

The most surprising fact is that one in ten people habitually eat a chunk of cheese as a main meal.

I’ve been trying to cut back on saturated fat intake along with my carer. Until recently I’d eaten cheese and thought it was not particularly any more fattening than any other type of food; except fruit and veggies which you can eat in abundance.

I discovered reading food labels in detail, that it is very high in saturated fats. Much higher than most red meats in fact and therefore not much help if your trying to cut back on saturated fat.

Cheese can contribute to increased levels of saturated fat in the diet fast if it’s eaten regularly. An alarming fact if you have switched to cheese recently and thought it was a healthy option to meat products.

Why is saturated fat something to be aware of in a diet?

Saturated fat in a nutshell……

Eating too much saturated fat in your diet leads to your body producing excess cholesterol which causes blood arteries to become blocked or restricted. This in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease which includes heart attacks, angina and strokes.

The easiest way to reduce this risk is by lessening the intake of saturated fats. There are some quick and easy ways to start making a difference. Avoid or reduce full fat dairy products such as cream or cheese (skimmed or 1% fat milk is much better than full fat milk). Also cut back on pasties, pastries, pies, cakes, chocolate, coconut milk, coconut oil and palm oil. When eating meat choose low fat meats such as chicken, turkey, venison, veal or rabbit.

In addition you can have foods that reduce cholesterol in the blood.

Soluble fibre (e.g. fruit, vegetables, oats and nuts) absorbs and carries the cholesterol out of the body.

Plant stanols or sterols inhibit cholesterol absorption in the gut. These are available in fortified foods such as Benecol.

For more information about diet and healthy eating have a look at the following website:

NHS Live well, eat well

Further details about heart disease and stroke:

British Heart Foundation information and support

Stroke Association

Look after your health and your heart….

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Spotlight on Mindfulness for fibromyalgia

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This week, I thought it would be worthwhile spending time discovering how mindfulness can help and perhaps trying it out.

In a previous post I mentioned that mindful meditation has been proven to help the symptoms of fibromyalgia. I was intrigued to explore this in more detail. 

How can mindfulness be described?

In a nutshell, it’s focusing our attention purely on the present moment. Doing this without letting the mind drift back to past memories or thinking about future events. Mindfulness is embracing the present with acceptance, without judgment.

The monkey mind

There are so many distractions for us to focus our mind on. To illustrate the monkey mind, try this exercise for a couple of minutes.

Focus your mind on your breathing.  Think about where you can feel movement in your chest from your breathing.  Concentrate on this area, for a few minutes. You will notice your thoughts stray, thinking about numerous things other than the breath.

These thoughts are from past or future experiences. The mind is rarely focused on the present. It jumps from one subject to another, like a monkey playing. This practice is called the monkey mind.

Why should I try mindfulness?

Clinical researchers have carried out a number of tests which have shown that mindfulness can improve your overall health and wellbeing. For fibromyalgia sufferers the benefits can be:

  • lower stress levels 
  • lower depression
  • improve the quality of sleep 
  • reduce anxiety 
  • encourage positive thinking
  • alter the way the mind reacts to difficult situations 
  • improve decision making 

How do I start to practice mindfulness?

Start by focusing on your senses when you carry out your everyday routine. By thinking about the feel, touch, smell and the sound of everything you are experiencing. 

If you carry out a task such as washing the dishes, think about the heat of the water, the texture and feel of the plates, the scent of washing up liquid and the sound of water filling up the bowl. 

If you have a regular daily routine build some time into it every day to practice mindfulness.

You could try changing your daily activities. For example if you regularly go for a walk and always walk the same way; try changing the route to one your not as familiar with. Or try a completely new walk. 

By changing your routine to something different or new it will get your mind to focus on a familiar task in a different or new way.

Thought watching 

If you find while you are concentrating on tasks thoughts interrupt you. Just observe them, try not to be side tracked by them.

Introduce a label for each thought that arises; ‘I’m nervous about a exam result’, label it ‘thought’, or a feeling ‘I feel worried’ label it ‘emotion’; and go back to the task you are carrying out.

This practice will help train the mind to not follow a thought and get sidetracked by it. Just observe thoughts without judgment, acknowledging them, and labelling them. Going back to the task.

Mindfulness meditation

Taking mindfulness a step further incorporating it into daily meditation practice can encourage the mind to work in a regular pattern.

Mindfulness meditation works by silently spending a few minutes every day thinking about one aspect of the body, such as breathing awareness and acknowledging thoughts, when they arise and bringing back attention to the breathing.

Have a look at my page on Meditation for more information about suggestions for meditation practice.

 

A lifetime free from pain

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I wish……..

Living with a invisible illness like fibromyalgia I can never forget about it. 

I’m naturally a positive person and find every day my body feels different in some way. 

I can wake up with my head full of things I want to do and a body unable to carry them out. Normal everyday tasks are restricted by fibromyalgia. Over time I have adapted tasks to enable me to carry out as much as I can.

The single biggest obstacle I face on a daily basis is based purely on other people’s perceptions of me with fibromyalgia. Just putting it into words is difficult. 

I’m constantly frustrated how difficult it is to give an accurate explanation of what fibromyalgia is and what it’s like to live with.

Saying that, it’s difficult to be accurate because everyone that gets fibromyalgia has different symptoms and severity which can complicate a good definition.

This difficulty is illustrated well by my carer who recently said….

‘Every time I explain what it is, it takes half an hour,’

‘People go quiet,’

People seem to second guess what it is, and not listen to a explanation…

‘I know, Fibro cystic……. yes, I’ve heard of that, that’s not good,’

Oh,……I had something similar when I was young, it made me really ill for months,…..but now I’m fine.

Just to be clear,     IT’S    NONE    OF    THE    ABOVE

I am going to try now, with the following definitive list of symptoms.

My definition will be accurate in my individual case only.  Some of these symptoms may be shared by others with fibromyalgia.

The fibromyalgia I live with varies from day to day in severity. It can include all of these symptoms at sometime, not always together but occasionally I can have several at once.

Aches and pain throughout the body 

Anxiety 

Balance problems 

Bladder problems 

Bloating 

Cognitive problems 

Depression 

Dizziness

Dry mouth and eyes

Fatigue 

Fibro fog

Frequent Headaches 

IBS

Jaw pain

Light sensitivity 

Lower back pain

Muscle spasms 

Noise can impact on my symptoms 

Numbness

Painful periods

Pain in joints and muscles 

Physical activity increases can exacerbate my condition 

Poor quality sleep 

Rashes

Restless leg syndrome

Sensitivity to smell

Stress can affect my symptoms on a daily basis 

Stiffness 

Sinus’s problems

Temperature changes effect pain in the body

Tingling 

Tinnitus 

Types of pain experienced a ache, burning pain and sharp stabbing pain 

Varying degrees of pain 

There’s no cure, but with exercise and diet symptoms can be improved to some degree.

As you can see Fibromyalgia is a difficult illness to describe and live with, because it encompasses so many variables. 

If you are worried about having similar symptoms and have not received a diagnosis for them, you should contact your doctor or health professional for advice.

Have a look at the NHS description of fibromyalgia,  and links to support groups and the online community if your a sufferer.

UK Fibromyalgia is a brilliant site that covers a wide range of information about fibromyalgia. Also Fibromyalgia Association  is a registered charity that provides information and help to sufferers.

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How to unlock the secrets to better sleep with fibromyalgia

pexels-photo-374898A few simple changes can make a difference to your quality of sleep. 

After weeks of not sleeping the body’s functions become impaired making it extremely difficult to function in a normal way. (Whatever normal is for a fibromyalgia sufferer). 

I know this very well from first hand experience, having suffered from poor unrefreshing sleep for years.

Insomnia, fatigue and pain are all part of life if you live with fibromyalgia. The symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as fatigue and pain are all made worse with poor quality sleep.

Over time I’ve found some solutions that have helped me get a better nights sleep. Obviously, there’s no one size fits all with these suggestions. That said, it’s still worth giving them a go. Just being aware what might work is useful. 

On occasions I still find I have some problems sleeping but I can solve these more effectively than previously.

Common problems experienced range from:

  • getting to sleep
  • staying asleep until morning
  • waking during the night
  • getting back to sleep after waking up

Have a look at the following suggestions for improving your sleep

  • Go for regular exercise every morning, for example a walk 
  • Check your bedroom temperature and lighting are beneficial for sleep 
  • Adjust your bed and pillows to make it as comfy as possible 
  • Invest in a electric blanket to warm the bed before you get in and help relax muscles 
  • Avoid smoking, over eating or drinking caffeine directly before bedtime 

My top tips for getting to sleep

  • Help your mind wind down for the day
  • Get into a regular sleep routine for adjusting your Circadian rhythm, try to get up at the same time every day
  • Turn off all devices that emit blue light an hour before bedtime
  • Read a relaxing book or listen to gentle music
  • Try meditation, particularly one for helping you to sleep 
  • Use ear plugs and a eye mask to block unwanted noise and light
  • Get into a comfortable sleep position and then try a relaxation routine 

Whilst you are asleep make sure your room doesn’t have anything that will wake you like a mobile phone.

A pet that sleeps in your bedroom and disturbs you in the night, should be encouraged to sleep elsewhere.

If you wake in the night and cannot get back to sleep get up and find something that makes you tired then return to bed.

If you find by morning you have not had enough sleep go back to bed and sleep for a while longer. If you catch up with a couple of hours sleep every night you will see the difference after a few months.

I recently read several articles which mentioned vitamin D (sunlight) exposure daily in the morning shortly after rising can help and mindfulness meditation both improved the quality of sleep in fibromyalgia sufferers. 

I believe this to be true because I usually get up and do a daily walk every morning and this regulates my circadian rhythm over the next 24 hours. It’s more important to get up at the same time every day than the time I go to sleep. 

I’ve found improvements in my concentration and ability to switch off at night after practicing regular Meditation on a daily basis. Explore meditation apps for sessions covering mindfulness and sleep. Have a look at my Fibromyalgia Self Help pages on  Meditation and  Exercise

If you have insomnia and it’s not necessarily fibromyalgia related, get it checked out by your doctor or health professional. If they prescribe sleeping pills it would be advisable to be referred to see a specialist sleep consultant.

Have a look at the  NHS sleep self assessment  to determine how good your sleep is.  From this link you will find some helpful information about sleep.

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