Finding relaxation techniques to help de-stress…

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with fibromyalgia. Although if your reading this without fibromyalgia the techniques are still worthwhile to try; we all need to know how to relax.

The constant pain experienced with fibromyalgia makes every day tasks more difficult to do.

Simple things like preparation of a meal and shopping for food are tasks that become challenging.

I choose simple meals to cook that have a minimum of preparation. Buying some vegetables ready to cook; like butternut squash can speed up prep time and help to avoid struggling to cut them up.

Having my shopping delivered has made a big difference and can help me budget easier.

Like most things you find your own way to getting these jobs done.

My experience….

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia I had pain in my neck and shoulder constantly.

I remember thinking I’d do anything to get rid off the pain.  I was constantly visiting my doctor for help with various ailments, due to fibromyalgia. It was suggested I try physiotherapy.  I went along and was given various exercises to carry out along with relaxation techniques.

The relaxation exercises were really helpful, although it took a while to learn how to do them properly and get some benefit from them.

Why should I try relaxation?

Just the thought of being able to relax can seem out of reach if your in pain. Finding ways to de stress and relax is something that can make a difference.

Our bodies are under a lot of stress constantly and I found this stress had a big impact on how severe the pain was.  When I was able to relax the pain was not as severe.

How do I relax?

There a number of techniques you can try and it’s a good idea to try more than one technique, as you may respond better to certain ones. It’s more beneficial to practice for as long as possible, up to 20 minutes.

What can I try?

Breathing Exercises

To do this properly, find a quiet place you can sit for a while. Start to focus your mind on your breathing. Take long, deep breaths, try not to rush these. Breathe from your belly and focus your attention on the sound and feel of the breath. By concentrating on breathing it can take your mind away from other thoughts. Check with your health professional to see if this is suitable for you, if you have experienced breathing difficulties.

Body Scan

Try this technique by taking a few deep breathes first. Now focus the mind on the body as a whole and scan it from top to bottom for areas that seem tense. Think about each area in turn and imagine each part in turn, releasing tension in the muscles. When you have completed each area. Try another full body scan again, the tense areas should feel much more relaxed. This technique helps your mind to become more aware of areas that need attention.

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. Take a look at my post.

Visualisation Therapy

To carry out this exercise successful you need to concentrate the mind on places and images you find calming and encourage positive thoughts. Looking at photos from the past or remembering places you have visited could help. There are apps that you can download to help with this technique.

Yoga

Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that combines controlled breathing with movement and postures. It’s a good choice if you want to improve your flexibility. It’s recommended to start by joining a group to learn the basic poses. Check with your doctor first to see if they think it’s suitable for you.

Most of these techniques can be carried out almost anywhere to help reduce stress and concentrate the mind.

As with all forms of exercise check with your doctor first it you are not sure if an exercise is suitable for you.

You can find further help and information on the following resources:

NHS Breathing Exercises for Stress

Mindfulness Meditation

NHS Yoga

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.

 

Fibromyalgia cure…someday?

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I had a strange thought today…. What would it feel like to be completely cured of fibromyalgia?  

In a fleeting moment of feeling better I started to imagine how different my life might be…..

I could do any job, I choose without feeling tired, and aching.  I could be a landscape garden designer, maybe doing a show garden for the Chelsea flower show.

Travel to places I can only dream about.  Visit New York and see the Statue is Liberty would be amazing.

Eat whatever I want without it making me feel ill and incredibly tired. Go to a restaurant in the evening and eat a Mexican meal.

Take up proper exercise; perhaps running and train to complete the London marathon.

The possibilities are unlimited and mind-boggling.  Probably similar to the feeling lottery winners experience.

If you are reading this and don’t have fibromyalgia you’re probably thinking. These aspirations could be within my grasp.  I agree they are for you, but for us Fibro sufferers not so. 

So far fibromyalgia has no cure. We will live our lives never experiencing things most people take for granted every day.

We cannot plan; we don’t know how our illness will be on a particular day.  All of these aspirations are not possible for us.  We end up feeling bad because we’re not able to participate. Or are letting others down as we are not well and cancel at short notice. Resulting in a lot of negative feelings, making us feel even worse.

I’m not going to descend further into a spiral of doom; as you will stop reading this.

Going back to the dream of what might’ve been, keeping the positives of hope, optimism and excitement I was able to feel. Carrying those thoughts and feelings forward into the future.

What if scientists found a cure for fibromyalgia tomorrow? Yes, I could do everything I mentioned above if I wanted. Being realistic it’s not that likely, so what’s left?

Having a goal, to work towards is important for me. Something to plan for and look forward to in the future. 

To be relevant goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time limited; according to a friend. This sounds very business like, so I would suggest this format could be used very loosely.

My top five goals are:

1. Keep a positive attitude to all things; having  a positive mental attitude and planning to do things within my capabilities.

2.  To look at situations in an objective way; looking objectively at what is possible and building on this.

3.  Take care of myself by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and trying to get enough rest and sleep.

4.  Learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby is a really good way to feel a sense of achievement.

5.  Daily meditation practice for de stressing the mind.

To kick-start this positive frame of mind, I practice  Meditation  every day.  If you have not tried meditation, it’s a great way to free the mind from stress.  If you practice regularly you will notice you’re ability to concentrate and remain calm increases. If you want to learn Meditation  have a look at my page on this.

What are your aspirations for the future? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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