My Top Five Self-Care Plans for 2020

Have you thought about your self-care plans for this year yet? Self-care is as vital as it is undervalued. Especially for busy women juggling multiple priorities. Add in chronic health issues and it should be compulsory.

Accidental multi-tasking is one of my favourite things – a two for one on your energy levels. When self-care doubles as something that also manages my health, I’m pretty stoked.

Here are my top five self-care plans for 2020 that also double as part of my chronic illness management plans.

Meditation


If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you will know that meditation saved my life. I do it every single day, and if I must miss a day it’s very rare. It gives me deep rest my body doesn’t even achieve during sleep. It tops up my energy levels for the afternoon. It calms my central nervous system. It is just for me. 15-30 minutes of pure self-care.

Try it: I have a free challenge for you to try it out for five days.

Do you meditate? Tell us about your practice in the comments!

My top five self care plans for 2020

Yoga


Ya’ll know I LOVE Yoga. Yoga is simultaneously mindful movement (gentle exercise), relaxation, stretching, strengthening, pain management and a sleep aid (for me). It balances the central nervous system which has been key for me.
I have shared extensively how I use it to help me. Here’s the short of it: One off poses, “micro yoga” formal practices (of 10-20 minutes) and a bed time class I made to help me wind down for sleep.

Try it: I have a five minutes a day for five days free challenge so you can see how the tools of yoga can fit into your life.

yoga for chronic pain and fatigue challenge
Join us for the FREE five minutes a day for five days yoga for chronic pain and fatigue challenge

Have you tried this challenge? Please tell me if so!

Getting to bed on time


Sleep is way too underrated. Seriously, lack of sleep will kill you (slowly) and make you feel terrible. I’ve written extensively about it. Going to bed around the same time each night is a key part of good sleep hygiene aka practices that help you sleep.

Try it: Check out this post on sleep and how you can improve it.

Treat yourself


(Who just went, “What? I can’t treat myself. Ain’t nobody got time or money for that! It need not take much money or time!)

What is something that makes you feel super special that doesn’t cost the earth? This year I’d like to attempt something different each quarter: a manicure, a massage, a weekend away with the husband etc. With three kids 5 and under we’ve been snowed under and going to the physiotherapist every month has been the extent of it for me.

Try: Schedule something right now!
A manicure? Book one once a month, schedule a time to do it yourself, or swap with your friend to do each other.
Massage? Book one once a month, swap with your partner, or get out that lavender oil and give yourself a hand and foot massage.
A Saturday morning lie in? Negotiate with the partner if you have kids, or send them to grandparents/aunts/uncles and grab at least one a month.

Journaling


I am an analyst, a thinker, a written processor. So taking the time, even just five minutes to process with my pen is helpful for me to work through things. Even if you’re more of a talker, research shows journaling to be useful. You can have free reign to vent. To get things out of your head. Write down memories. Whatever works.

Try it: You can make a habit of giving yourself 1 or 5 minutes a day, a gratitude journal of just three good things or maybe you could draw in your journal.

Do you journal? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Want to jump in and get some real, concrete help with your self-care in 2020?

So these were my top five self-care plans for 2020, I’d love to know what are yours?? Tell us in the comments below.

My top five self care plans 2020

How to Spend Less on Physical Treatments for Chronic Pain and Decrease Your Pain at the Same Time

I ask group members regularly what topics they would like me to share about, “how to save money on physical therapies” was the top request on the last post where I asked for suggestions. So here I share how you can spend less money on physical treatments for chronic pain and strategies for decreasing your pain at the same time.

What a whopper! As soon as I read the comment, I was formulating ideas. As a person who has tried physiotherapists (many different ones), Eastern practitioners, massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, personal trainers (who did not get it) and more, I know the costs involved here. We run a public system here in New Zealand so none of these private physical treatments are funded at all.

When I was at my worst I was going weekly, paying $50 or $60 a session to very little benefit. As I have finally put these things into place I have reduced to three or four weekly – this is a saving of $150-200 per month! That adds up!

These are the things that you can do to reduce the amount of treatments you need from physical therapists (physiotherapists, massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, etc.). If they are not necessarily easy, when are they ever?

The four ways of how to spend less on physical treatments for chronic pain

1. Remove or reduce the things that perpetuate the physical issue the physiotherapist/massage therapist/chiropractor etc. has to work on.

This might be a tough one as you may not be willing or able to do the things. For example, working full-time on a computer really exacerbates my neck and shoulders. I cannot, no matter the steps I take to mitigate it, experience less pain and keep doing it. Do you engage in something that aggravates your tricky spots? Is your bed and pillow correct for your needs? Check your breathing!

Let yourself brainstorm as there might be lots of things that come up.

2. Work on the whole of life things

So a lot of our physical issues are related to our overall health. When the fibromyalgia was worse, I needed to see the physical therapists for in search of relief (which never came).

When I changed my entire life – reducing work hours, cutting my commute, moving to a warmer climate, learning to rest (and later meditate), gentle exercise (which for me meant cutting back!) etc. – the amount I needed to see the physical reduced.

3. Finding the right treatment

This alone halved how often I had to go. For severe, recurrent trigger points in my neck – for which I’ve spent at least $1500 per year for over 10 years trying to get some relief from – I have the right practitioner and treatment at last. It’s a physiotherapist who places acupuncture needles into the trigger point, leaves it to relax and then performs gentle traction and stretches. The amount of time and money I spent on massage therapists, physiotherapists, osteopathy and chiropractic is insane.

Ask yourself, does that massage or chiropractic session actually help enough to justify the cost? Does the benefit hold long enough to be justifiable?

4. Learn to do things yourself

This might be the most important and the easiest!

For me, this is copious amounts of stretching/yoga.

You can learn about yoga for fibromyalgia in my free workshop! We look at commonly asked questions, myths, my favourite poses, the benefits and more.

for the first time i feel like i can do yoga

Meditation is also helpful, especially guided meditations for pain relief and relaxation. You’ve heard me talk about this for years. Insight timer free app.

I also use a Theracane trigger point massager and foam roller. You could self-massage or buy a personal massage aid. This post talks about inexpensive items I use to fight chronic pain.

Always ask a practitioner you see to give you suggestions for things you can do at home and DO them.

So these are my top four ways to spend less on physical treatments (and reduce your pain at the same time). Are you working on any of these areas? What is your favourite way to cope with physical pain?

5 Ways I Use Mindfulness Every Single Day

As a person who has practiced mindfulness in one way or another for several years, offers mindfulness as part of my coaching programmes and has a course dedicated to mindfulness and meditation for chronic pain and fatigue, I thought it was time to share how I use it myself every single day.

Initially I began using meditation as a gateway to profound rest which I could not achieve any other way. But as I have learnt more and practiced more it has begun to be so much more. It transcends the boundaries of a “treatment” for chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia. It helps me in every part of my life.

Affiliate notice: Some of my links may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase using my link, I will make a commission at no extra cost to you.

Five ways I use mindfulness every single day

Here are five ways I use mindfulness every single day

Breathing

I breath to relax, to help me get off to sleep, to avoid or reduce the stress response. You can use the simple 4-2-6 recipe for the simplest stress reduction technique. See my YouTube video below on this breathing. Breathing is as undervalued as it is vital. We need to breathe better to hep us switch on the parasympathetic nervous system and to switch off increased tension and pain in the chest and neck.

Mindful Parenting

When my son seems to be getting overwhelmed, or he wakes with a bad dream and panics or when his behaviour is getting over the top we take mindful breaths together. I also use it to try to regulate my response to the frustrations that arise when parenting three very busy boys.

Meditation

Every day after lunch I meditate. It is how I have coped with the intense sleep deprivation of my third baby – who is the worse of the three with sleeping. Yoga Nidra refreshes me, restores me and gives me profound rest I haven’t found any other way. It has been key in reducing my central nervous system over activation of a period of many years.

Mindful Curiosity

A good way to manage chronic illness is to be mindfully curious. Pay attention to what may be causing certain results – like increased pain and fatigue. To also be mindful during movement so we don’t add to our body’s physical burden. Be aware of our emotional and spiritual components too – we are a whole person, not just a physical being. Taking a mindful pause to really listen to others can be so useful in maintaining healthy relationships.

Body Scan Relaxation

I take body scan relaxations when I am first going to sleep and when I am trying to get back to sleep in the night. By paying attention to each part of my body in turn and then inviting it to relax, I tune into my body. I remember it is part of me, even when I’d rather distance myself from the parts with the most pain. My neck is the part I spend the most time visualising. It is much more productive to spend time checking in with your body than stressing that you are not yet asleep. Even if you don’t fall asleep (and I always do) then you will have achieved rest, which is far better than getting frustrated about insomnia and/or pain.

As you can see mindfulness encompasses a range of things. It is truly a cornerstone of my wellness plan. I really hope you can see the benefits of incorporating it into your personal plan for wellness.

If you would like to utilise the tools of mindful movement, breathing and meditation for your daily symptom management, like me, then come and join the Yoga for the Chronic Life Virtual Studio! Here we take the tools and support and work together on improving our daily lives. I’d love to have you join our team.

yoga and meditation for fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia Framework Part Five: Central Sensitivity and How Meditation Can Help

Welcome to part five – central sensitivity! I hope you’re enjoying this series! Did you catch the last one Sleep? It was pretty meaty and I hope very helpful.

The fibromyalgia framework series is going to present my (evolving) view of managing fibromyalgia. In 2018 some of my strongly held theories were proven true by experience and research. I’ll share this with you.

Fibromyalgia framework series part seven pain management for fibromyalgia and chronic pain

We have discussed:

The Fibromyalgia Framework
Diagnosis, Misdiagnosis and Fibro Books
Tracking Your Progress
Sleep

CENTRAL SENSITIVITY/OVERACTIVE NERVOUS SYSTEM IN FIBROMYALGIA

A lot of research suggests that Fibromyalgia is the result of central nervous system dysfunction – specifically an overactive nervous system, stressing and exhausting the brain (Dennis W. Dobritt, Fibromyalgia – A Brief Overview)[1]. Other literature suggests that the chronic pain causes the central nervous system to go into overdrive. However you look at it, the nervous system appears to be involved.

The theory of autonomic nervous system dysfunction resonates with me as a big part of the puzzle – not the entire answer.

Many of programmes are popping up and claiming to “cure” chronic pain (Lightning Process, Curable app, the CFS Unraveled programme, various books with similar programmes) based upon the idea of retraining the brain. If these programmes are the entire answer for someone, I am happy for them. But mostly they are going to be one part of the puzzle.

MEDITATION

Meditation promotes a calming of the central nervous system, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to activate. In the short-term that meant achieving deep rest during meditation, in the longer term it meant a dramatic reduction of the misfiring of my fight or flight response to minor stimuli.

The benefits:

  • Complete rest
  • Calming the central nervous system (Martinez-Martinez et al, 2014[2])
  • A break from stimulus
  • Focus on the body, accepting it as it is (mindfulness).
  • Not trying to nap, which can be frustrating for those who can’t.
  • For those who have trouble with orthostatic intolerance, just lying down can make you feel better.
  • A boost in energy (however temporary).
  • Improve the immune system (University Health News Daily, 2018)
  • Treat depression
  • Reduce pain

Would you like to know more about the benefits and experience a practice? Check out my Mindfulness for the Chronic Life FREE workshop!

MEDITATION OPTIONS

You can:

  • Simply focus on your breath for a few moments. How you breathe in, how the breath feels a little warmer on the way out. How your body feels when you exhale. How your breaths get a little longer as you relax. Don’t push anything, just observe.
  • Do your own body scan meditation – by quietly thinking of each part of your body in turn, noticing the feeling in each, accepting it, willing that part to relax and moving to the next.
  • Do progressive relaxation – by tensing and releasing each part of your body in turn you can encourage it to relax deeply. As an example you could start with your feet, tense and release, your lower legs, upper legs, glutes, abdomen, arms, face.
  • Guided meditations – YouTube has a heap available including Yoga Nidra, mindfulness meditations, meditation specific to pain or fatigue etc.

As an extra form of rest, you can lie down or recline in a chair with a heat pack.

Blue one way traffic sign

MINDFULNESS FOR FIBROMYALGIA

A working definition for mindfulness is to be observant of thoughts and feelings without judging them. To allow our body to be as it and accept it as it is.

A research paper (Cash et al 2016) found that mindfulness meditation “ameliorated some of the major symptoms of fibromyalgia and reduced subjective illness burden.” Other studies have also shown the effects to be sustained at three year follow ups, with consistent practice.

There are plenty of courses and books around learning mindfulness. One such book is by Vidyamala Birch, founder of Breathworks (a UK based organization that teaches mindfulness) and chronic pain warrior, You Are Not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress and Restore Wellbeing – an Eight Week Program. I enjoyed this book immensely.

The concept of mindfulness can follow you out of the practice of mediation and into daily life.

FURTHER READING

Books

  • You Are Not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress and Restore Wellbeing – an Eight Week Program by Vidyamala Birch and Danny Penman (2013)
  • Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap out of Chronic Pain by David Hanscom
  • Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body by Jo Merchant (2016)

Articles

Activities

  • Free writing for 5-15 minutes per day, then destroy the paper.
  • Deep breathing (minimum of five quiet breaths when you feel the need, up to 10 minutes of specific mindful breathing a day) this is a nice 3 minute
  • Write down your happiness level and social connection level each day, keep a gratitude list and remember your people.
  • Do a loving-kindness meditation each day like this one
  • Do a chronic pain relieving meditation like this one.

If you are curious about central sensitivity and using mindfulness and meditation to help you with this, sign up for my free meditation workshop here

central sensitivity and meditation

[1] Dennis W. Dobritt, DO, DABPM, FIPP. Fibromyalgia – A Brief Overview (a presentation). Retrieved from https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/fibroacpsm_246421_7.pdf

[2] L.A. Martínez-Martínez, T. Mora, A. Vargas, M. Fuentes-Iniestra, & M. Martínez-Lavín. (2014). Sympathetic nervous system dysfunction in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and interstitial cystitis: a review of case-control studies. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24662556


Impatient? Want to work through the content now? The Fibromyalgia Framework Workbook is available to purchase, with all of the templates (freebies and templates recommended from my Etsy Store) with space for notes to work through the content as a course. Find the Fibromyalgia Framework here (digital). Find it physically here

The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom for Living with and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain by Sarah Anne Shockley

Recently I was lucky enough to be given a chance to read and review Sarah Anne Shockley’s book The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom for Living with and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Please note that some of my links may be affiliate links, if you make a purchase using one of these links I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Synopsis of The Pain Companion

The Pain Companion cover image

In the twenty-first century, one might wish that pain were an easily treatable nonissue. It is not. Millions of doctor and emergency room visits stem from pain, and addiction to pain medications, rampant in the United States, often takes root in an attempt to manage unremitting discomfort. 

In The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom for Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain (New World Library, June 12, 2018), author Sarah Anne Shockley, who has personally lived with chronic pain since 2007, offers fellow pain sufferers a compassionate and supportive guide for living with pain that can be used alongside their ongoing medical or therapeutic healing programs

“I cannot know your personal suffering, of course; only you can,” writes Sarah. “But I do understand the experience of being in significant and relentless pain for long periods of time, and I understand the fear, sadness, and frustration associated with long-term physical debilitation. So I can say that this book has been written from inside of pain, a perspective on the experience and the healing of pain that we are seldom offered.”

Further reading you might like:

For more about meditation and Fibromyalgia see my post about it here.

My Review of The Pain Companion

In this sensitive, beautiful book Sarah Anne Shockley explores what it means to live with chronic pain and how she manages it using meditative approaches.

The book is divided into parts: The pain moves in, the emotional life of chronic pain, meditative approaches to physical pain and when pain is a teacher.

Shockley defines chronic pain early in the book: “Chronic pain is a very complex condition involving much more than just the physical symptoms of the body. It includes emotional and psychological aspects as well, due to the incredible stresses of living with pain on a daily basis, and the ramifications of basically losing one’s life to pain.” P18

The Pain Companion book review by Melissa vs FibromyalgiaAnd she hits the nail on the head. The emotional and psychological aspects are just as important to address as the physiological ones.

Shockley explains how she came to understand this and how it ultimately helped her cope with the pain: “This practice of extending understanding and compassion to myself was more than just a psychological wellness exercise. It was a crucial interior movement that created space for real healing and unexpectedly began to relieve my physical pain as well.” P22

In part three Shockley talks of meditative approaches and not fighting the body and the pain so hard (extending understanding and compassion to herself and the pain). She explains how she began to listen to the pain, to see what it was trying to tell her. And in doing so she reduced the intensity.

We need to ask ourselves: What is this pain trying to tell us? What is its origin?

We are given 12 meditative exercises to work through starting with the breath. Now I have been a meditator for several years now but I still find visualisation and the idea of talking to my pain difficult. However, there are many exercises here that are excellent gateway approaches, especially the noticing the breath and learning to relax this way.

Usually I devour books, but this one I savoured. I read it in sections and really absorbed what she was saying. This is not a guidepost for curing chronic pain, or even how to overcome it, but more about how one woman managed to coexist with it in a way that ultimately reduced her suffering.

If you want to see an interview with the author about this book, see here.

You can get your copy of The Pain Companion here.


For more information:

Come and join my free You vs Fibromyalgia micro course.

Yoga for Chronic Pain by Kayla Kurin Book Review

“Yoga and meditation led me to a new way of thinking about my body and about what the worlds ‘illness’ and ‘health’ mean. It gave me the tools I needed to manage my pain and fatigue, and live a full life, even when I wasn’t feeling my best. Eventually, it led to my full recovery.” – Kayla Kuran, Yoga for Chronic Pain: 7 Steps to Aid Recovery from Fibromyalgia with Yoga.
If you’ve been following my work for any amount of time you’ll know I’m obsessed with yoga and meditation.
Yoga is a multi use tool for strength and pain management. Meditation is my favourite tool for deep rest and pain relief and has decreased my funky fight or flight response.
Yoga for Chronic Pain Book Review image
Affiliate notice: Please note that some of my links are affiliate links, if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
As soon as I heard about Kayla Kuran’s book Yoga for Chronic Pain: 7 Steps to Aid Recovery from Fibromyalgia with Yoga, I was like “Me! Me! Pick me!” And Kayla kindly sent me a copy.
The book begins with Kayla’s journey and how yoga helped her on her journey to wellness.

 If you love reading you can try Amazon Kindle Unlimited! Just sign up here Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans. Amazon Kindle Unlimited gives you unlimited reading (say what?), unlimited listening to their audiobooks.

Step one invites you to learn about your pain.
Here we learn the difference between acute and chronic pain and how chronic pain affects the autonomic nervous system.
There’s a good action point here – start a journal and track your symptoms and what the context was to catch the patterns.
Step two delves into the science of yoga.
Here we learn about the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and how it helped Kayla on her journey. Ayurveda provides a more individualized answer for us and is holistic in nature.
Step three is all about taming the mind through mindfulness.
Here I found the answer as to why meditating instead of attempting to nap (and getting frustrated about being unable to) – because I’m focusing on what I can control (practicing meditation) and not on what I can’t (sleep). The frustration is secondary and controllable. The sleep is primary and not in my control.
Kayla provides five ways to use meditation. And encourages us to set a mindful goal for your pain management plan. Something we can control (like meditating instead of napping, doing some breathing practice before bed).
Step four using breath as am energy source and takes you through some options for practice. Here she talks about Yoga Nidra guided meditation which I adore for coping with sleep deprivation.
Step five yoga postures to relieve pain – this is the jam!
“Yoga and meditation help rewire the brain. In yoga we call this namaskar, and in the scientific world, it’s called neuroplacticity.” 
There are two practices offered – a morning flow and an evening restorative and both are just lovely. There is also guidance for making a flare up plan that involves yoga.
Step six self care – this includes yogic self care such as massage, meditation and following your passions. There’s also some good tips for getting sleep and for reorienting how you think about sleep.
Step seven invites us to take mindfulness into daily life.
If you enact the actions Kayla provides, you will certainly be on a positive step on your way to fighting Fibromyalgia.
You can get your copy of Yoga for Chronic Pain here.

Nerdy note:

If you read a lot, like me (I read around 100 books per year), then you might like Amazon Kindle Unlimited! Just sign up here. Amazon Kindle Unlimited gives you unlimited reading (say what?) and unlimited listening to their audio books. If brain fog is an issue and you need to re read over again, it’s all there. Happy reading! It’s also available for those of us who use Amazon.com.au *squee*.

 

If audio books are more your speed, as they are for me with three little ones, you know you can get a free trial of Audible on Amazon here. I’ve recently started reading a lot more audio books as the hands free option is far easier to access with the wee ones. You will get access to two audio books, plus two Audible Originals, and other cool membership options for 30 days. Cancel anytime if you don’t want the full subscription.


For more information

Sign up to my free eCourse You vs Fibromyalgia

 

You can find my book, which is everything I know and do to fight Fibromyalgia, including yoga and meditation here:

Melissa vs Fibromyalgia book cover

My Favourite Five Pain Management Mechanisms – Pregnant or Not!

Pain management is a big concern with chronic pain and fibromyalgia. There are a lot of things touted as helpful for dealing with pain. It can take a lot of trial and error to find what helps us. So I thought I’d provide my favourite five pain management mechanisms that I utilise daily as a potential starting point for you. These are pregnancy and nursing safe too.

 
favourite five pain relief options

Affiliate notice: Please note that some of my links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

My top five natural pain management options video for those that prefer to listen or watch

https://youtu.be/aWYv7NmhjiE

The list:

1. Heat pack

Heat is my favourite pain management mechanism ever. I use my heat pack multiple times a day and take it to bed when I first hop in. I was using a heatpack long before I started researching and fighting the fibromyalgia actively, my body seeks heat when in pain.
 
Edit 2020: I have found something even better than my tiny microwavable heat pack! An electric heating pad designed to fit the neck and shoulders. It has made such a difference to be able to simultaneously treat my neck and back at the same time. It is also great in the middle of the night, I tend to wake with a sore neck in the early hours, now I don’t have to drag myself out of bed to get the heat pack! I simply turn this on and then wake up with the children in semi-functioning shape. It is truly the best tool I have tried in a long time.

2. Warm bath

Bonus add Epsom salts
Following on from the heat pack, a hot bath is my favourite time out and relaxation technique. When my lower body is very sore, this is the only way to release the cramps – for these times I have it rather hot. When I was in my third trimester with my second baby I’d end up in a hot bath that just covered my thighs just about every afternoon.
 
Other posts you might like

3. Yoga

Cat and cow pose
Yoga is a multi use pain management tool. I use it for strength, flexibility, pain relief and relaxation. When my back is sore and tight I’ll do cat and cow pose slowly, with my breath for a minute for so. This was super useful when I was dealing with the symphysis pubis disorder (when your pelvis widens too far in pregnancy and can stay that way for some time after delivery).

If you want to give yoga a go and see how you can fit it into your journey try my free challenge: Five minutes a day for five days.
 

4. Meditation

This has been an emotionally bolstering find. Especially when I have slept particularly badly and am exhausted. I no longer bother trying to nap and then get frustrated because I can’t. It is relaxing for body and mind. It can bring pain and fatigue levels down. I wrote a giant post about this here and have a chapter in my book and an entire course dedicated to it!

Join the mindfulness for your daily life free challenge.
 

5. Magnesium oil (pregnant) essential oils (not, or after first trimester)

Every night since my second pregnancy I have applied magnesium oil before bed. I never had an excruciating calf cramp during that pregnancy. I’m only at the beginning of my natural topical pain relief journey. Lavender and chamomile is a lovely combination for massaging onto sore muscles. It also makes a lovely bath oil. This is a whole other topic that I’ll research, experiment with and write up on the blog.
Please note that it is not recommended to ingest oils during pregnancy or to use essential oils during the first trimester – for the same reasons we try to minimise medicine use in pregnancy, there isn’t enough data to consider it safe.
 
I’d love to hear your go-to natural pain relief options!
 

For more information:

Hello friend, are you new here? Please come and join my free You vs Fibromyalgia micro course 

Melissa vs fibromyalgia book

Night School: Wake up to the Power of Sleep – A Review

Night SchoolAfter reading The Whole Health Life I have decided to look into specific areas of my health in more depth, one at a time, at the moment it’s insomnia. One book recommended by Shannon Harvey is Night School: Wake up to the Power of Sleep by Richard Wiseman.

The research on sleep is fascinating. Based on answers around when we like to go to bed, get up and do our best work there is a table to sort us into chronotypes – larks or owls, (p41) I’m a “moderate lark”. Apparently larks are more likely to be introverted, logical and reliable while owls are likely to be extroverted, emotionally stable, hedonistic and creative. These would mostly hold true of my husband (an owl) and I.

What is also interesting is that I appear to follow the usual circadian rhythm, my body will start waking up at 7am, peak at 11am, decline to the lowest point by 3, climb and peak again around 7 with my body seeking sleep from 9. So I assume I just have slightly weaker ability to wake and sleep than others, while still following the natural pattern. I’ve filed this away for future follow up!

Another issue of timing is “social jetlag” for example during the week the owls will be tired from getting to work while their body wants to be sleeping. On the weekend (or any night for me!) When my owl of a husband wants to socialise I’m ready for bed. Causing each chronotype to suffer fatigue.

Wiseman references a lot of research. For example, in 2006 it was “estimated that around sixty million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder” (p57) and approximately a third of Americans now get less than seven hours of sleep per night. In a British study more than 30% of participants had insomnia or another serious sleep problem. With this setting the scene, Wiseman goes on to explain what happens when you don’t get enough sleep – spoiler alert, nothing good.

“Belenskys’s study reveals the highly pernicious nature of even a small amount of sleep deprivation. Just a few nights sleeping for seven hours or less and your brain goes into slow motion. To make matters worse you will continue to feel fine and so don’t make allowances for your sluggish mind. Within just a couple of days this level of sleep deprivation transforms you into an accident waiting to happen.” (P67)

After all the bad news around not sleeping enough, Wiseman shares his secrets of super sleep and they include include:

1. Create a bat cave
Dark and silent room, right temperature, safe, only sleep and sex in the bedroom.

2. Set up during the day
Nap right, exercise but not too close to bed time unless it’s gentle yoga, use your brain and energy, know when you’re tired (don’t ignore sleep cues, unless you are tired all day, then don’t ignore your bedtime).

3. Prepare for bedtime
Warm shower/bath, write out your worries, snack right, lavender (unless it gives you a headache!).

4. At bedtime
Counting sheep, happy thoughts, fake a yawn, try to stay awake (reverse psychology on your brain!), set up some sleep cues (I have an eye mask, the dark and gentle pressure on my eyes now cues me to rest).

5. In the night
Get up (unless you physically can’t), don’t panic – apparently we get more sleep than we think, relaxing in bed is good rest and the closest the list comes to recommending meditation is to suggest progressive relaxation (I do a body scan meditation when I wake).

Nothing here is new to me, but it is presented in easily actionable chunks, if you want a list of sleep hygiene to follow, this is a good one. I would add meditation, I can’t nap and even if I do it’s only after a long time of trying and I feel gross afterward. So I meditate. Sometimes, if all the stars align, after a 20-30 minute meditation I’ll nod off for 5-10 minutes and wake up feeling nicely rested (very unusual). I use guided meditation during the day, at bedtime and in the night I do a body scan meditation (I visualise each body part individually relaxing, sometimes I’ll imagine it’s warm and tingly and relaxed, other times I’ll just imagine each part in turn).

Again as I delve into the research around sleep I am flummoxed at the lack of worry the doctors I have come into contact with have shown for my sleep. They should know how desperately humans need it, let alone people with chronic pain and fatigue already. I’ll keep you updated if I find anything useful in my research and experiments.

Love to read?

If you love reading like me try Amazon Kindle Unlimited Membership – you can try your first month free and access unlimited reading or listening on any device! They now have magazines too! It’s also available for those of us who use Amazon.com.au *squee*.

If audio books are more your speed, as they are for me with three little ones, you know you can get a free trial of Audible on Amazon here. I’ve recently started reading a lot more audio books as the hands free option is far easier to access with the wee ones. You will get access to two audio books, plus two Audible Originals, and other cool membership options for 30 days. Cancel anytime if you don’t want the full subscription.

Biofeedback Therapy, Another Tool

If you have read through my blog a little, you will see I have found meditation to be immeasurably useful. Especially in my second pregnancy.Biofeedback Therapy

The thought of furthering my meditation practice was a highly appealing one. In addition, receiving some assistance after doing this (mostly) alone for most of my life, was a nice emotional boost.

Having a tool that can help my body and mind relax so thoroughly has been a lifesaver. I have spent many many hours miserable, exhausted, sore and wishing I could sleep. When Nu was small and I was desperate for sleep, my body still refused to nap. And when I lay down, exhausted, hoping I’d pass out, I’d not only not sleep but become upset that I couldn’t. Now I can lie down for 15, 20, 40 or 45 minutes, depending on the mediation I choose, and feel rested and calm. Sometimes I fall asleep for 10 minutes at the end. This is one tool I seek to utilise every day.

In addition to this, I have found, through biofeedback therapy that I am able to effect my central nervous system through my meditation. As a person with Fibromyalgia, a central nervous system disorder, my parasympathetic nervous system needs some support. The emerging research around heart-rate variability is shedding light on just how important teaching our parasympathetic to activate is.

My two plus years of practice has made a big difference. Through deep breathing, visualisation and meditation I am able to activate my parasympathetic system (rest and digest) which I believe leads to less pain and more energy. I am definitely in a better place than I was prior to beginning my meditation practice.

So when I was offered biofeedback therapy with a health psychologist at the pain clinic after a non-event follow up with a pain specialist, I jumped at the chance.

A biofeedback therapy session involves having a heart-rate monitor placed on your thumb that sends your heart-rate to a laptop. The newer systems have fancy graphs and many things to look at, at it’s simplest, it provides beeps to let you know how high or low your heart-rate is.

In two sessions I tried two types of guided meditations led by the health psychologist and employed deep breathing and visualisation on my own. I was able to conquer the medium setting on the machine (apparently they don’t usually tell people with chronic pain that there are higher settings than low because without practice it can be very difficult).

I do need to practice relaxing my shoulders and neck as my heart-rate obviously kicked up when we got to those parts in the relaxation meditation. This is unsurprising as these parts are tight and sore all day, every day. A physio can make them relax a little through neck tractions and acupuncture needles in key points, heat can help too, but nothing makes them feel nice. So this is my homework, I’ll keep working on visualising and relaxing these body parts.

Biofeedback therapy has provided a useful check in with how my meditation practice is going and provided some areas to work on. I feel so empowered to have a tool that can not only initiate short term relief, but has long term effects (which are only just starting to be researched).

Has anyone else had experience with biofeedback therapy? Does anyone else find meditation to be so helpful?

What Works: A Roundup

I love research and reading about potential treatments for fighting Fibromyalgia. But there are so many options and so many variabilities that it’s hard to have a sense of what may work for me. I have managed to glean a list of what works for me and of things I would like to try. There are also some great blog posts outlining what other chronic illness fighters do. In this post, I wanted to share a few examples.
What Works-
I have written extensively about my experiments, my whole of life change and what I hope to try.
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Essentially, I have found that in order to be well (or the most well I can be) with Fibromyalgia is what any good health guidelines advocate:
  • Sleep as well as you can
  • Exercise gently
  • Eat healthily
  • Rest, meditate, pace
  • Practice safe posture on computers
  • Find your work/life balance
  • Nurture your passions
Donna from February Stars has recently written about what she is doing to counteract her three worst symptoms.
Bonnie Wagner-Stafford from BClear Writing wrote about how clean eating has helped her symptoms, including a serious gut cleanse. On the flip side of that, she posted about the six worst foods for Fibromyalgia.
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Veronique Mead writes about her top 10 Under-Utilized Tools for Treating Chronic Illness, I particularly like #5 Making Room for Resources and Pleasure, and #8 Meditating.
Donna Gregory Birch at Fed Up With Fatigue wrote about her Six Favourite Things For Fibromyalgia Relief (this blog is where I first read about low dose naltrexone, which I’m currently trying).
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Katarina Zulak at Skillfully Well and Painfully Aware wrote the Top 3 Things I Do Every Morning to Manage My Fibromyalgia, the stretches she provides are delicious!
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Hannah Radenkova at Superpooped: Adventures for the Exhausted wrote about her diet for managing ME, including a daily meal plan.
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What are some of the best ways you have found to cope with the myriad of symptoms that come with Fibromyalgia?