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Running on Empty

I’ve been running on empty since my pregnancy with Nu.

Thinking that I was fighting Fibromyalgia, I actually engaged in a drawn out raid and burn on my body. Any leeway I made was immediately voided by my overreaching ways.

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Tired… Just tired

There’s no denying it, a family with a mortgage in a big city can’t live on one income forever. So I rushed back to work, not realising how deep the deficit caused by pregnancy and the first year of parenthood was. I thought that “only 20 hours” was a fibro friendly compromise. And I have managed, but at a cost.

My neck has deteriorated to the point that it stops me from obtaining many whole sleep cycle most nights (90 minutes, necessary to reach the deeper sleep state and repair). We’re meant to have about four a night. No pain relief can mute the pain and it’s always tight and stiff.

So, at the conclusion of my work contract, I have chosen to take a break. There are many things I need to do, but I will hopefully have the freedom to rest as well.

Here are the self care practices I plan to engage in:

  • Rest and meditation
  • Pacing
  • Swimming and spa soaks
  • Good, whole food

I’m really hoping I get another appointment with the pain clinic and that they might have something, other than medicines that don’t work or have severe side effects, to help. If I can control my neck, I can sleep. If I could sleep, properly, regularly, the possibilities are endless!

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Giant Meditation Post: Meditation for Chronic Illness

I have been exploring the benefits of meditation for those with chronic illnesses recently. I am curious because Yoga Nidra, a guided meditation, makes a real difference to my day. After a 20 minute session my pain levels can drop to as low as 4/10 and decrease my fatigue levels to a similar place. The effects help me get through the busy evening period with my toddler.
Blue one way traffic sign

It’s not easy to carve out 20 uninterrupted minutes between work and the toddler. But when I see a gap, I snatch it up.

Want more about natural options for fighting fibromyalgia?

Natural Pain Relief: Supplements for Fibromyalgia Pain

Essential Oils for Fibromyalgia

Yoga for Fibromyalgia

A theory about Fibromyalgia, is that the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) may be stuck in overdrive. Meditation promotes a calming of this system, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to activate.

The benefits of meditation are probably due to 20 minutes of:

  • Lying down
  • Using my heatpack on my neck
  • A break from noise
  • Time alone
  • Complete focus on my body, accepting it as it is
  • Not struggling to nap, which I can’t, so using the time calmly and effectively
  • The body’s response to complete relaxation, allowing the sympathetic nervous system to slow down

It is a tool for well being that I keep close, it is something that transcends simple pain/fatigue relief and gives me time to focus on myself as a whole – my san culpa (mantra/goal of practice) is, “I am well; physically, spiritually and emotionally.”

Elaine R. Ferguson, in her book on holistic healing agrees: “Practicing this [mindfulness] meditation affects your mind, brain, body and behavior in ways that promote whole-person health.” P83 Super Healing: Engaging our Mind, Body and Spirit to Create Optimal Health and Well-Being.

And it’s vital that we don’t neglect our spiritual and emotional components of self in the quest for relief from physical issues. I feel there’s a close tie between my emotions and my pain/fatigue levels – fear or sadness have an effect on my sympathetic nervous system, which affects the body physically. So I am researching both body and mind effects on Fibromyalgia.

When you join my newsletter list you will receive access to my free resources which includes a report on Meditation for Fibromyalgia and my You vs Fibromyalgia micro course which includes a section on the central nervous system!

Meditation and Me

It took me a while to appreciate meditation, years, in fact, for me to consider giving up precious reading time for it.

Suddenly, in 2014, I read a book about mindfulness meditation, found a YouTube video of a Yoga Nidra session that I particularly liked (avoiding the spiritual/religious aspects of it) and then I was away running.

I have meditations, body scans and Yoga Nidra of varying lengths that I switch between as I like. I also use the body scan technique most nights to relax into sleep. The focus on the breath is like second nature to fall into.

Funnily enough, when I am more fatigued, I need the short and sweet practices – to avoid falling asleep and feeling groggy and gross when I wake. When I have slightly more energy (and time), I opt for longer ones. My usual best length is 20 minutes.

20 minutes seems to be a good number for me, I respond well to 20 minutes of yoga or Pilates, 20 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of meditation.

For some links to get your practice started see this post:

Fibromyalgia framework central Nervous System Overload How Meditation Helps

Meditation provides true rest for body and mind and I think that is what I so desperately need in my day.


I am so into meditation that I have created a lot of resources about it:

There’s a chapter about it in my book. Please note this is an affiliate link, if you make a purchase using this link I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Your simplest mindfulness practice FB

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Yoga for Fibromyalgia: A Giant Introduction with Links

No Type “yoga for Fibromyalgia” into Google and you will find a wealth of information trails to follow.yoga-20647_640

Countless blogs and articles cover the benefits of yoga, meditation and mindfulness for people with Fibromyalgia.

The crossover of yoga into the Western world has resulted in a more mainstream practice and scientific research backing up what practitioners have known for years.

There’s even research that has found encouraging correlations between regular yoga practice and decreases in pain, fatigue and sleep problems.

The Yoga for Fibromyalgia Podcast Video

The yoga for those with Fibromyalgia is relatively relaxing and breath-focused. Restorative yoga is highly recommended.

A sequence I created with a yoga instructor has given me the basis for regular practice, with modifications for days where I haven’t the energy or pain levels to cope with a full sequence and for days when I feel I can push a little further.

I have some gentle, restorative poses that I enact naturally. Especially legs on a chair and child’s pose.

After more than a decade of learning to live well with Fibromyalgia, perhaps the most valuable learning I possess is the ability to tune in to my body. I am constantly analysing what works, what doesn’t, what’s causing what pain, what helps which body parts.

I bring this into my yoga journey, which has had ebbs and flows over the amount of time I’ve dealt with the pain.

This article is a free downloadable PDF in my Resources page. Sign up here to find it.

The value of yoga for a body with pain and fatigue can be found in:

  • The awareness of what you are doing with your body in each pose, consciously engaging the correct muscles, taking the correct stretch or benefit on offer.
  • The basis of the breath. Breathing is key to yoga and to accessing the parasympathetic nervous system. Even the stretches encourage full use of the breath, offering relaxation benefits to stretches.
  • The invitation to be outside of usual mind chatter. It’s so easy to be lost in the movement, the breath and the experience of the pose.
  • The gentle strengthening. A favoured pose, Downward Facing Dog utilises all the key muscle groups.
  • The ease of fitting practice in. Some days it can be 20 minutes on the mat, engaged in a flowing sequence. Others it can be a few key stretches in snippets of minutes. On yet others it can be one restorative pose for 10 minutes. Corpse pose can be used when sleep is being elusive, with or without a body scan relaxation.

The practice of yoga includes many options and I definitely make use of the tools it offers.

Other posts you might like

Some yoga tools:

Yoga for fibromyalgia my experience research with podcast video

I have been trying to fit Yoga Nidra in more often. I have been struggling with sleep for various reasons and my son has been getting up early and I believe the 20 minute sessions I manage to fit in really help. The other day my fatigue levels were around 5/10 for the rest of the afternoon! Here’s the YouTube video I’ve been using.

My ideal yoga practice would look like this:
Sun salutations first thing, gentle yogic stretches at work, yoga nidra after work and legs on the chair pose in the evening. Or any one of these in a day. I never do all of them.

Perhaps one of the best parts of yoga for Fibromyalgia, is that you can fine tune it to your experience, your day, your mood. If the fatigue is bad and post exertion malaise has been plaguing you, you can choose a few poses and take breaks. If a particular body part has been upset, you can gently stretch all the muscles around it to free it up. If you’re desperate for a break from your mind and it’s constant noise, you can do Yoga Nidra and let the voice take over for a time.

Has anyone else found benefit from yoga practice or parts of it?


I’m so into yoga for Fibromyalgia that I have created a lot of resources about it:

sign up to newsletter

It’s a free report in my Resources page.

It’s a chapter in my book Melissa vs Fibromyalgia

 

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Tensions, Accepting Life as it is

The tension of chronic illness, aside from any symptoms, is the desire to fight it and the need to accept it.

I’ve been reading Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman.

It has been a breath of fresh air.

Freeman speaks of fighting the city builder within and nurturing the bench sitter instead. The bench sitter is the one who sits in the moment. Who sits with others in their moments, a witness, not a fixer. Who allows themselves to process their own moments.

Frequently I’ve had to combat my runaway desire for achievement, to reorient myself to what success means for me.

More recently my challenge is to accept things as they are. Accept my body as and where it is. Accept the day as it is. Not to stress over it.

The yoga instructor who helped me to create a sequence reminded me of it, accept your body where it is. (Not where it used to be).

I’ve been trying to take stock of my actions and reactions. Just notice.

And to increase my time to relax and release.

No Tiny Mission here, just an attitude adjustment and a commitment to take all practicable steps to reduce stress in my life. And to try to be more accepting.

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Panicker

I lost sight of the mission.

I do that. Often. I get buried by fatigue and pain and then spiral into a steadily descending panicky chaos.

Hi, I’m Melissa and I am a panicker. Before I even realise I’ve gone into survival mode, before I’ve realised the pain and/or fatigue have ramped up so much. I panic.

After two weeks of barely surviving – new job, bad cold, baby’s first birthday party, baby spurting more teeth (and still not on daylight saving time) and husband on night shift, I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself. The negativity spiralled with the fatigue.

I ended up crying on the shower floor. And then analysing things relentlessly.

Now I’m back.

I’ve remembered why I’m doing this. Why I’m trying to make this job work. What my goals are. What my mission is (to live, love and be well despite the fibromyalgia – this prong is to have a meaningful part-time career).

Some things you could do, once you realise you’re in the spiral:
-Ask for help
-Meditate
-Go to bed
-Keep track of what you’re mission is and a list of what makes you happy.
-Keep putting one step in front of the other.

I’m not sure this situation is going to work for me and my family, but I’m able to think more clearly now that I’ve identified my spiral.

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The Case for Meditation

I feel like it always comes back to stress, to my body’s extreme “fight or flight” reactions.
When I’m observing myself, I notice it. The increase in heartrate, that feeling in your stomach, the general all over heat. Sometimes it happens for very mild reasons. Other times, stressful things occur and I’m excellent in the moment and freak out after. I’m freakishly calm in some situations that I would expect anxiety.

When I’m reading/researching about fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue/ME etc. Stress comes up frequently.

Meditation is supposed to help. Breathing. Resting. Things which I am not good at, unless you include reading in your definition of rest (some fibro/CFS experts do, some don’t).

Meditation, in the small form that I did it, after a practice, disappeared with said practice. It’s bliss to do full body relaxation after a good yoga workout. But the post exertion malaise is at it’s worst after yoga, since I had my baby, so I can only do portions of the routine.

the art of stillness

“Testing many others who had meditated for ten thousand hours or more and many who had not, [they] felt obliged to conclude that those who had sat still for years had achieved a level of happiness that was, quite literally, off the charts, unseen before in neurological literature.” (P.25) The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, Pico Iyer.

Iyer goes on to mention that some employees at a giant healthcare company experienced a reduction in stress, by a third, after an hour of yoga a week! (P.45)

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.
In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” (P.66)

And this resonates with me, deeply. To go slow, to sit still, to pay attention.
So, I can’t keep ignoring it. When something keeps smacking you in the face, you should probably listen.
Some articles for encouragement/guidance:
Why Meditation is a Powerful Medicine 

I began small with a Tiny Mission to do Total Relaxation Pose every day, and fell in love, although I have not been very diligent lately. I plan to bring myself back towards it with another Tiny Mission – to do child’s pose every evening.

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10 Nice Minutes with a Chronic Illness

I’m a fan of having a moment of nice in an otherwise tough day. My moment of nice is usually a good espresso, that jolt only caffeine can give me that lasts a fleeting 10 minutes, if I’m lucky.

I’ve had a liberating thought. What if we reclaim our days, what if we add as many “10 nice minutes” as possible?

10 nice minutes with chronic illness with cup and flowers

Here’s a list of the things we could do in 10 good minutes:

  1. Read (book nerd alert, always number one if my brain is not super fogged)
  2. Meditate
  3. Have a cup of tea or coffee and savour it
  4. A hot shower
  5. Lie down with a heat pack
  6. Lie down with a heat pack and a book
  7. Skype a dear friend or sister
  8. Eat a cupcake, or other deliciously good piece of food, savour it!
  9. Lie down with your legs up on a couch (yoga pose for calm)
  10. Watch half of a funny sitcom, or the whole thing and make it 20 good minutes!
  11. Sit in the sun
  12. Sit in the sun with a book
  13. Pray The Serenity Prayer with sincerity and meaning
  14. Read some good, inspiring blog posts that you’ve saved somewhere (like Pocket or Evernote)
  15. Give yourself a good foot rub (bonus with some lavender essential oil and coconut oil)
  16. Give yourself a good neck and shoulder massage with a heating cream
  17. Stretch, gently and mindfully
  18. Read a beautiful poem and just soak it up (I love Desiderata)
  19. Have a snuggle with your dog/cat/fluffy creature
  20. Have a snuggle with your baby, if you have one and they let you!
  21. Some form of intimacy with your significant other
  22. Breathe, deeply and mindfully
  23. Make your art (journal, write, colour, draw, imagine…)
  24. Write a “thankful list” for future reference
As you can see, for me, a lot of things revolve around reading, but that’s because it’s a big passion of mine.

Do you have more to add to the list?

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Beat Fatigue with Yoga: Book

In a crazy confluence of signs I keep coming across the idea to meditate. My new doctor Beat fatigue with yougasuggested it, it is in the research, it is recommended by a few new websites I have found and I have recently found Beat Fatigue with Yoga by Fiona Agombar.

This book begins by explaining what causes fatigue, goes into an introduction to yoga and the “eight limbs”, provides many yoga poses for practice and concludes with suggested routines according to the level of fatigue. Agombar’s own story is included at the end, she writes of her struggle with ME/CFS and how she used yoga to be well.

In seeing the recommendations for those with “moderate CFS” I have come to realise that I had been attempting too strenuous a yoga routine for my new state. I have had to admit that during pregnancy, and even now, I have to consider my CFS more moderate than mild. This irks me, but gives me a good place to build on for my yoga work.

I don’t buy into the spiritual aspect of yoga. But I do, wholeheartedly, get the idea of bodily balance, chemical upheaval and the natural rhythm of the body. Having an overactive nervous system, yoga calms me. My body tends to react positively to the physical poses and, pre pregnancy, I was pleased with how far I had advanced in my practice.

Because of this book, I decided that my second Tiny Mission (which I will write about as I see results) would be to do Total Relaxation Pose daily as a gateway to meditation. For about three days, I did this faithfully, on the fourth day I forgot and on the fifth I went a step further and did a guided relaxation for 15 minutes. It was bliss! I felt so nice afterwards! It is my hope that I shall build relaxation/meditation into my daily routine.

This book seems to be a great introduction to doing yoga for those with fatigue issues, I’d recommend it as a nice place to start because yoga can be adapted for most people, but it is great to be written by someone who understands CFS and post exertional malaise.

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Experiment – Total Relaxation Pose or How I Accidentally Fell In love with Meditation

This is an older post that shares how I accidentally fell in love with meditation which became a foundational aspect to my healing.


Since the the seismic shift of moving cities to take on a 3/4 time role, I have taken tiny steps to improve my life.

Now that I’m seriously pursuing the next stage of my mission to reduce my fibro/CFS symptoms, and in order to track what makes a difference and to fit it into a busy life, I’m going to try some experiments.

In mid-January I added D-Ribose powder to my morning and evening routine, when I take magnesium.

 How I Accidentally fell in love with meditation

As of the last week of January, I added total relaxation pose (aka corpse pose) for 10 minutes a day as a gentle introduction to meditation, and a gentle reintroduction to yoga.

For the first three days I did this faithfully. On the fourth day I forgot. On the fifth, I jumped right in and did a 15 minute guided relaxation called Yoga Nidra, it was bliss! I noted, as I walked the dog about an hour afterward, that my neck felt “nice” (meaning, the absence of pain). It didn’t last very long, but I liked it.

I then found Yoga Nidra free downloads with longer sessions. So I have a 50 minute, a 40 minute, a 15 minute one and a new mother’s one from a CD.

Having the meditation to look forward to has helped me cope with the day much better. I haven’t noticed a difference in energy levels, but it is nice to have something to look forward to when all I want to do is sleep (I can’t nap due to the medicine I take to help me sleep at night). Having my body in total rest for that time and for my brain to be switched off is a nice reprieve from myself.

Now that I have started I don’t know how I haven’t always done it!


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