To Affirm or Not To Affirm – A Question

lens18041543_1307890912question_mark_purpleSo, after 31 days of affirmations, are you feeling empowered? Reassured? Are you on the way to relinquishing your fears and purging your anger, predicting your own future and living up to your potential?

Or (and be honest) did you find yourself reading the affirmations and feeling all sorts of angry? Feeling forced into positive thinking?

Okay, so it doesn’t work for everybody: it floats some people’s boats and, for others, it has more of a torpedo effect!

Megan Bruneau, from MindBodyGreen, has created a list of reminders (call them whatever you wanna call them), that actually help her live her own best life:

  1. I’m imperfect, like everyone else, and that’s OK. My self-worth is not dependent on an accomplishment, number, or status.

  2. Life is filled with sadness, pain, illness, death, and loss. These are universal human experiences.

  3. Pain is out of my control. Self-compassion is in my control.

  4. I am constantly changing; my world is constantly changing; everything I experience (physical, mental, and emotional) will come and go.

  5. Being perfect is not what connects people. Vulnerability brings us closer together.

  6. If I knew I only had a week to live, I should ask, “what would be important?

  7. There are no “bad” feelings; however, there are unhelpful reactions to difficult feelings. Experiencing uncomfortable feelings doesn’t make something wrong with me, it makes me human.

  8. Playing is not irresponsible; in fact it’s the opposite. Fun is necessary for happiness.

  9. The longest relationship I’ll have in my life is the one with myself. Other people will come and go, but I’ll be with myself from birth until death. The sooner I decide to start being kind to myself, the longer I have to live life supporting rather than undermining myself.

  10. Whatever it is that I’m going through, chances are there are thousands of others going through a similar experience. We’re all in this together.

  11. To ask for help is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it’s actually a sign of strength and courage

  12. What’s the worst that can happen? Consider that question. Then ask: “What do I need to survive that?

  13. Things come together and fall apart, and come together and fall apart again. This is what life is.

  14. There are no objective truths. How I perceive myself and my world is flexible and can change.

  15. Acceptance is not about liking, wanting, or condoning. Acceptance can liberate us.

  16. Humans are resilient beings. I am programmed to heal.

  17. We have the ability to find meaning in our suffering. Sometimes it just takes creativity.

  18. What serves another person might not serve me, and vice versa.

  19. Realistic expectations mitigate unnecessary pain, disappointment, and frustration, and my energy changes from moment to moment. I put 80% in everything I do, sometimes more and sometimes less.

  20. I don’t have to “reach my potential” but I will do my best not to sleepwalk through my life.

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Basically, you need to do whatever it is that works for you. I will NEVER tell you what to do. I WILL try to give you some ideas to try: maybe some things that have worked for me, or even some things that haven’t. I love to hear what you have to say (although it may be difficult in this forum) and I always welcome your input here, on my Facebook page and with articles in LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA.

I hope that you have all found something that is giving you, at least, a little relief this year; and I look forward to discovering new ways to help each other next year.

fibromodem xmas

Too Stress(ed) or Not to Stress (Three)

Channelling Anger into Positive Performance

Anger is an emotion everyone experiences (even those without FM). It can be a normal and healthy emotion that helps you instinctively detect and respond to a threatening situation. When properly channelled, it can be a powerful motivating force. But anger can get out of control…

Anger resides in the liver at a deep cellular level and impedes the balanced function of the liver. It can also lead to high blood pressure and palpitations. Uncontrolled anger can seriously affect your personal and professional life, being incredibly destructive to yourself and the people around you.

Anger is a well-developed coping mechanism we turn to when we feel threatened in some way. It helps us react quickly and decisively in situations where there is no time for a careful, reasoned analysis of the situation and can motivate us to solve problems, achieve goals and remove threats.

So, anger can at times serve a positive purpose but, more frequently, it has a downside.

The Downside of Anger

anger-an-emotion-by-darry-dA negative angry response can damage relationships leading to a loss of respect and self-respect. A common example is when we are quick to anger over a misunderstanding or incorrect perception and this leaves us looking very foolish.

Learning to use anger positively and manage it so that it is constructive and not destructive is the key. Where situations are not immediately life threatening, you need to calm down and evaluate the accuracy of your perceptions before channelling anger in a powerful but controlled way.

Anger management is a process of learning how to ‘calm down’ and diffuse the emotion before it gets to a destructive level. Use creative visualisation to see the person who is making you feel angry as funny and amusing in some way, or to send loving energy towards them. Both these methods help to dispel the intensity of anger being generated by that person to you. On a subtle energy level, your antagonist will ‘pick up’ on what you are visualising – and their anger will diminish.

Similarly, if you are feeling angry, allow yourself to draw upon loving energy from a higher source; let it fill you up completely as you focus on your breathing. All this can be done spontaneously in seconds when you begin to practise the technique any time you feel anger. Otherwise, anger can lead to rage, which, in turn, can evolve into hatred, a toxic emotion which always turns in on the host – you!

People experience anger in many different ways and for many different reasons. What makes you angry may only mildly irritate one of your friends and have little to no effect on another. This subjectivity can make anger difficult to understand and deal with; it focuses the response onto you. So anger management focuses on managing your response, rather than specific external factors. Learning to manage anger enables you to develop techniques to deal with and expel the negative response and emotions before it causes you serious stress.

Despite differences in the level of anger you feel toward something, there are some universal causes of anger:

  • Frustration of your goal
  • Hurt
  • Harassment
  • Personal attack (mental or physical)
  • Threat to people, things or ideas you care about.

All these triggers can be experienced in your daily life at some stage. An appropriate level of anger that is expressed correctly helps you take the right action, solve the problem, or deal with the situation in a positive manner.

When someone has made you feel angry, it is far better to express to them constructively how their actions have made you feel but without blaming them. Constructive communication can be quite empowering if you educate yourself to pause, take a deep breath, consider the situation then express your feeling. It changes the energy between people in an instance.

You are NOT your Illness!

Yesterday, I wrote about Learning to Live With the Loss of YOU and the framework that allows us to live with that loss. I talked about the uncontrollable anger that I am currently experiencing.

Chronic pain has a way of radically changing a person’s life; even those with strong self- esteem and coping skills struggle (yep, even me!). Healthy self-esteem enables us to accept, respect, trust and believe in ourselves. Chronic pain can take that away from us: for some, the most difficult blow comes when you can no longer do things connected to your identity (loss of a job, not being able to participate in sports or hobbies, not being able to spend time with friends); for others, using a cane or walker or having to use a handicapped placard is devastating.

chronic comic 176It’s a vicious cycle. Pain increases negative emotions such as anger and depression (and I’m really NOT looking forward to reaching that stage in the framework!) Anger, supposedly, is a necessary stage of the healing process; and anger has no limits – it can extend to your friends, your doctors, your family, yourself and even to God. Underneath all that anger is pain, YOUR pain…MY pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned; and anger is an anchor, giving you temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. It builds a connection (from you to them). It is something to hold onto…and a connection built from the strength of anger feels better than nothing.

However, an increase in our negative emotions and other added stressors causes an increase in our pain. We’ve all read posts from people who have lost the desire to keep fighting their pain and fear their future. They have trouble asking for help and can even convince themselves that their loved ones would be better off if they were no longer a burden. Pain distorts our overall perception of our life, our contributions and past accomplishments.

But there is good news: a plan of action to help, based on two simple principles.

Care For Yourself

Treat yourself with the same respect you would give others. Get in touch with your needs. What would help and encourage you? Often just being listened to and validated is a powerful first step. Allow time for yourself. Get creative and explore new hobbies and interests that could decrease your pain through distraction.

chronic comic 167Allow yourself to have fun and laugh. Rent a funny movie, walk in the sunshine, take a bubble bath, listen to music, relax and meditate. Find things that are practical, affordable and available to you on a regular basis.

It is normal to get frustrated and to feel like we’ve done something wrong, and we often beat ourselves up because we feel like we should be doing more. That is what Cognitive Behavioral Therapists call this ‘catastrophic thinking.’ We need to challenge our distorted thoughts and learn to be grateful for what we have.

  • Remind yourself that you are worthwhile — you are valuable not because of what you can do but because of who you are
  • Stop comparing yourself to others — don’t let them define you; you control your heart and mind
  • Find new ways to express yourself — you still possess the same qualities; you just need a new way to share them with others
  • Grieve the loss of your “former self;” accept that some things have changed and embrace the ability to create a new vision for your future
  • Make every day meaningful — set S.M.A.R.T. goals that help you move forward

SSpecific: A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:

  • Who:      Who is involved?
  • What:     What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where:    Identify a location.
  • When:     Establish a time frame.
  • Which:    Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why:      Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

EXAMPLE:  A general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a specific goal would say, “Join a health club and workout 3 days a week.”

mMeasurable – Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.

To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as: How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?

aAttainable – When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.

A goal can be both high and attainable; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labour of love. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.

rRelevant– To be relevant, your goals must pertinent. A bank manager’s goal to Make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2:00pm may be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Timely, but lacks Relevance. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered a relevant goal.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
  • Are you the right person?
  • Is this acceptable for correction?

tTimely – A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? ‘Someday’ won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, ‘by May 1st,’ then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

Develop a Support Network

This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Family, friends and faith are the most common relationships we rely on in times of need. Chronic pain touches every aspect of your life which makes it critical to surround ourselves with others who are supportive and understanding of our pain. chronic comic 174Family and friends may not want to hear about your pain and may become uncomfortable being around you and watching you suffer, but it is important to talk about it. Research has shown that family and friends play a tremendous role in helping patients deal with a chronic illness. But sometimes it is difficult for a) you to let those people in, and b) for those people to know what to do help. (You can find some tips for both them and you at Chronic Counsel)

Some healthcare professionals even have trouble listening to and validating chronic pain patients. Learning to be more assertive and planning goals for doctor visits can help. You need to take an active role in your healthcare.

Many find encouragement and resources through their faith to help them see a bigger picture than their daily pain and suffering. Some people want to make a difference in their community. Research shows that when people volunteer and help others, they seem to do better finding meaning and purpose in their own lives. We need to be connected to others — don’t try to fight your pain alone.

To improve your self-esteem and apply these strategies, you need to make yourself a priority and have people in your life who love you unconditionally. Being in a group or seeing a counsellor can help hold you accountable so you don’t give up before seeing the results of your efforts. Your pain does not define you — take control and believe in yourself. You are worth it!

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Another One Bites the Dust

Back in April, I wrote the article that follows. And, despite writing the article myself, it appears that I obviously haven’t been able to identify where I stood within the grief scale.

Guess what? I now know.

How did I reach this epiphany? Well, recently Mommy mentioned (as carefully as possible) that she felt like she was stepping on egg-shells whenever she was around me. Then tonight, a so-called friend and I were texting when he wrote:

Last two texts I’ve got from you have been sarcastic and unnecessary and you think that’s how “friends” talk to one another. You wanna know something about me, I don’t wanna talk to people who are like that.

I answered:

It started because you wouldn’t tell me why you were feeling sorry for yourself…but as I said I’m angry so you needn’t talk to me anymore.

So I sit here on a Friday night, surrounded by all my friends (that is: alone!), as another one bites the dust!

Living With the Loss of You

There are 5 stages that make up the framework that allows us to live with loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. They can also be applied our grief over the loss of our ‘old’ selves.

These tools are not stations on a train line. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Have you been to any of these places? Stuck at one?

As you accept the reality of loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade.

But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface…

People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage like getting on and off a train. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.

Learning to Live With the Loss of YOU

There are 5 stages that make up the framework that allows us to live with loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. They can also be applied our grief over the loss of our ‘old’ selves.

These tools are not stations on a train line. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Have you been to any of these places? Stuck at one?

As you accept the reality of loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade.

But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface…

People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage like getting on and off a train. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.