Dance Like No One is Watching

Belly dance (also known as Middle Eastern dance, Danse Orientale, Raqs Sharki, Ciftetelli, Rakkase, Danse du Ventre) is a celebration of a woman’s body.  It is a unique style of world dance that intertwines improvisation originating from ancient folk and gypsy movements with trained professional choreography originating in the harems.

There is no definite origin of belly dance, but one can see traditional associations with many fertility rituals of the ancient world and the dances in the ancient Indian temples. The fertility rituals were meant to celebrate the reproductive aspects of life, both human and in nature. The movements developed into being used by female only groups for strengthening muscles and spirit for birthing. In this sense, the dance was seen as a private, sacred art. The undulating movements strengthen muscles and breathing techniques, making it easier to control your body.

The common people and travelling gypsy groups later performed belly dance movements on the street (the higher class did not dance in public). Eventually this moved into the harems, where beautiful slaves and dancing-girls learned to entertain their host.

With harem girls began sophisticated dance and music training, incorporating choreography and “props”, and the dance was also taught to the higher-class female family members, who also lived and were educated in the harems.

So, it’s kinda weird that it was researchers from Brazil who found that, after beginning a belly dance program, FM sufferers reported reduced pain and improved functional capacity, quality of life and self-image.

Researchers studied 80 women with FM who were randomly assigned to either a dance group or control group. The dance group participated in 1-hour belly dance classes twice a week for 16 weeks, with movements involving the upper limbs, scapular girdle, trunk and hips. A masked physiotherapist evaluated pain assessment, functional capacity, quality of life, depression, anxiety and self-image at the beginning, 16 weeks and 32 weeks.

The dancing FMers significantly improved from baseline to 32 weeks in pain, emotional aspects and mental health scales.

Health benefits of Belly Dancing (not just for FM sufferers)

  • Stress reduction

Belly dancing requires tremendous relaxation and concentration, as you must focus on isolating various parts of your body. The flowing movements of belly dance help to calm and soothe the mind. The repetitive movements of the dance and the concentration needed to do them can help a mind filled with daily stress to “let go” for a while and relax. It’s hard to worry about deadlines at work when you are thinking about getting that next drop just right, or while making sure that you are in time with the music.

One effect of stress is that our bodies tense up, causing contractions or spasms in muscle groups, such as those in the neck, shoulders, or back. Belly dance, on the other hand, gently stretches and uses these vulnerable muscle groups, and as they are utilized, blood flow increases and lactic acid is flushed away. Stressed muscles relax as they are gently exercised, relieving the “clenched” muscles often seen in FM sufferers. The body becomes supple and limber, and practitioners frequently report that pain diminishes in the back and neck areas.

  • Fitness and Muscle Building

Belly dancing is vigorous and will make you break a sweat. The fast movements of the hips and shoulders are enough to really get your heart pumping, offering tremendous cardiovascular benefits. When performed as exercise, belly dancing can be compared to any other aerobic workout.

Belly dancing is also a wonderful way to strengthen the major muscles of your body. When performed correctly, belly dancing can also stretch and release tension in the back. Because it is a low-impact form of exercise, belly dancing won’t jolt or jar your body.

  • Weight loss

Belly dancing can have a positive impact on your weight, improving your self-image. If performed regularly, belly dancing can actually encourage weight loss, as it burns calories as well as increases your metabolic rate. According to Dr. Carolle Jean-Murat, M.D., belly dance can burn up to 300 calories per hour. This estimate will vary, of course, depending on the intensity of your dancing.

Belly dancers come in a variety of body types and sizes. Belly dancing will make you more aware of your posture, grace, body language and facial expressions, all helping to improve your self-image. If you attend a belly dancing class, you will probably see several different sizes of bodies, all just as beautiful as the others.

  • An Internal Massage

Belly dancing can be very beneficial to the health of your internal organs. It is sometimes said that belly dancing was developed as a way to prepare the body for childbirth. Since belly dancing centres around controlling the muscles of the abdomen, it may make carrying and delivering a baby easier on your body. For women who desire natural childbirth, this form of exercise through dance, with its emphasis on muscle control not only facilitates natural childbirth, but also makes an excellent post-natal exercise that helps encourage abdominal tone.

Also, many women notice that belly dancing helps to relieve menstrual cramping.

Belly dance seems like a fun, healthy way to exercise. As we are continually being told, exercise is important in the treatment of FM. The Brazilian researchers concluded, “Patient education regarding how to initiate and continue exercise is crucial to the success of treatment. … Belly dance leads to improvement in pain, sleep pattern, functional capacity and self-image in patients with fibromyalgia. [It is] a safe, effective therapeutic strategy for women with fibromyalgia.” It can be a creative outlet that conditions, tones, and allows a woman to tune into the natural movements of her body. It can refresh, relax, and/or exhilarate. So why wait?

Caution: Many doctors have suggested belly dancing classes as part of rehabilitation from injury; it is, however, important to check with your own medical provider before starting any new form of exercise.

 

International Day of Yoga

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Yoga is a 5,000-year-old physical, mental and spiritual practice, with its origin in India, which aims to transform both body and mind.

international-yoga-day-logo-300x429On December 11 in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. The declaration came after the call for the adoption of 21 June as International Day of Yoga by Honourable Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 wherein he stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” In suggesting June 21, which is the Summer Solstice, as the International Day of Yoga, Mr. Narendra Modi had said that, “the date is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world.”

Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru notes the importance of this day in the yogic tradition: “On the day of the summer solstice, Adiyogi [the first yogi] turned south and first set his eyes on the Saptarishis or Seven Sages, who were his first disciples to carry the science of yoga to many parts of the world. It is wonderful that June 21 marks this momentous event in the history of humanity.”

FYI: 175 nations, including USA, Canada and China co-sponsored the resolution. It had the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA Resolution of such a nature.

95. yogaWhat better reason to do you need to give yoga a try? Tomorrow?

As most of us know (whether we do it or not!), exercise is an important part of managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Staying physically active can relieve pain, stress, and anxiety. The key is to start slowly. Begin with stretching and low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming or other water exercises, or bicycling. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as yoga can also be helpful. (Remember: prior to starting any exercise routine, or if you want to increase the intensity of your exercise, talk with your doctor.)

Now, yoga isn’t for everyone but exercise is! So why is exercise important for fibromyalgia?

  • Studies show that exercise helps restore the body’s neuro-chemical balance and triggers a positive emotional state. Not only does regular exercise slow down the heart-racing adrenaline associated with stress, but it also boosts levels of natural endorphins. Endorphins help to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.
  • Exercise acts as nature’s tranquilizer by helping to boost serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that scientists have found to be related to fibromyalgia. While only a small percentage of all serotonin is located in the brain, this neurotransmitter is believed to play a vital role in mediating moods. For those who feel stressed out frequently, exercise will help to desensitize your body to stress, as an increased level of serotonin in the brain is associated with a calming, anxiety-reducing effect. In some cases it’s also associated with drowsiness. A stable serotonin level in the brain is associated with a positive mood state or feeling good over a period of time. Lack of exercise and inactivity can aggravate low serotonin levels.
  • A study, at the Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, D.C., suggests that exercise may improve memory in women with FM. Decreased brain activity, due to aerobic exercise, suggests that the brain is working more efficiently. The researchers suggest that one of the benefits of exercise for fibromyalgia patients is that it may streamline brain functioning. It may help free up brain resources involved in perceiving pain and improve its ability to hold on to new information. The findings may help explain why regular exercise decreases pain and tenderness and improves brain function in people with fibromyalgia. (These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.)

What Are Other Benefits of Exercise for Those With Fibromyalgia?

chronic comic 163Regular exercise benefits people with fibromyalgia by doing the following:

  • burning calories and making weight control easier
  • giving range-of-motion to painful muscles and joints
  • improving a person’s outlook on life
  • improving quality of sleep
  • improving one’s sense of well-being
  • increasing aerobic capacity
  • improving cardiovascular health
  • increasing energy
  • placing the responsibility of healing in the hands of the patient
  • reducing anxiety levels and depression
  • relieving stress associated with a chronic disease
  • stimulating growth hormone secretion
  • stimulating the secretion of endorphins or “happy hormones”
  • strengthening bones
  • strengthening muscles
  • relieving pain

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Did the Earth Move for You, Too?

According to recent study findings by Anthony S. Kaleth, PhD, associate professor at the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, whole-body vibration exercise effectively reduced the severity of pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

146. best exerciseBUT it is not entirely clear whether these improvements were the result of added vibration or just the effects of being more active.

24 women with FM were randomly assigned to either 8 weeks of twice-weekly, lower-body, progressive-resistance exercise with whole-body vibration or an attention control group. Whole-body vibration involved patients standing, sitting or laying on a vibrating platform to induce alternating muscle contraction and relaxation.

Patients were assessed at baseline and at 8-week follow-up for fibromyalgia-related physical function, pain severity and muscle strength.

The researchers found a significant improvement in pain severity among patients in the whole-body vibration group compared with controls, but the magnitude of muscular strength improvement was not different between groups.

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Social Isolation…or Hibernation?

hibernationI’m hibernating…yes, it’s Winter in Australia. I don’t want to leave the house (not even to step outside to get the mail) and I just want to sit quietly, alone, on my couch.

Avoiding social contact is a common pattern you might notice when falling into depression. Some people skip activities they normally enjoy and isolate themselves from the world. Others turn to alcohol or junk food to mask their pain and unhappiness. I do both.

I’m doing it all at the moment…BUT I don’t feel depressed (I think!) I just want to stop for a little bit – I don’t want to fight at the moment, I don’t want to search for answers at the moment.

So, maybe I am depressed? I just can’t tell anymore.

Depression traps vary from person to person, but what they have in common is that they can serve to worsen your mood:

Trap #1: Social Withdrawal

isolationSocial withdrawal is the most common tell-tale sign of depression.

“When we’re clinically depressed, there’s a very strong urge to pull away from others and to shut down,” says Stephen Ilardi, PhD, author of books including The Depression Cure and associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas. “It turns out to be the exact opposite of what we need.”

“In depression, social isolation typically serves to worsen the illness and how we feel,” Ilardi says. “Social withdrawal amplifies the brain’s stress response. Social contact helps put the brakes on it.”

The Fix: Gradually counter-act social withdrawal by reaching out to your friends and family. Make a list of the people in your life you want to reconnect with and start by scheduling an activity.

Trap #2: Rumination

A major component of depression is rumination, which involves dwelling and brooding about themes like loss and failure that cause you to feel worse about yourself.

Rumination is a toxic process that leads to negative self-talk such as, “It’s my own fault. Who would ever want me a friend?”

“There’s a saying, ‘When you’re in your own mind, you’re in enemy territory,'” says Mark Goulston, MD, psychiatrist and author of Get Out of Your Own Way. “You leave yourself open to those thoughts and the danger is believing them.”

“When people are clinically depressed, they will typically spend a lot of time and energy rehearsing negative thoughts, often for long stretches of time,” Ilardi says.

The Fix: Redirect your attention to a more absorbing activity, like a social engagement or reading a book.

Trap #3: Self-Medicating With Alcohol

cocktailsTurning to alcohol or drugs to escape your woes is a pattern that can accompany depression, and it usually causes your depression to get worse.

Alcohol can sometimes relieve a little anxiety, especially social anxiety, but it has a depressing effect on the central nervous system, Goulston says. Plus, it can screw up your sleep.

“It’s like a lot of things that we do to cope with feeling bad,” he says. “They often make us feel better momentary, but in the long run, they hurt us.”

The Fix: Talk to your doctor if you notice that your drinking habits are making you feel worse. Alcohol can interfere with antidepressants and anxiety medications.

Trap #4: Skipping Exercise

If you’re the type of person who likes to go the gym regularly, dropping a series of workouts could signal that something’s amiss in your life. The same goes for passing on activities – such as swimming, yoga, or hydrotherapy – that you once enjoyed.

When you’re depressed, it’s unlikely that you’ll keep up with a regular exercise program, even though that may be just what the doctor ordered.

Exercise can be enormously therapeutic and beneficial, Ilardi says. Exercise has a powerful antidepressant effect because it boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that often ebb when you’re depressed.

“It’s a paradoxical situation,” Ilardi says. “Your body is capable of physical activity. The problem is your brain is not capable of initiating and getting you to do it.”

The Fix: Ilardi recommends finding someone you can trust to help you initiate exercise — a personal trainer, coach, or even a loved one. “It has to be someone who gets it, who is not going to nag you, but actually give you that prompting and encouragement and accountability,” Ilardi says.

Trap #5: Seeking Sugar Highs

When you’re feeling down, you may find yourself craving sweets or junk food high in carbs and sugar.

Sugar does have mild mood-elevating properties, says Ilardi, but it’s only temporary. Within two hours, blood glucose levels crash, which has a mood-depressing effect.

The Fix: Avoid sugar highs and the inevitable post-sugar crash. It’s always wise to eat healthfully, but now more than ever, your mood can’t afford to take the hit.

Trap #6: Negative Thinking

NTWhen you’re depressed, you’re prone to negative thinking and talking yourself out of trying new things.

You might say to yourself, “Well, even if I did A, B, and C, it probably wouldn’t make me feel any better and it would be a real hassle, so why bother trying at all?”

“That’s a huge trap,” says Goulston. “If you race ahead and anticipate a negative result, which then causes you to stop trying at all, that is something that will rapidly accelerate your depression and deepen it.”

The Fix: Don’t get too attached to grim expectations. “You have more control over doing and not doing, than you have over what the result of actions will be,” Goulston says. “But there is a much greater chance that if you do, then those results will be positive.”

 

Spreading Your Eggs…

The most consistent treatment advice that all the experts in FM try to promote is a multi-faceted comprehensive treatment approach. do_not_put_all_your_eggs_in_one_basketThose who have followed this blog for a while know that I have always promoted this advice: this means NOT putting all your eggs in one basket…

Over time, you can validate what works best to alleviate your pain. A number of lifestyle changes and other treatment methods can have a cumulative positive effect on the pain you experience.

Here is a list of some commonly used treatment options:

  1. Conventional medicines — Your doctor will work with you to discover what prescription medicines may work best for you. Options are many including pain and antidepressant medicines.
  2. Nutrition and diet — Some researchers believe that the foods you eat can affect FM symptoms.
  3. Dietary Supplements — Vitamins and minerals play important roles in health and maintenance of the body.
  4. Exercise — Exercise helps relieve joint stiffness and can help alleviate some of the pain as well. Short workouts have been proven to help many of us. Pain may initially increase, but then gradually decreases. Hydrotherapytai-chi and yoga are excellent forms of exercise. These forms of exercise incorporate relaxation and meditation techniques. Deep breathing and slow movement will reduce your stress level and increase your fitness.
  5. Physiotherapy — A physiotherapist can help you with stretching and good posture. Stretching will reduce joint and muscle stiffness. This therapist can also  help you with relaxation techniques, another powerful FM treatment option.
  6. Relaxation therapy — Stress aggravates FM. Reducing stress will provide you with a more restful sleep, improving symptoms.
  7. Massage therapy — This is another great relaxation technique.
  8. 270. aspirinOver-the-counter drugs — You will need to work with your doctor. Always talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications you plan to take.
  9. Herbal remedies — Many herbs have medicinal healing powers. Again, you must talk to your doctor when using herbal remedies
  10. Chinese medicine — Consider exploring Chinese medicine which places great emphasis on herbal remedies and incorporates life energy healing techniques.
  11. Homeopathy — Visit a homeopathic specialist. They specialize in natural remedies to illnesses.
  12. Acupuncture — Modern adherents of acupuncture believe that it affects blood flow and the way the brain processes pain signals. Studies have shown this may be effective for FM.
  13. Chiropractic care—Chiropractors specialize in spinal problems, which can be a major source of pain for some people.

Your odds of gaining a significant reduction in symptoms, and improving your quality of life through a combination of many different treatment options, is pretty good…if you get the right combination.

There are thousands of different options and combinations of options. What works best?

Somehow you have to record all the treatments you are trying, how you feel on a particular, what happens when you add a new modal. It’s not easy…I can’t even keep track and that’s part of the reason I started this blog…you forget that you took that extra pain-killer because your head was killing you on Wednesday, or that you missed your hydrotherapy session because your stomach was acting up.

That really is the great challenge with fighting Fibro – the BEST combination of treatments will be different for each individual. (Isn’t that the bit that sucks the most? Hearing that everyone is different?)

We need to remember that we (YOU) are the centre point of treatment, by focusing on treatments that match our own lifestyles, abilities, symptoms and resources. The problem is that a personalized treatment approach to FM relief cannot be developed without a firm understanding of the symptoms and co-morbid conditions that require treatment (and I’ve been trying to research it all for over a year…and I keep finding new symptoms!).

We must also establish a trustworthy support team to assist us in pursuing not only all the different treatment options, but the execution of the treatments chosen. Effective teams typically include the patient’s primary care physician, various specialists (e.g., rheumatologists, neurologists, dietitians, psychologists), as well as friends, family, and even members of fibromyalgia support groups.

And finally (if all of that was not enough), specific and achievable goals must be set in order to measure the effects of EVERYTHING!

Weighing-up-the-benefits-with-the-risks-of-virtualisation

It is vitally important to constantly and consistently observe and evaluate the treatment methods being used. Through this whole process, we get frustrated over and over again! Our reality is an ongoing trial-and-error approach to treatment. AAARGGGGHHHH!

However, it is crucial to treatment success and must be embraced as a necessary evil.

When trying to determine a personalized course of treatment, we need to forget the agendas of physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and other external entities. Our decisions need to be driven by both symptoms and causal factors. Examples of important questions to ask during this process include:

  • What symptom do I want to address?
  • How will this particular treatment impact that symptom?
  • What are the potential side effects of this treatment?
  • Does this treatment have the potential to interact with other treatments I am using?
  • What will this treatment cost?
  • What are my expected results and in what time frame should I anticipate to note results?

Throughout this process, it is important to remember that successful relief is highly individualized (again!) and will vary between patients. What appears to be a miraculous treatment for me may fail to provide any benefit to you.

This whole process takes more time (yes! most of us have had to wait years for a diagnosis and now we have to take more time!).

A trial and error evaluation process is most effective when employed in a scientific manner meaning that different treatment elements should often be tested in isolation. I know that when I read about CoQ10 and D-Ribose and Sam-E, I started taking them all at the same time. I am now no longer able to tell which supplement or combination of supplements is actually driving the results they may experience. It is impossible to accurately measure specific results to associate with any individual option, so I need to start again…again!

If you’d like to see iHerb’s selection of supplements, click here. Use Coupon Code LHJ194 to get $10 off any first time order over $40 or $5 off any first time order under $40.

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Don’t Give Fibromyalgia the Upper Hand!

Upping Your Exercise Routine

As we know, previous studies have found short-term benefits of exercise for FM. But many of us fail to keep up with exercise programs out of fear that it will worsen pain.

According to a new study, for those who are able, exercising once or twice more weekly (that is: more than you are already doing) may alleviate some of the symptoms.

hydrobicsPatients received individualized exercise prescriptions and completed baseline and follow-up physical activity assessments, to evaluate the relationship between long-term maintenance of moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and clinical outcomes in FM. MVPA (in this study) was considered to be an increase 10 or more metabolic equivalent hours per week above usual activities  Outcomes included improvements in overall well-being, pain severity ratings, and depression.

“This study shows that if they’re able to stay with the exercise program in the long term it actually is helpful to them,” said Matteson, chair of the department of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Although sustained physical activity was not associated with greater clinical benefit compared to unsustained physical activity, these findings also suggest that performing greater volumes of physical activity is not associated with worsening pain in FM. Future research is needed to determine the relationship between sustained MVPA participation and subsequent improvement in patient outcomes.

“One of the best known therapeutic activities for fibromyalgia patients is exercise,” said Anthony Kaleth, who specializes in exercise testing at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our study confirmed that result.”

physical-activity_240Any increase in activity, whether or not it was maintained, resulted in positive changes in symptoms and no increased pain, according to the findings in Arthritis Care and Research.

If they had followed the participants for a longer period of time, they might have seen more benefits for people who maintained the program, Kaleth said.

Most people use a combination of medications, including pain relievers, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs to alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms. Doctors also recommend keeping active with walking, swimming or water aerobics, but many patients are reluctant to start exercising.

“They’re more worried that it’s going to be painful, but that’s more of a psychological effect,” Kaleth said.

physical_activity_web(1)Starting off too vigorously before building up endurance can be painful for anyone, with or without fibromyalgia, Dr. Eric Matteson, chair of the department of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said.

“This is a stepping stone I think in terms of the actual result that we found,” Kaleth said.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, or money. (We would still have FM if we were rich!) Rather, it comes from within. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.

Easier said than done, right? Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your wellbeing, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress – something we definitely do not need more of! Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that most of us seem to need more of. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge. Yes, we have a lot of challenges in our lives – but together we can meet them.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.

There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

5. Dream big.

People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.

Being nice feels better than being mean. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they learn and proactively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.

Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savour the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the (purple) roses.

10. Avoid social comparison.

Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? My father used to quote Desiderata* to me: If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter…If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

11. Choose friends wisely.

Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

12. Never seek approval from others.

Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it is impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

13. Take the time to listen.

Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

14. Nurture social relationships.

A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Yes, it can be harder for us than others; but, try to take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

15. Meditate.

Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a zen master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

16. Eat well.

Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

17. Exercise.

Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. So just think how good you will feel if you’re taking your anti-depressants AND exercising! Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

18. Tell the truth.

Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikeable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

19. Establish personal control.

Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth. Be your own advocate. Figure out what really works for YOU. Learn how to manage YOUR own FM. There are on-line tools (such as FibroTrack) that can help you work out a structured plan and let you regain control!

20. Accept what cannot be changed.

Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

 

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

There Ain’t No Magic Pill

“There’s no magic pill…to fix their fibromyalgia,” says Mark J. Pellegrino, MD, of Ohio Pain and Rehabilitation Specialists and author of 13 books on fibromyalgia. “A balanced approach is important.”

And many experts agree the best treatment for fibromyalgia is a multifaceted approach that combines medication with lifestyle changes and alternative treatments.

But what about if you’re new to all of this? Where do you even start?

A treatment plan gives structure to getting from here to there. Be realistic and (yes, you’re already probably sick of hearing this already) small steps! A treatment plan is different from devising goals because of its flexibility and internal exploration. In most clinical settings, a treatment plan review is done quarterly or even monthly. After each review, the plan is rewritten to meet current needs.

Start With a Diagnosis

There are no lab tests for fibromyalgia. Doctors diagnose it by considering criteria such as how long you’ve had pain and how widespread it is, and by ruling out other causes. This can be a long and complicated process because the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can be caused by other conditions. So it’s best to see a doctor who is familiar with fibromyalgia – which can be easier said than done, sometimes!

Learn About Fibromyalgia Medications – You are YOUR Best Advocate!

Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your doctor will talk to you about treatment options. Several types of medicines are used to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and fatigue.

Three medications are FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine): a type of antidepressant called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Researchers aren’t sure how Cymbalta works in fibromyalgia, but they think that increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine help control and reduce feelings of pain.
  • Lyrica (pregabalin): Lyrica is a nerve pain and epilepsy drug. In people with fibromyalgia, it may help calm down overly sensitive nerve cells that send pain signals throughout the body. It has been effective in treating fibro pain.
  • Savella (milnacipran): Savella is also an SNRI. While researchers aren’t exactly sure how it works, studies have shown that it helps relieve pain and reduce fatigue in people with fibromyalgia.

Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed to help people manage fibromyalgia symptoms:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants. By helping increase levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, these medications may help relax painful muscles and enhance the body’s natural painkillers.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Your doctor may prescribe one of these types of antidepressants by itself or in combination with a tricyclic antidepressant. SSRIs prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain. This may help ease pain and fatigue.

These medications are also sometimes prescribed for fibromyalgia:

  • Local anesthetics. Injected into especially tender areas, anesthetics can provide some temporary relief, usually for no longer than three months.
  • Anticonvulsants or seizure medications such as Neurontin are effective for reducing pain and anxiety. It is unclear how these medications work to relieve the symptoms in fibromyalgia.
  • Muscle Relaxants are occasionally prescribed to help alleviate pain associate with muscle strain in those with fibromyalgia.

Stay Active

Exercise is an important part of managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Staying physically active can relieve pain, stress, and anxiety.

The key is to start slowly. Begin with stretching and low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming or other water exercises, or bicycling. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates can also be helpful. Prior to starting any exercise routine, or if you want to increase the intensity of your exercise, talk with your doctor.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help you get control of your illness by focusing on what you can do to improve your situation, rather than on your chronic symptoms.

A physical therapist can show you how to get temporary relief from fibromyalgia pain and stiffness, get stronger, and improve your range of motion. And she can help you make little changes, such as practicing good posture, that help prevent painful flare-ups.

Alternative Therapies

A number of popular fibromyalgia treatments fall outside the realm of mainstream medicine. In general, there hasn’t been extensive research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but anecdotal evidence suggests that some may work. Always talk with your doctor before starting any alternative treatment.

Popular alternative treatments include:

  • Acupuncture. This ancient healing practice aims to increase blood flow and production of natural painkillers with thin needles inserted into the skin at strategic points on the body. Some studies report that acupuncture may help ease pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Massage therapy. This may help reduce muscle tension, ease pain in both muscles and soft tissue,improve range of motion, and boost production of natural painkillers.
  • Chiropractic treatment. Based on spinal adjustments to reduce pain, this popular therapy may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Supplements. A number of dietary and other supplements are touted as treatments aimed at relieving fibromyalgia symptoms. Some of the most popular for fibromyalgia include magnesium, melatonin, 5-HTP, and SAMe, which may affect serotonin levels. However, results of studies on these supplements are mixed. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. Some may have side effects and could react badly with medication you are taking.
  • Herbs. As with supplements, scientific evidence for the effectiveness of herbs is mixed. A few studies have shown that St. John’s wort can be as effective as certain prescription medication for treating mild depression.

This is just a start – and you will probably need to tweak your plan as you go along, throwing out activities and treatments that don’t work for you, while grasping the positives with both hands. Remember, it may take a while to get where you want to be – it is all about experimentation (and just because something works for me does not mean it will work for you).

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Myth-Understood

I read this blog post from The Invisible F and was really impressed by the way the information was presented. I just HAD to re-blog:

nessie2Six Common Fibromyalgia Myths

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING IS TRUE?

(A) NESSIE IS REAL

(B) FIBROMYALGIA IS REAL

*

Alarming doesn’t quite sum up some of the myths  people have about fibromyalgia – a condition that affects possibly 3-6 % of the world’s population.

I assure you, it is real. The pain is real. The debilitating chronic exhaustion is real. The insomnia is real. So is every other symptom that makes it a dreaded illness to contend with.

What is also real is the ignorance that people show towards it and us – the sufferers. Here are some of the common myths that people have about FMS.

Myth 1: It’s all in your mind.

Truth: Really? When people perpetuate these misconceptions they add to the stigma of  fibromyalgia as a figment of our imagination. We are not hypochondriacs. 20 years from now when science and medicine expose more about this baffling condition,  you’ll have to bite your tongue. Don’t be part of the problem, please.

Myth 2: You can cure yourself with…wait…don’t tell me, the acai berry! No wait! what was the  latest quick fix being advertised online?

Truth: There is no such thing as a quick fix. Most sufferers will tell you they’ve tried any and  everything, desperate for a solution, as well as spending years to and from specialist doctors, doing all manner of medical tests.

Myth 3: Some good ole exercise will fix yuh up!

Truth: This is one of those times when I have to once again go ‘really?’ I’m not saying  exercise doesn’t help but the notion that some doctors and people have that regular exercise will sort our problems is wrong. Most sufferers, including myself, CANNOT  manage proper exercise.

On a very good day, if I push myself I can manage 9  minutes of graded exercise with a break in between. Then I pay for it afterwards. Sometimes we can be in bed, sore and aching for says after exercise. Every sufferer is different of course. What I will say is routine stretching and physical movement (i.e. walking the dog or rushing to work) sometimes helps in decreasing the severity of  muscle pains. It doesn’t in any way affect my debilitating exhaustion as the doctor promised.

Myth 4: It’s another excuse for laziness

Truth: Firstly, let me say shame to all those who beguile the social welfare system by abusing the invisibility of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain illnesses. Such actions   are ignominious and hurt the REAL sufferers.

Secondly, to the sceptics, we are NOT lazy. Just because we look well it doesn’t mean we are not in pain or badly exhausted or dizzy or hurting from one of our myriad of symptoms. We might look normal but our bodies are functioning with defects and abnormalities in our  central nervous system. Take it for granted that the simplest of activities tire us immensely and can encourage flare ups. For me sometimes it is having a shower,  combing my hair or walking up a flight of stairs. Many of us fix steely facades on and we brave the day. We take care of families, we force our bodies to work…because we have to.  Our friends who cannot manage this and depend on social welfare, are no less courageous than we are. So judge us only if you can walk a mile in our shoes  damn it.

Myth 5: You just need to lose weight

Truth: If I got one pence for every time a fibromyalgia sufferer has complained about being  told this, I’d be well on my way. Certainly, as with any condition, having a healthy  weight contributes to the overall well-being of the individual. But to suggest to any    sufferer that their muscle pains and slew of other symptoms like migraines, irritable  bowel syndrome, insomnia and exhaustion would be remedied solely by weight loss, well… it is ludicrous.

Myth 6: You can live a normal life like everyone else

Truth: I wouldn’t call it a normal life, whatever normal is anyway. We TRY to live but with great difficulty. TRYING to live with chronic pain and unbearable exhaustion,  migraines, cognitive impairments etc makes it incredibly hard to focus on THE NOW.  And what is living if one cannot live in the present? And enjoy the beauty of now? Have you tried to think clearly or creatively when you have a bad migraine or pain? Well multiply that and imagine having to live with it everyday. We contend with something like this and I cannot call this normal. Also, please note comparing  other’s ailments to ours doesn’t reduce our suffering in any way. It serves no purpose.

What other myths have you heard or had to debunk? Tell us so we can clear it up for them.

Gentle hugs :)

There is No Life Without Water.

Ever since I discovered the wonders of my warm water class, I have gone on and on and on  about the wonders of water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike all water exercises, water walking is easy on the joints. “The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain,” says Vennie Jones, aquatic coordinator for the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas. “And it’s still a great workout. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so as you walk, you’re really strengthening and building muscle.” You do not bear weight while swimming and walking, however, so you’ll still need to add some bone-building workouts to your routine.

You can walk in either the shallow end of the pool or the deep end, using a flotation belt. The deeper the water, the more strenuous your workout. And it can be done in warm or cold water.

chris rock

Junction,_TX,_swimming_pool_IMG_4344What you need: A pool! That’s it – but for deep-water walking, a flotation belt keeps you upright and floating at about shoulder height.

How it works: You’ll stand about waist- to chest-deep in water, unless you’re deep-water walking. You walk through the water the same way you would on the ground. Try walking backward and sideways to tone other muscles.

Try it:  Stand upright, with shoulders back, chest lifted and arms bent slightly at your sides. Slowly stride forward, placing your whole foot on the bottom of the pool (instead of just your tiptoes), with your heel coming down first, then the ball of your foot. Avoid straining your back by keeping your core (stomach and back) muscles engaged as you walk.

water-walkingAdd intensity: Lifting your knees higher helps boost your workout. You also can do interval training – pumping arms and legs faster for a brief period, then returning to your normal pace, repeating the process several times.

Find a class: If you’re new to water exercises, an instructor can make sure your form is correct, says Jones. Plus, it can be fun to walk with others. To find a class near you, call your local YMCA, fitness centre or Arthritis Foundation office.

Don’t forget the water: You still need to drink water – even while exercising in the pool.