D is for…Fibromyalgia?

No matter how positive you try to be, there are days when it really gets to you and you go tumbling back into that black hole that seems to eat all the good in your life. Transform your chronic lifeWendy from Transform Your Chronic Life has described this feeling perfectly in her post ‘Fighting the Five “Ds” of Fibromyalgia‘:

Like your most annoying relative, the five “Ds” of fibromyalgia tend to show up over and over.

Diagnosis – Depending on how long you’ve been sick, being diagnosed with fibro can either be a huge relief or throw you into a deep depression. If you’ve been hearing, “there’s nothing wrong with you;” for years, finding out that you actually AREN’T crazy is a major relief. On the other hand, once you realize that having a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the doctors are going to be able to actually DO anything but try to manage your symptoms, you’re likely to fall into the rest of the “Ds.” Even worse, a fibromyalgia diagnosis frequently leads to even more diagnoses, since there are multiple co-occurring illnesses that go along with it.

Desperation – Desperation is a big issue for people with fibromyalgia, whether it’s a desperate search for treatments that work or a desperate struggle to pay the bills. No two fibro patients have exactly the same set of symptoms, and the treatments that work for one may not work for someone else. The worse your symptoms, the more likely it is that you either won’t be able to work at all, or that you’ll only be able to work part-time, and both cause major financial issues.

Depression – Depression tends to be a frequent visitor in the lives of those with any chronic illness. You don’t only have to live with pain and other disabling symptoms, you get to hear your doctors telling you there’s nothing they can do for you, your friends and family telling you there’s nothing wrong with you, and society telling you you’re nothing but a lazy leech who would rather lie around and watch tv while everyone else works to support you. And people wonder why you get depressed?

Even if you have a job, the stress of trying to make ends meet on what little you can make can also lead to depression. If you can only work part-time, or can only FIND a part-time job, the situation is even worse. Do you buy medicine so you’re ABLE to work, or buy food? Do you pay the utilities this week, or hope they won’t turn them off before your next check so you can actually EAT this week?

Despair – The previous “Ds” have a bad tendency to lead to despair.  You feel trapped, and can’t find any way out. It can be a horrible cycle, and it’s not easy to find a way to break it, especially when financial issues play a part. When rent and utilities take every penny you can scrape together, and you spend days or weeks hungry, despair can eat your world.

Defeat – Finally, there’s defeat; the last, and maybe worst, of the “Ds.” Defeat is a stopper, because once you feel defeated, you’re likely to give up. “What’s the point of fighting any more?” you think. It feels like no matter what you try, it goes wrong; no matter what you do, or don’t do, things just keep getting worse. It gets to the point that you feel like everything you do makes the situation worse, so why bother to do anything anymore?

I’ll leave Wendy there for the moment…

…and answer by saying that it has to get better than this! This cannot be ALL there is. We must have been put here for a reason – we just have to find it!

Don’t Mind(fulness) Me!

249. stressing out (1)Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program that helps you learn to calm your mind and body to help you cope, not only with illness and/or pain, but also with stress in your everyday life.

MBSR teaches “mindfulness,” a focus only on things happening in the present moment. For example, you may sit quietly and think only about how your body feels. You might focus only on the sounds around you or how your food tastes and smells. When you are mindful, you do just one thing and you pay close attention to that one thing (basically, the opposite of multi-tasking).

To help you focus your mind on the present:

1. STOP

Stop everything! EVERYTHING! PAUSE…BREATHE! Allow everything to be exactly as it is, Release all resistance and attachment

chronic comic 164Imagine yourself hanging on to whatever you’re holding on to, with your hands, for dear life, with a big black hole beneath you. Now, LET GO and allow yourself to fall, fall down the black hole, keep falling, until you land on a beautiful, soft platform of golden light. The Universe, God, or whatever you might believe in holds you, loves you and supports you. ALLOW IT!

2. FEEL

Breathe…feel your body.

Breathe some more.

Breathe all the way down to your feet. Feel your feet touching the floor, wiggle your toes, push your big toes into the floor. Breathe deeply, sigh or groan as you breathe out. Try this at least 10 times.

What are you actually feeling?

Feel it! Express it! if you need to cry or scream, do it – it will leave you SO much lighter.

3. RELAX

chronic comic 163Not necessarily meditation or a formal way of relaxation – I mean do something you LOVE and can fully engage with, which will switch off your mind chatter (it can still be meditation if that is what you love).

4. OPEN

Open up to new possibilities.

73. miserableAsk questions without having specific answers in mind already, and without wanting them answered immediately. Simply ask and then forget about it. Allow space after the question, to free yourself from intellectualising it, and rather to be free to receive the answers when they come.

Questions like:

    • What else is possible?
    • What would the energy of my life be like, if I was living it for the joy of it?
    • How could this situation be even better?

Studies show that MBSR can reduce stress and help people relax. MBSR helped some people cope better with symptoms and improved their quality of life. Research also shows that MBSR helped people sleep better and feel less anxious, and it helped ease depression symptoms.

When the Going Gets Tough…

There’s a lot to appreciate in everyone’s life even when things are tough…

One of the most tragic things about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses outside the window.

Dale Carnegie

Who wouldn’t rather be happy than sad, positive than depressed, calm than anxious?

But there’s no difference, in fact, between various emotions. It’s all just energy and the surest way to hold onto negative feelings is to judge them, analyse them or try to pretend they’re not happening. We can’t be cheerful all the time – that’s a plain fact of life – but we can be happy.

Even in the darkest hour, we can find the peaceful sanctuary that lies within each of us.

7520956914_db9ee248daIt’s picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and starting again that counts. I guess it all comes back to balance again – there must be enough in life to make our hearts lift and our spirits soar, whether it be a hug from a friend, a beautiful piece of music, a puppy or a child’s playfulness, the sight of the ocean, trees, flowers, a lover’s smile and so many more.

Conquer Your Fear

Subconsciously, we set tests up for ourselves, especially in areas that we know are our weakest. What we fear, we will always see. If you’re constantly worried about money, you will eventually have a financial crisis to deal with; if you’re afraid of rejection and loneliness, you’ll experience relationship breakdown, and if you’re afraid of tangible things such as a particular insect or object, you will see nothing else. So, the important thing is to conquer your fear before it cripples your life.

If you want to overcome a certain issue or problem, for a while, it will get worse as your negative ego struggles to keep it in a dark place. It’s a test of our resolve – will we cave in or hold strong? If it’s the former, we’re simply not ready so don’t lose heart and if it’s the latter, there will be rewards in the improvements in life that will become clear.

daemon_hammerWe humans seem to like to learn our lessons by being hit over the head by a mallet, instead of gently and effortlessly.

Learning is a lifetime’s occupation and yes, we repeat many lessons as we go along. But we must never get impatient or critical of ourselves, just start again and use the newfound knowledge to do better, feel better, relate better, live happier.

Look for the Gift

Prosperity comes in many forms and sometimes it’s heavily disguised. When life seems at its hardest, that’s when we have to look for the unexpected gift.

Have you seen the movie Serendipity? In it the woman says that in Greece, they don’t write obituaries when someone dies; they just ask one question, ‘Did the person have passion?’ It represents risk, or, taking things to another level, adventure.

See the Magic

What about magic? Is that another wishy-washy concept or something real and tangible? I (try to) always believe that things will come out right in the end – and they generally do. Try to see the magic in ordinary, everyday things; look at the world the way a child does or imagine seeing again after years of blindness.

all around you

Self-talk

When you behave in undesirable ways, feel ‘upset’ or have physical symptoms, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I doing to create this situation?
  • Are my emotions helping or hurting me?
  • What am I telling myself?
  • What are the facts?
  • Am I exaggerating or distorting?
  • Are there other explanations?
  • How likely are my worries?
  • Whose problem is this really?
  • What have I got to learn from the situation?
  • Am I failing to trust?
  • Am I giving in to negative thoughts?
  • Am I running into the future?

Remember to appreciate your daily blessings and not find a whole lot to criticise about your life, which is really quite wonderful most of the time.

Passed Over!

Tonight was the second night of Passover* so I’ve had a busy couple of days…with way too much over-stimulation.

Recently, millions of grasshopper-like insects swarmed Egypt, damaging crops and wreaking agricultural havoc.

The timing of this massive infestation of locusts, just three weeks before Passover, seems positively biblical!

The story of Passover tells how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and then punished him for his stubborn refusal to let the Israelites go free. The 10 plagues were a divine demonstration of power and displeasure designed to persuade Pharaoh to allow the people to leave.

10-Plagues

This locust infestation is reminiscent of the eighth plague that struck the Egyptians in the Passover story.

It doesn’t seem fair to have punished Pharaoh – wasn’t his refusal merely a result of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart?

Yet maybe we can learn a valuable lesson from this.

Often we may think that it is impossible to break a bad habit, to kick an addiction, or to introduce a healthy practice into our lives.

We justify our behaviour by saying “it’s been so long since I [fill in the blank]…”

We feel that we are trapped by the fact that we have always done things a certain way. We don’t believe that healthy changes are even possible.

In response to this attitude, we read about the plagues and about Moses’ warnings to Pharaoh.

Yes, it is true that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. BUT, Pharaoh always had the ability to overcome his hardened heart.

This may have required a herculean effort, but it was still possible to make amends and avoid the punishments.

Pharaoh was guilty of choosing NOT to struggle. He was guilty of choosing to continue his destructive path and hide behind his past pattern of cruelty. It is that conscious choice for which he was found culpable and for which he was punished.

So, within the plagues lies a very powerful message for all of us struggling with FM.

No matter how strong or negative our feelings are, we don’t have to be trapped by them.

With the right tools, the appropriate support, and a deep resolve we CAN help ourselves (even if it takes a herculean effort!).

lrg_Ornamental_Divider__Englische_Linie

* Passover (Hebrew: Pesach) commemorates the story of the Israelites’ departure from ancient Egypt, which appears in the Hebrew Bible’s books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, among other texts. We start the festival with two nights of traditional meals known as seders where we retell the story of the Exodus – lots of singing, talking, and even, fighting.

Turning the Negative Positive

If you are a negative self-talker, you may not even be aware of it. Thinking the worst can be second nature after years of doing it. But it can be influencing how you live life and keeping you from being HAPPY!

tumblr_lsu3w4LS7D1qc0yn6o1_500Self-talk isn’t just mindless chatter. It has a way of creating its own reality. Telling yourself you can do something can help it happen. Telling yourself you can’t do something can make that come true – it’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell yourself you’ll never lose weight and it can be like eating a whole bag of chips. Tell yourself it’s too hard to find another job and you’ll likely watch TV instead of updating your resume.

“Self-talk dictates how you relate to yourself and how you show up for other people,” says Beneduce. Franco Beneduce is a certified life coach and group facilitator in San Francisco. As he coaches people on successful life strategies, he sees how your self-talk (the conversations you have in your head) either supports or undermines your progress toward their goals.

Let’s say you think you have nothing interesting to say. If you keep telling yourself that, other people are going to see you that way, too. In fact, people who think negatively tend to be less outgoing and have weaker social networks than positive thinkers. Multiple studies link positive emotions with more satisfying relationships, more romance, and lower rates of divorce.

Negative self-talk can be a runaway train. Your mind goes around in circles replaying a negative event or your own shortcomings. “People who ruminate dwell on negative feelings,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California in Riverside. You may think that you’re getting in touch with your true feelings, but bad feelings have a way of getting worse the more attention you give them (sort of like a pimple that you just keep squeezing!)

The more you focus on negative events or shortcomings, the harder it is to put them behind you. Research shows that happy people put bad days behind them.

Stop_negative_self_talk___think_positiveThe problem is if negative self-talk came with an off switch, you could just flip it; but it doesn’t. It takes a plan and some work to tone it down.

 

Here are four ways to make it happen:

  • Distance yourself. You can’t banish negative self-talk forever, but you can take a step back from it. When you notice negative self-talk occurring, Beneduce says address it like you would an opinionated third party. You might say, “Thanks for sharing,” or “It’s interesting you feel that way” and move on.
  • Distract yourself. “Over-thinking involves focusing on a train of thought that goes around and around,” Lyubomirsky says. “You can stop that train of thought by focusing on something else.” Try doing a crossword puzzle, or any other activity that fully engages your mind.
  • How to Begin Handling Your Self Talk and Feel GreatCall them on it. Give your negative thoughts the third-degree and they could crumble. You might ask yourself, “Is that really true?” or “Is there another way to look at this situation?” You may also look for benefits. If you missed that job promotion, are there any lessons for the future you can take from the situation? Or could another opportunity come out of it?
  • Save them for later. Set aside a time of day for negative self-talk. If you hear yourself doubting, blaming, or comparing yourself to others at another time of day, tell yourself you will come back to the conversation later. When the appointed time arrives, your negative thoughts may have lost all their oomph.

Beneduce admits he’s not immune to negative self-talk. When he works with large groups, he knows everyone will be watching him. If he’s on, the day will go well, but if he’s off, he flops. So going in, he tells himself, “I am confident. I have the skills I need. I am going to trust myself.”

Sometimes he’ll write three words on a piece of paper to reinforce it. Throughout the day, he glances at them: “Fun. Smart. Effective.” And that is what he projects.

You can do it, too!

can

Bliss Myths

Want more happiness in your life? And who wouldn’t?

The first step may be to change your views about what happiness really is…

Myth 1: Either you have it or you don’t.

There’s evidence that suggests genetics contributes to about 50% of your happiness set point — the level of happiness that seems most normal for you.

But that’s a far cry from 100%, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

“If you do the work,” Lyubomirsky says, “research shows you can become happier, no matter what your set point is. You probably won’t go from a one to a 10, but you can become happier. It just takes commitment and effort as with any meaningful goal in life.”

Not only can you become happier, she says, but it gets easier over time. Work on nurturing relationships, writing in a gratitude journal, committing random acts of kindness, or developing a program of morning meditation or exercise.

make-happiness-a-habitChanges like these (proven methods for enhancing happiness) can become habits after a while, which means they eventually take less effort.  Have a look at yesterday’s The Pursuit of Happyness.

Myth 2: Happiness is a destination.

Happiness_journeyMany people think of happiness as a destination or acquisition – whether it’s a diagnosis, money, or a new medication. Sure, things like these can contribute to happiness, but not as much as you might think, Lyubomirsky says. They account for only about 10% of your whole happiness picture.

donutIf you’ve done the math, you now realize that about 40% of your happiness is in your hands. Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think – things you control – than with many of life’s circumstances.

Robert Biswas-Diener, co-author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, agrees.

“Happiness isn’t the emotional finish line in the race of life,” he says. It’s a process and a resource. Biswas-Diener says there’s a mountain of data showing that when people are happier, they become healthier and more curious, sociable, helpful, creative, and willing to try new things.

“Happiness is not just an emotional flight of fancy,” he says. “It’s beneficial for the long run, serving a real function in our lives.”

In psychological lingo, this is called the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, says Michael A. Cohn, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Cohn recently conducted a study with 86 college students who submitted daily emotion reports. The researchers measured the students’ ability to flexibly respond to challenging and shifting circumstances and used a scale to assess life satisfaction. The study showed that positive emotions increased resilience – skills for identifying opportunities and bouncing back from adversity – as well as life satisfaction.

Myth 3: You always adapt to your happiness set point.

It’s true that people tend to adapt fairly quickly to positive changes in their lives, Lyubomirsky says. In fact, adaptation is one of the big obstacles to becoming happier. The new doctor, approval for Disability, friends’ support – all can bring a temporary boost but then recede into the background over time.

But why? One reason, Lyubomirsky says, is that we evolved to pay more attention to novelty. For our ancestors, novelty signalled either danger or opportunity – a chance for a new mate or food, for example. We’re attuned to contrasts, not sameness. But that also means we readily adapt to positive experiences that happen to us, Lyubomirsky says.

“I argue that you can thwart adaptation, slow it down, or prevent it with active ways of thinking or behaving,” says Lyubomirsky, who, after moving to Santa Monica, Calif., found herself adapting to her beautiful surroundings. To counteract this trend, she put effort into appreciating the view she saw when running on a path overlooking the ocean. She says she now savours that view every day, trying to see it “through the eyes of a tourist.”

To help thwart adaptation, you can also use novelty to your advantage. For instance, if your home has become a little ho-hum, you might try rearranging furniture or hosting parties for a variety of friends. Voluntary activities like these are most effective because they require you to pay attention, Lyubomirsky notes.

Myth 4: Negative emotions always outweigh the positive ones.

For quite some time, research has indicated that negative emotions are more powerful than positive ones, Cohn says. For example, studies show that people don’t have equal reactions to winning $3 and losing $3, he says. The loss tends to have a stronger effect than the gain.

Negative emotions might edge out positive emotions in the moment, Cohn says, because they’re telling you to find a problem and fix it. But positive emotions appear to win out over time because they let you build on what you have, a finding reinforced by Cohn’s recent study.

“We found that as positive emotions go up, there comes a point where negative emotions no longer have a significant negative impact on building resources or changing life satisfaction,” Cohn says. “Positive emotions won’t protect you from feeling bad about things, nor should they. But over time, they can protect you from the consequences of negative emotions.”

This may not be true for people with depression or other serious disorders, although they do show benefits when positive emotions are added to conventional psychotherapy, Cohn notes.

Myth 5: Happiness is all about hedonism.

There’s more to happiness than racking up pleasurable experiences. In fact, helping others (the opposite of hedonism) may be the most direct route to happiness, notes Stephen G. Post, PhD. Post is co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life.

“When people help others through formal volunteering or generous actions, about half report feeling a ‘helper’s high,’ and 13% even experience alleviation of aches and pains,” says Post, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.

“For most people, a pretty low threshold of activity practiced well makes a difference,” Post says. This might involve volunteering just one or two hours each week or doing five generous things weekly (activities that are above and beyond what you normally do).

First documented in the 1990s, mood elevation from helping is associated with a release of serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin, a “compassion hormone” that reinforces even more helping behaviour, Post says.

Could compassion be rooted in our neurobiology? A National Academy of Sciences study showed that simply thinking about contributing to a charity of choice activates a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, the brain’s reward centre, which is associated with feelings of joy.

“Although just thinking about giving or writing a check can increase our levels of happiness, face-to-face interactions seem to have a higher impact,” Post says. “I think that’s because they engage the [brain’s] agents of giving more fully through tone of voice, facial expression, and the whole body.”

Myth 6: One size fits all.

If you’re seeking a magic bullet or mystical elixir to enhance your happiness, you’re bound to be sorely disappointed. There is no “one size fits all” for happiness. Instead, there are many ways to boost your happiness. Here are options to try:

  • how-to-follow-your-bliss-inspirational-imagePick an activity that is meaningful to you, Cohn says. Whether you choose an activity that promotes a sense of gratitude, connectedness, forgiveness, or optimism, you’ll be most successful if your choices are personally relevant to you. And, he adds, this may also keep you from adapting to them too quickly.
  • Assess your strengths and develop practices that best use these gifts, Post suggests. Are you a good cook? Deliver a meal to a shut-in. A retired teacher? Consider tutoring a child. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
  • Vary your activities because promoting happiness is largely a question of finding a good fit, Lyubomirsky says. To that end, she helped Signal Patterns develop a “Live Happy” iPhone application that starts with a short survey to identify the happiness strategies that you’re suited to, such as journaling or calling someone to express gratitude. “You can lose your will [to do those activities] if it’s not a good fit,” Lyubomirsky says.

responsible-happiness-blogAnd when it comes to happiness, maintaining your will (and acting on it) might just put a pleasurable, meaningful life well within reach.

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.

Guilty as Charged!

After yesterday’s post Guilt: the Gift that Keeps on Giving, I thought I should try to assuage some of those feelings and point out this article to you:

Seven Strategies for Reducing Guilt

By Bruce Campbell

Guilt is a common reaction to CFS and FM. Some people blame themselves for getting CFS or FM, thinking they might have avoided becoming ill if they had lived differently. Other people feel guilty about no longer contributing as they used to, while others lament that they aren’t the spouse or parent they wanted to be.

If you experience guilt associated with CFS or FM, what can you do to ease the burden it imposes? Here are seven strategies used by people in our program.

Adjust Your Expectations

Guilt is often triggered by perfectionism, holding ourselves to standards that don’t fit our new capabilities. Rather than adjusting our standards to meet our new limits, we may measure our performance against either the person we used to be or the person we had hoped to be. We may say things like “I have to do things perfectly” or “I have to be the best at everything” or “My kids deserve everything from me that other children get.”

You can reduce guilt by adjusting your expectations so that they match your new level of functioning. How do you do that? One place to start is by doing a reality check on your expectations. On the left side of a piece of paper, list all those things you no longer do but think you should do, for example, fix elaborate meals, drive kids to their activities or earn a living. On the right side, write your judgment of whether the expectation is realistic.

 Reframe (Change Self-Talk)

Part of the process of adjustment is changing our internal dialogue or self-talk, so that it supports our efforts to live well with illness rather than generating guilt. One person in our program says that she used to chastise herself for taking a nap. Her self talk was “you are weak and lazy for having to rest.” Now, when she goes to take a nap she tells herself, “I am helping myself to be healthy. I am saving energy to spend time with my husband or to baby sit my grandchildren.”

Similarly, when feeling tired, you can say “This fatigue is not my fault; it came with CFS. So I don’t need to feel guilty about not being able to do everything I used to.” Or: “I didn’t ask for FM, so why should I feel shame when it prevents me from doing things.”

You can change your habitual ways of thinking about yourself to make them more accurate and more friendly. For step-by-step directions, see the article Taming Stressful Thoughts.

When Feeling Guilty, Shift Your Attention

Even if feeling guilty is inevitable, we can control how we respond when feelings of guilt arise. One person in our program said that when she feels guilty, she asks herself, “Is this feeling productive?” In some cases, the answer will be “Yes.” Guilt can draw our attention to ways in which we have failed to live up to our standards and can motivate us to act differently. (See next strategy.)

If the feeling is not productive, however, it may be better to respond to guilt by turning our attention elsewhere. As another person wrote, “It’s better not to go some places in your head, so I’ve learned how to control my own thoughts.” Another said that when she is caught up in feelings of guilt, she tells herself things like ‘this isn’t my fault’ or ‘these feelings will pass as long as I don’t allow myself to act on them’.”

If You’re Wrong, Apologize and Make Amends

Guilt can be helpful if it motivates you to take better care of yourself in the future and to treat those around you with more care. One person said that if she does something to hurt her husband or her children, like lashing out at them verbally, she apologizes.

If being undependable bothers you, you can use guilt over canceling out on commitments as an impetus to be more consistent in pacing. Another person said, “I was so embarrassed by canceling out on people that I promised myself I would do better. That commitment motivated me to be more consistent in pacing and to become a more dependable person.”

Educate Others (Within Limits)

In addition to adjusting your expectations for yourself, others expectations of you will have to change as well. People in our groups have suggested several strategies for doing this. One is to educate people about CFS and FM, emphasizing that they are long-term conditions that impose significant limits and require adjustments of the person who is ill and those around her. One person in our program gave each member of her family a booklet on CFS from the CFIDS Association and asked them to read it as their birthday present to her one year. The process of educating family and friends is usually a gradual one, often taking several years.

Learn Assertiveness

Another strategy for reducing guilt is to be assertive, standing up for yourself by stating what you will and won’t do. A person in our program says that her family now accepts it when she says “I am sorry I can’t do that.” She tells about a family outing she and her husband went on with their adult children. At the end, her husband invited the children over to their house. “In the past,” the woman says, “I would have gone along with it, seething inside at myself for not saying anything and at them for not knowing I couldn’t do it.”

Instead, she told everyone that she needed to rest and she suggested that her husband spend the evening at one of the children’s homes. So that’s what the family did. The woman took a nap at home while the rest of the family went to a daughter’s house to watch a movie.

Practice Relationship Triage

A final strategy is to reevaluate your relationships, practicing what we call relationship triage: making explicit decisions about whom to include in your life, concentrating on the more valuable or necessary relationships and letting others go. You may decide that some people will never understand your condition or accept that you are ill. In some cases, you might choose to end a relationship. For relationships you decide are necessary, you might limit the frequency of contact.

Where are You Going in 2013?

Reprinted from the December issue of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA.  
Elissa TomasiniWritten by Elissa Tomasini, who also writes a blog about managing chronic pain with resources & support, and information about health coaching: http://chronicpainjournals.com/

I absolutely love making goals & creating plans.  It inspires me to dream & make positive changes to my life.  I can take time to reflect on what in my life is or isn’t working, & look at ways to move in the direction I want for my life.

goals 1

I find that making goals in life works best when it starts with listing out my own values.  This gives me a framework for deciding where to invest my time, & when it might be best to change a course.  Because my values are also about relationships, this helps me to include people in my goals, not just concrete goals around accomplishments.  I include values of self-improvement & character traits I aspire to.  Though these may not be as measurable, my personal integrity is more important than the accomplishments I make.

I have a list of seventeen top values that I have revamped over the years.  My overall mission statement is:  I will strive for growth, healing & deeper spirituality, where I can truly love others, giving joy, grace, & peace to those I meet.  Some of my values include building strong relationships with family, friends & neighbours.  Others are about personal traits such as saying I am sorry, being forgiving, having fun & living a life of integrity.  I also include fitness & health, making a difference, being financially secure & helping people in need.

goals 2Next I start with a free-write (brainstorm) of goals & hopes of what I would like to accomplish.  This might be short-term or long-term ideas, as well as self-improvement type of goals.  I try to avoid thinking too rationally when writing out my dreams, as this is something I will do later.  For some, this might be better done by writing in paragraph form visualizing the life they wish to have, others prefer lists.  It can sometimes help to look around at people you admire, & what are the traits & actions that draw you to them.

Once I have a list of goals & dreams, I begin to group them into categories & time lines for further evaluation.  I will group together health goals, relationship goals, spiritual, personal trait goals, finances, etc.   With each group I will think about what I can do in the next year to make progress in this area.  For relationship goals it might be scheduling dates with my husband, planning some vacations &/or having a game night. For health goals it could be losing weight, going to a new doctor, trying a new exercise &/or meditating self-compassion.

goals 3One thing to remember with goals is that it is about progress, not perfection.  In 2012, I had a list of about 40 goals & I accomplished about 60% of them.  Some of these goals were minor, such as putting pictures in frames & going through donations.  Other goals were more significant like starting my blog & going back to yoga class.  I never did finish doing touch-up painting around the house, but I am okay with putting this off another year.  Even though I didn’t finish everything on my list, I can see that the year 2012 was filled with some new adventures & progress in areas that matter to me.  The other goals I didn’t finish I can evaluate whether this is something I want to reconsider in the next year.  Fortunately, 2013 brings new opportunities.

I am excited for what 2013 can bring & my personal goal of implementing the 15M plan.  For 2013, I am going to focus more on making life style changes in increments.  The 15M plan allows me to make progress even in the more difficult health days, as I focus on spending 15 minutes on the desired activity each day.  Often when I am tired or feeling a great deal of pain, I lay on the couch a good part of the day & isolate.  If I can focus first on 15 minutes of some type of exercise, it is a goal I should be able to attain most days, resulting in less discouragement & better health.  When I am feeling good, I will most likely do more, but on a bad day this can help me shift gears.   I will add other areas that I want to progress in such as writing, family time, cooking & doing chores.

Like many of us, I have goals for improving my health in 2013.  I plan to do some experiments with the types of food I eat to see if they may be adding to my symptoms.  I also will be doing health coaching for other people who want to improve their health.  I hope to be able to make an impact on people struggling with chronic health problems & to give hope.  I want to strive for more consistency in my life, & learn to work around the tough days.

Making goals can be a simple process or something you spend weeks processing & planning.  The most important thing is to make some progress.  Taking 15 minutes to write down 10 goals is a great beginning.  For the artist among us, one can draw or clip out pictures from a magazine instead.  You can post the list on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.  Others may prefer to spend some time evaluating last year, writing out values, & creating a detailed plan for 2013 like I have done.  Finding a buddy to share it with might help keep you motivated & encourage a friend at the same time.

May 2013 bring you some great learning experiences & opportunities.  May you see an impact towards the values you hold dear & be an encouragement to those in your path.

goals 4

Find the Essence Within

Give yourself a gift this holiday season…find the essence within.

chronic comic 172We, as people, are forever attempting to be someone other than who we authentically are. We read an array of self-help books with the idea of attaining skills enabling us to connect with our true essence. Many of us have read it all before and yet we continue to strive to be that being outside of ourselves. Why would we endeavour to change the essence within when perfection comes from our own uniqueness?

Society, our peers, upbringing, education and the media gently, yet effectively, drive us to believe we are not quite good enough and change is desirable. In actual fact, the opposite rings true.

Our authentic self is never lost, only hidden. Some ideas I have personally discovered in order to rediscover the true essence within myself are:

  • Repeat as often as possible, “I am perfect exactly as I am”.
  • Ask yourself, what did I enjoy as a child? Singing, dancing, writing, public speaking, creating, poetry, carpentry etc.
  • Then reintroduce at least one of these activities into your life. Who knows where it may lead. You may meet new friends or create an innovative business idea from something you actually love doing.
  • Ignore societal views regarding age barriers. Who says you cannot be a famous violinist? Did you know current neuroscience research demonstrates that our brain is plastic and forever changing, growing and learning, irrelevant of age. Dreams are not just for the young (or perfectly healthy)!
  • Say what you think and feel (of course, with a splash of diplomacy). It is not your job to tiptoe around others, making them feel comfortable at the expense of your own needs. Allow yourself to be lazy occasionally. There is too much pressure to be amazingly driven and goal oriented. It is okay to do nothing at times, staring into space thinking, dreaming and being vague – this is the space where connection with your inner voice is sometimes heard. Goals can be considered only once you have heard your inner voice, as there resides your base for building your life.
  • Make choices based on YOUR OWN dreams. For example, many find it desirable to own a home; but, perhaps you would prefer to be a resident of the world and rent in different cities. Maybe you would rather own a business and inject your earnings into a creative idea.
  • Be motivated by your soul, not by guilt. We are easily driven off our path through guilt. Guilt is not a good motivator. Guilt is instilled through various means that create a belief system from which we operate in later years. Let us all tame guilt and be free.

You may note a general theme running through the above ideas. You discover you by allowing yourself the freedom to make choices and decisions only for you. It may appear self-centred to approach life in this manner. The opposite is true. People who genuinely love you will be happy you are treating yourself as your own best friend. Your authentic way of life will encourage others to do the same and this will impact on their circles as well.

Thurman

Reprinted from the December issue of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA – like it? Subscribe for the next issue HERE