Category Archives: Wellness

29Nov/17

Getting the best of Christmas ~ top tips if you’re suffering pain

Top tips to enjoy Christmas

Christmas top tips to thrive rather than survive!

Getting the best of Christmas ~ here are some top tips if you’re suffering pain so that you can maximise your enjoyment and create some great memories!

“get the best of you

Christmas is not an easy time for everyone. There are numerous challenges that include preparing a lunch, buying and wrapping gifts and seeing relatives. Add a layer of persistent pain, and these and other challenges are somewhat amplified. Having a plan helps you to organise your part in the festive season, allowing you to enjoy the time in the best possible way.

How are you framing the Christmas period?

The inner dialogue or script we are running has an enormous impact on how we have that very experience. If I keep telling myself that it will be tough, or tiring, or painful, then it usually is and more so. In essence we are feeding the prediction plus our choice of behaviour will enact those thoughts. So, write a positive script that is rich with all that you want. This does not necessarily mean that it turns out exactly this way, but it will be much better than if we anticipate the worst. What we focus upon we get more of!

My Christmas will be ______________. Fill in the blank and keep focusing on this picture and how you can go about doing your best to achieve it. This is the basic model of success used by anyone who has achieved results, including you! Clarify the picture of what you want and then decide upon the principles to follow to do your best to get there.

Make a plan

For each day of the festive period make a plan. You will need to prioritise your activities and create space for ‘refresh and renew’ time. To prioritise you can make a list of all the things you want to do. Then categorise them A-C (A the most important), before numbering 1, 2, 3, 4 etc (1 the most important).

Your plan is flexible, meaning that if it does not turn out exactly as you wished, you can accept the changes. It is useful to have a set of principles to follow, which allow for flexibility within the plan. Here are some examples;

  1. Knowing that wherever you are, you can create calm by using breathing or imagery, either because you are aware of a more intense emotional state or just because you wish to plug in and recharge.
  2. Motion is lotion is a way of nourishing yourself with simple movements that you know are safe, despite how they may feel at the time. Pain and stiffness are both need states that we perceive in order to choose an action that will satisfy the need. This is much like hunger and thirst.
  3. Refresh and renew time is when you deeply relax, engage in something pleasurable, have a conversation, listen to music, look at a scene with awe, practice gratitude.

Write your plan out so that you are much more likely to commit. You may like to share your plan with someone as a further way of cementing your intended actions.

Motion is lotion

Movement is fundamental for our health as it is the way we nourish our body and our brain (the two are not separate–we are whole). Movement is part of the way we are and the way we represent ourselves to the world. Consider how you can recognise a friend from far away by the way that they walk.

Motion is lotion is the consistent practice of moving, little and often through the day. Stiffness is a common bedfellow of pain due to the guarding (overactive) muscles that become tense and tight. The feeling of stiffness is inferred as a way to make us move, much like pain is an inferred (whole person) state to make us protect ourselves and meet the impending need.

Repeated simple movements that are tolerable or feel good will build the evidence that we are actually safe. This momentum creates a new back story that informs the next moment in such a way as to drive easier and easier movements. This is a practice and must be used through the day, every day. As a guide, when sedentary, change position every 15 minutes, and stand up every 30 minutes. Part of your planning (see above) will be how you can integrate movement into your day.

Be aware of what is happening right now

Being ‘in the moment’ is not just a phrase. There is no rehearsal for life; this is it. ‘Life is long if you know how to use it’ is Seneca’s classic title. Using our time wisely maximises the opportunities we have presented to us each day, together with an openness to experience. The beginner’s mind illustrates this well, whereby we maintain a wonder about our perception of the world that unfolds each moment, much like a small child walking into a grotto, experiencing the impact of the lights and aromas of Christmas.

Mindful practice is about being present, aware and open to all experiences without judgement. Noticing emotions, feelings, thoughts and sensations as they come and as they go is at the heart of the practice, however they appear. Quickly we can become familiar with the impermanent nature of things, so no matter what you are feeling right now, it will pass. We can easily integrate mindfulness into our day with a simple ‘formal’ practice of 10-15 minutes together with moment to moment awareness through the day. The latter is achieved by paying attention to a few breaths, which bring you to the present moment rather than dwelling and embodying the past or an anticipated future.

A further practice is to notice positive feelings and emotions through the day as they arise. ‘What we focus on, we get more of’, is a phrase I repeat to clients, as they train themselves to build awareness of all perceptions, in particular those that feel good. The broaden and build effect of noticing positive emotions has been well studied by Barbara Fredrickson, and it only takes a short period of practice for the impact to grow. Good feelings can often be subtle and pass by quickly, whereas negative emotions often hit us hard and linger for long periods. Paying attention to each moment as often as you can, permits the awareness of the positive in its many forms, building your wellness and ability to notice more. There will be plenty of good feelings to notice if you choose to create a positive approach to Christmas, pay attention and address your ever changing needs (see below).

Meeting your needs

We can strongly argue that feelings arising in the body are the conscious emergence of need states. I feel thirsty, I feel hungry, I have an itch, are all common examples. Pain and stiffness are also need states that motivate us to take action to meet the need, perhaps more urgently that some of the others.

When we feel thirst, this is a user-friendly representation of complex biology (sub-personal), which we only need consider as a percept to address by drinking. Pain can be considered in the same light to a degree. The variance comes from the desire to know why we are in pain. Is it something really dangerous? Clinicians must do their best to answer this question for the person.

Much of the suffering comes not from the pain itself, but the way in which the person interprets and thinks about the pain. This is why understanding pain is so important, and why many people feel immediate relief on knowing the answer. If you consider that pain is based upon the perception of threat, understanding pain is a way to reduce this threat together with knowing what can be done.

On feeling thirsty, we drink until the feeling appears to pass. On feeling pain, we must keep using our practices to create the conditions of ‘safety’ until we start to sense an easing, which will come. This may be repetition for a good period of time along with consistent practices we are using to get better overall. We must also address the reasons why, if we know, the state may have arisen. For example, a situation that is perceive as stressful, tiredness, anxiety, different or new movements, or a change of environment to name but a few. Pain is embodied and embedded in the context of your life, hence all factors need attention and new approaches engaged where existing ones fail.

An example to illustrate: I have neck pain sitting at my desk. I must move and stretch to nourish, and keep doing so until there is a sense of relief (this may need to be consistent through the day). I must also address the reasons why it could be painful. For example, I have sat here for a long time repeating the same posture and movement, I am feeling anxious about this piece of work or a forthcoming meeting, my mind is wandering, I am tired. Without considering all influences as well as the actual perception, there is not adequate reason for your body systems that protect you to shift gears. We actively shift gears with new thinking and new actions.

Summary

Here I have outlined some simple practices and approaches that you can decide to adopt for not only the Christmas period, but in a way to overcome your pain. The Pain Coach Programme is a practical approach to living life and building wellness as a buffer to the challenges that arise for each person. We can choose our style of ‘doing life’, and this has a significant impact upon whether we reach our potential or not. The Programme is about getting the best of you, or peak performance in different areas of your life. Each day presents a range of opportunities. Which will you engage with?

Here’s an equation:

(My current physical ability – my tolerance) + my approach = what I achieve

“How can I be the best me, and enjoy the process? 

** Please note that these practices should not replace your existing treatment or therapy programme. You should always check with your healthcare professional if unsure.


To start your Pain Coach Programme, to organise a Pain Coach Workshop or for clinician 1:1 mentoring, contact Jo 07518 445493

13Nov/17
Whole person to treat chronic pain

It’s not your mind, it’s not your body, it’s you!

Whole person to treat chronic pain

Its not your mind, it’s not your body, its you!

Mind and body — what do we mean?

In essence it is good news. Loud messages in the media about mind and body being connected (read article by Rachel Kelly here), thereby trying to update society’s thinking from dualism to what actually happens. To philosophers, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists though, this is familiar ground. Mind-body has been the subject of discussion and investigation for eons.

Today there is further reporting upon schizophrenia research, highlighting the limitations of a dualist perspective, which continues to predominate within our health system. The system and huge swathes of society persist in divvying up the so-called ‘mental’ and ‘physical’. We even have different buildings dedicated to each bit of us, and within those buildings, and rooms that divvy us up even more. We have a liver location, a heart hub, a bones bit, and other parts of the institution that focus on a mere piece of us. Where is the room that puts it all together and acknowledges a human being who thinks, feels, moves, and perceives in distinctly human ways? Let’s talk qualia, and here’s Dan Dennett talking about consciousness.

need states

There are reasons why this maybe convenient, however the separation is not how it works in reality. And try being an end user: ‘Hello, I’m the knee patient’. Within our language and thinking must be the start point of the whole, for it is the whole person who perceives a need via a variety of bodily sensations: thirst, hunger, pain, discomfort and anxiety as examples. What do I need to do here?

‘In the past, we’ve always thought of mind and the body being separate, but its just not like that’ said Oliver Howes, professor of molecular psychiatry. Too right! Its never been like that! He goes on to say that the mind and body ‘interact constantly and the immune system is no different’. I would propose a step further that there is no connection per se because they are one and the same: me and how I experience me and the world. If you are doing a maths puzzle for example, you could argue that this is a mental task. However, there is always the ‘you’ doing the puzzle and you are there, present and embodied. Your mind does not slip out and do the job and then slip back in.

The recent schizophrenia research findings suggest that treating the immune system could be a way forward. I think that society maybe surprised by this news in certain quarters, yet people will understand how this can work. I have great faith in society;s ability to learn, grow and evolve because that is what we have always done, naturally. There is much greater ‘attunement’ to the completeness of being human, although we still have a long way to go before the scientific and philosophical understanding is mainstream in society. Again, this is not news to people who have been studying and following the work of brain-body-person-immune interactions over the past 15 years. A notable example was Dantzer’s paper in 2008 on inflammation and the brain.

inflammation is a likely biological mechanism that links up many common problems: e.g./ pain, depression

It sounds simple to ‘treat the immune system’. Of course in reality this is not the case because our body systems work as a whole and interact in many, many ways. Modern society is very familiar and comfortable with the notion of taking medication to solve a problem. Indeed this is one case when a pharmacological agent is needed. However, this still fails to teach a person how to live or to live their best. This take understanding, practice, time and perseverance. In the rush-rush world we live in, people often want the quick fix that simply does not exist. Getting real means we pay attention to the data that now tells us that certain practices or skills each day are what we need to do to be well. This is non-negotiable. You make a choice.

I finish as I start — this is good news. It is another way in which society can see the changes in understanding afoot. Our thinking needs a drastic update, certainly in terms of chronic pain and chronic health. For years we have been led to believe that pills are the answer, yet they are not. They may have a role, but the main role is the person and the choices they make in how they ‘do life’. Their life-style if you like. We have so many known ways of building health, no matter where you start, no matter whether you have a condition or not, we can decide to live our best. And to do this needs recognition of the fact that we are whole. There is no mind-body separation, instead just ‘me’.


Pain Coach Programme to get the best of you, overcome pain and live well; t. 07518 445493
14Dec/16

In pain ~ what is said, what is heard?

In pain ~ what is said, what is heard?

Anyone who has tried to describe their pain knows how incredibly difficult it is to find words that truly represent what they feel. The same could be said for many lived experiences, the ‘what it is like to……’ that we attempt to transmit to another person. But of course the other person cannot actually know or feel what you feel. We only know what it is like to be ‘me’.

Acknowledging this issue, when we ask people to describe their pain, they are permitted to use any words from their own vocabulary and any comparison or metaphor that emerges from their thinking because this is as close as they will get. Whilst they are telling us what they feel, as well as words that attempt to describe the raw feel of pain, others will demonstrate the degree of suffering and emotional distress that are the additional factors, or second arrow in Buddhism terms. We experience a raw feel, which would be the first arrow, and then the thoughts and emotions that have their own ‘feel’ and typically are the source of the greatest suffering, which are the second arrows.

The raw feel of pain is the raw feel of pain. The add ons are all the thoughts and feelings associated with the pain that are the cause of great suffering. 

Active or deep listening allows us to really hear what the person is saying to us. This is sitting in a state of calm and non-judgement, allowing the person to express themselves in their own unique way. Silence maybe part of this ‘exchange’ that the clinician can become increasingly comfortable residing in, with the knowledge that from silence can emerge important dialogue. Only through deep listening can we hear the words of the other that emerge within a particular context that must also be recognised ~ i.e. the difference in the way someone behaves in different situations such as the clinic when they may be anxious. We must get as close as we can to hear what the individual is saying: have I truly heard what they have said?

We can enhance the flow of communication with our posture and the way we move within the dialogue. A simple movement towards the person shows engagement whilst eye contact can be used judiciously. It is worth considering that for some people eye contact can be challenging or threatening, hence awareness and being present are important.

Our way of being, when filled with compassion and empathy, creates the opportunity for the person to speak and tell their story that is full of all the information that we need as clinicians to gain insight into their suffering and the causes of their suffering.

Pain Coach Programme for chronic pain | skills of well being to live a meaningful life | t. 07518 445493
31Dec/13

The habits of happiness | Matthieu Ricard speaks

Previously a scientist, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, talks about happiness and the ability to train the mind to cultivate well-being, serenity and fulfilment.

How can we nurture happiness?

Ricard describes how we can do this in order to lead happier and fulfilling lives, blending the fundamentals of mind training with science.

Many people who are starting the journey towards changing their pain, begin from a start-point of unhappiness. Beginning the treatment and training programme by creating a positive mindset builds a strong foundation from where one can move forward, by both understanding pain and cultivating the practice of specific mind training techniques.

04Sep/13

Can diet fight chronic pain? | Guest blog by Kaitlin Colucci, Student Dietitian @kaitlincolucci

Thanks to Kaitlin for writing this guest blog on diet. @kaitlincolucci

As a current student at the University of Nottingham studying a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, I have an interest in all fields of work to do with nutrition and diet. I aim to lead a healthy lifestyle and promote fitness and nutrition in all forms. I want to be able to inform the public and make them more aware of how diet is tied into every aspect of life. My blog aims to get people to think about how diet can influence men and women in new ways, and in ways that they would have never thought of before.

The internet and popular health magazines nowadays are littered with all sorts of nutritional advice on how some foods or supplements can help with chronic pain – arthritis, headaches, osteoporosis to name a few.

There are many foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, of which many are scientifically proven. Plans like the Mediterranean diet are built on the principles of the anti-inflammatory theory. When you talk about a diet that emphasises foods that are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect, the diets are going to look very similar. Each diet emphasises slightly different things but there is a main focus on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, little to no processed or refined foods, and an emphasis on omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oils.

For example, red grapes contain a powerful compound, Resveratrol, which blocks the enzymes that contribute to tissue degeneration. There is evidence that resveratrol is particularly useful in the prevention of osteoporosis, especially in women who do not benefit from hormone replacement therapy. The compound of resveratrol also found in red wine, which is popular in the Mediterranean, is more easily absorbed due to the form it is in.

Olive oil is another popular food used in the Mediterranean diet that due to its high content of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (the good fats) has favourable properties of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This is due to the compound known as olive oil phenols that have been shown to reduce the rate of cell death.

One thing we must be aware of is that the majority of studies linking diet to disease are either too small or not reliable in the information they are receiving from the participants, such as an inaccurate recall of the foods they consumed. But this doesn’t mean anti-inflammatory diets are all bad. However, patients shouldn’t expect a miracle cure.

When it comes to pain caused by arthritis, which much of the ageing population is suffering from, it is evident that a bigger contributor to the worsening of this condition is body weight rather than diet. Physical activity has been shown to be significantly more effective at improving tiredness and pain caused by arthritis than any other diet including omega-3 supplementation, the Mediterranean diet and herbal medicine.

For decades old Chinese remedies and herbal medicines have been said to help with pain throughout the entire body. This is something that interests me more and more as old herbal doctors have sworn by these passed down family traditions, and they seem to work without fail. Proper clinical studies to date that have delved into this topic further have shown that herbs like turmeric work the same way in the body as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain. Similar effects have also been found in ginger, long known as a digestive aid. In a recent study, ginger was proved to significantly help women with severe menstrual pain and also reduce muscle soreness after exercise. 

Experts warn that diet is meant to enhance, not replace treatments that have been shown to work for eliminating chronic pain. However, following the advice that is out there won’t hurt, and most evidence leads people towards following a healthy and balanced diet, encouraging them to have a healthier lifestyle.

 

 

15May/13

Neuro……

There is a growing trend to ‘neuroscience-up’ as a way of powering information and concepts. This is no bad thing as it means that current research is being applied to enhance our understanding of who we are, what we do, why we do it and how we can best go about it. Certainly in the world of business the concept of neuroleadership has emerged as a force. The notion can also be used to optimise the self and achieve healthy aims.

Neuroscience for leadership, decision making, performance & health

Employing the notion of neuroscience in health means that we can understand the functioning and interaction between the body systems (nervous, immune, endocrine, autonomic etc), cognitions and emotions. From there, healthy strategies evolve, pointing our natural compass towards wellness. This of course can include how we function as work, developing clarity of thought and resilience in the face of problems that emerge.

Understanding how we can use the body as a yardstick of wellness, for example noting the sensations as a way of detecting a threat, in one of many ways of ‘neuro-self-regulation’ (I just made that term up – it shows how easy it is to ne neuro). We can feel ‘tingling’ in the stomach which is noted as anxiety. Then we need to work out why we are anxious and this may be obvious or may require some thought. This is ironic as anxiety stems from thinking about something that is potentially threatening, albeit on many occasions it emerges from subconscious activity, becoming conscious when we need to attend to the matter. This is ‘self neuroleadership’ – the development of your own toolbox, facilitating a flourishing and flowing lifestyle at home, work and play.

Learn about the science of stress and how to tackle it

Good quality education that is delivered in a way that brains can absorb, process and apply is a further example. Creating the right environment, atmosphere, delivery approach and range of tasks will impact upon the outcomes.

In summary, the neuro-revolution is an important step forward. The science is moving on and we can follow the developments to employ in health and business, and where the two meet. Of course we must look at the science with a critical eye and check the robustness of the data, ensuring we understand the messages before imparting them in an education arena.

Exciting times. Neuro times! (and immune, endocrine, autonomic….)

For further information about the use of neuro in health and business, call us now: 07932 689081 or email: [email protected]