Pain, my friend…the enemy within

painOne of the most frustrating things about living with chronic pain is its ability to be unrelenting at times.

And for some reason, it’s always the times when you really need to function well.

It’s also really hard for people to understand what you are going through, as generally you look okay, and I know there are a few of you reading this that will relate. Whether it’s Fibromyalgia*, CRPS* (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), an injury, or pain caused by an autoimmune condition such as RA*(Rheumatoid Arthritis), Lupus* or Hashimoto’s*; the outcome is the same…

Pain that takes away your joy of life.

In my case, I find that it’s generally worse when I get complacent and forget to do the things that help reduce inflammation in my body. Things like eating a whole food, lower carb and healthy fat diet (LCHF), regular gentle exercise, taking the supplements that I know work for me, and understanding (and living within) my limitations.

Oh boy, is that last one hard?! I’m pretty good at sticking with the first three for the majority of the time; I know a lot of people that advocate the 80:20 rule, but for me to function at a good level I find that 95:5 is a better ratio.

But, I really do struggle with the ‘living within my limitations’ bit. It could be that I’m a little too enthusiastic when I’m teaching a class, and while exercise is generally a positive, it can quickly become a negative when you overdo it. Or it could be that I really want my house to look great and “hey, I’m feeling pretty good today, so surely vacuuming and mopping couldn’t do that much damage”. Well, I suppose it’s a good thing that the house looks nice, because I’m probably going to just be able to sit here and look at it for a while! Then, sometimes, it’s just doing a bit too much of everything on top of a day that I may have chosen to be in the ‘5’ part of the 95:5 ratio and the pain kicks in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this so that you’ll feel sorry for me…far from it. Pain has taught me a lot; I have learned that I’m stronger than I thought, and it has also led me to a couple of my great loves in Pilates and Essential Oils. For the most part, pain is there to tell us that something is wrong and we should definitely listen to it. That’s when pain can be your friend. It’s the body’s way of saying that you need to rest and heal and to proceed with caution. It can also alert us to something deeply sinister that could be dealt with easily if caught swiftly. Ignore pain at your peril!

However sometimes, the body’s messaging systems become a little haywire and pain can become a chronic and debilitating enemy. At times certain illnesses and conditions cause the body to feel pain because of increased inflammation, or even when there is no apparent reason.

People with this kind of pain can feel isolated and alone, and because pain is a very personal thing that can be hard to explain, they often find it easier to just keep quiet and try to push through. Some people are able to maintain jobs and home life relatively well and others are unable to function with the simplest tasks. No two people are alike and each person will find that different things work better for them.

There is however one thing that helps every single person living with chronic pain…

Compassion.

I love the dictionary description of the word:

Compassion:

‘a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” (dictionary.com)

Now obviously if you know someone that lives with chronic pain, you are not responsible for alleviating their suffering as such, but just being aware that they sometimes have no control over their pain levels and letting them know you understand is enough, especially if it is a loved one. There is something that chronic pain sufferers hear that can sometimes feel like a knife to the heart. The words “But you look fine” or “You don’t look sick” can cause many sufferers to just keep how they really feel to themselves. This can lead to depression and other problems causing even more isolation and exacerbating pain levels.

Woman With Back PainSo, if you know someone experiencing chronic pain, I encourage you to show compassion. Of course, tell them they look great, but perhaps ask them how they are feeling and really help them to know you are willing to listen and understand.

And if you are someone living with chronic pain, I encourage you to seek out support and don’t be afraid to share how you truly feel. Often just knowing that someone understands can be enough to help you through a difficult day. And if someone gives you a hard time over it, well, you know they are not the kind of person you need in your life right now! Finding out how to support your body to reduce inflammation and pain is also vitally important.

 

My top tips for managing chronic pain are:

  • Eat mostly whole, nourishing foods – Choose the best quality foods you can afford (Grass fed, pastured, seasonal, local and organic is best) and wherever possible avoid highly processed packet food-like products. Find some easy recipes that you love and prepare extra to freeze for the days when you are not feeling so great. There are a number of different protocols that can be helpful such as Paleo, LCHF (Lower Carb, Healthy Fat), AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) and many more. In my opinion, there is no one “right’ way for everyone and it can take some time and experimentation along with a bit of guidance to find what works for you. Try not to get overwhelmed. Persevere, it’s so worth it!
  • Drink enough water – Preferably filtered water as reducing toxins is an important step in reducing inflammation. Read more about different types of water here.
  • Reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals – As mentioned above, reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals is often very helpful in reducing inflammation, which improves pain management. Chemicals are all around us and not all of them are bad; water is a chemical! Choosing cleaning products and cosmetics (your skin absorbs more than you realise!) that are safer for you and the environment is a great start. Or why not make your own using essential oils? It’s fun and super satisfying!
  • Get plenty of rest – Good quality sleep is essential for helping reduce pain levels. There are a number of things you can do to improve sleep, such as sticking to a healthy bedtime routine, meditation/mindfulness exercises, avoiding stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and sugar etc. Unfortunately many chronic pain sufferers have sleep disorders that make quality sleep difficult, so if you have tried lots of things and nothing is working, you may need to seek professional help.
  • Regular, gentle exercise – This can often be the hardest thing to implement because when you are in pain, the thought of doing anything that may cause more pain is horrifying. But, it has been proven time and again that quality movement helps to reduce pain. Find something you enjoy and start slow. As I’ve already mentioned, Pilates was the one thing that helped me the most which is why I became an instructor, and I know that some people love Yoga, Tai Chi, Swimming, Walking…there are many different ways to get yourself moving. Finding a Personal Trainer that has an understanding of chronic pain can be extremely helpful too. Possibly the worst thing you can do is to push yourself too hard, too quickly. Your body needs time to adapt to the changes and grow stronger. You will also find your mood and sleep improves when you are incorporating some gentle exercise into your routine, so it’s a multi-faceted benefit!
  • Supplement where necessary – I know there are a number of people who believe that if you eat really well there is no need for supplementation and whilst there may be a few people who are healthy (and disciplined) enough for this to be true, I believe that we are living in a time where our natural resources are depleted, both in our bodies and the earth. This means that we don’t always get the nutrients we need from our food, even when we are eating a fabulous diet! And this is especially true for those of us with compromised immune systems, chronic illness and inflammation. I recommend finding a reputable functional medicine practitioner and really getting to know what your body may need a little help with. It may take a little trial and error, but the benefits are well worth it.
  • Improve your Gut Health – We are learning so much about gut health and microbiome and we are only just at the tip of the iceberg on this subject, but what we do know is that a healthy immune system begins in the gut! Improving gut health goes a long way to improving the body’s ability to fight disease, and reducing the symptoms, such as inflammation and pain. Fermented foods are a great place to start and they taste great too! You can read more here.
  • Listen to your body and be kind to yourself! – Nobody knows how you feel better than you do, so learn to listen to the signals that your body gives you and learn to trust your intuition. Often we ignore the warning signs and have a much harder time than if we had just listened to what our body was telling us in the first place (Man, am I preaching to myself here, or what!) When you push yourself past what your body can deal with, the inevitable result is more pain. Which generally means more time out of action, unable to do the activities you would prefer to be doing. So, get to know the signs and signals, and give yourself permission to take some time out. Read a book, have a bath, colour in, or my favourite – go to the park and have a swing! Or if that all sounds like too much, just take a nap. Whatever it takes to help you feel better equipped to deal with the pain. It’s your body, you know best!

Embrace the Journey !

Gentle Hugs

Ness xxx

What is your favourite thing to do to help you cope with chronic pain?

*the website links are for education purposes only and the information therein may not necessarily be aligned with my personal & professional views. Always seek professional advice where appropriate.


One of those days…

One of those days

Ever had one of those days where all you want to do is cry like a baby?

 

For no apparent reason, and regardless of what you do to try and distract yourself or put on a happy face and pretend like everything is ok, eventually there comes a point in the day when it all becomes too hard and you just lose your shit?

 

Well, today is one of those days….

 

One of the things I hate most about living with anxiety (often due to my Hashimoto’s) is the effect that it can have on my mood. Even at times when things seem to be going pretty well, out of nowhere I can have this awful sense of impending doom descend upon me. And it’s soul crushing. No amount of positive self talk seems to help and lets face it, the likelihood of actually talking positively to oneself at times like this is pretty slim.

Probably doesn’t help that I’ve been a little less than great at staying away from the types of food that help to fuel this kind of flare up…hello chocolate…a little too much chocolate! It’s not something I do often, but occasionally I just go into all out self sabotage mode when it comes to chocolate, and eating a couple of pieces is just not an option! I’m an all or nothing kind of girl, and I’m tipping that having recently rocketed full steam ahead into perimenopause (mega hot flushes included) hasn’t really helped on this front. I mean, I can literally go months without even the slightest desire for a taste and then BOOM! Why is there a completely empty packet of Old Gold on the bed???

 

And then comes the guilt…

 

Followed by the flare up…

 

But, as I always like to say, “it’s neither good, nor bad, it is what it is”. I’m human, and even though I absolutely know better, I don’t always DO better. And you know what? Every time something like this happens, I learn a little bit more about myself, and even if I don’t like it, the chances are it’s going to help me at some point down the track; not quite sure when, but it’s bound to happen, right?

 

They say forgiveness is one of the most important things you can do when someone has hurt you, but how often do we actually apply that to ourselves? Most of us are literally ‘walking wounded’ and if we are honest, we are probably more hurt by the ridiculous expectations we place on ourselves and the guilt we attach to our perceived inability to meet those expectations, than by anything anyone else has ever done to us.

 

There is an amazing amount of information out there at the moment encouraging people to be kind and take care of themselves, but how often do we actually apply it? And I’m not talking about having a manicure and taking a bath (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I’m talking about letting yourself off the hook sometimes. You know, cutting yourself the same kind of slack that you would a loved one who is having a hard time. Why is it that we are harder on ourselves than we would ever be on anyone else? Think about the kind of stuff you say to yourself, and then imagine hearing someone say that to the person you love most in the world, say your child, or partner? What would you do? Would you stand up for them? Would you fight to the death? Then why do we treat ourselves differently?

 

Believe me when I say as I write this with tears in my eyes, in the middle of another hot flush, that I really want to find out the answers to these questions! I want to be at peace with the person I am, and be happy with what I achieve each day. I want to be able to forgive myself when I don’t live up to my own expectations and to learn from my experiences each day. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror, be happy with who I see and say “you’re doing great!”

And I desperately want to help others to do the same.

 

The dictionary meaning of ‘Wellness’ is “the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort” (dictionary.com, emphasis mine). So it doesn’t just happen by accident; it requires some purposeful input. It is something we have to pursue. It’s a fascinating concept that we become most interested in pursuing wellness, when it is taken from us. As the old saying goes “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” and it’s probably never more applicable than when it comes to our health! And our mental health is a huge part of this.

 

Regardless of how I might feel at this moment, I know that at some point soon, I will feel better. And there are certainly some things that I can do to help that along. Like making choices that nourish my body and my mind, and being as kind as possible to myself instead of succumbing to the guilt for feeling this way in the first place. I also know that I will have more days when I feel like this, maybe even worse; it’s all part of the journey.

 

And there is really nothing wrong with sometimes letting go and just having a good cry… holding it in is not necessarily the strongest, or wisest, thing to do.

 

Trust that it will get better and keep moving forward; I’m going to.

Embrace the Journey !

What do you do when you have ‘One of those days’?

 

 


Enough is Enough! We are all REAL WOMEN!

***RANT WARNING***

Unite Real WomenENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

We are ALL REAL WOMEN!

To quote one of my favourite films ‘White Chicks’

“I am so frikkin’ pissed…I’m gonna have a BF!”

Lately I have been seeing a lot of posts about how to be a ‘real woman’ you need to have curves and some extra junk in the trunk. There are even a few popular songs about it. It seems that in order to feel good about being a little plus size (or a lot) that some women have turned to pretty much denigrating girls and women that are super skinny as being “skinny bitches” or not “woman” enough simply because they don’t have boobs or booty and I have to say I’m kind of pissed off about it.

For one thing, my 22-year-old daughter is a professional model and unless you have worked in the industry, you have no idea how tough it is to be constantly judged by your appearance and whether or not your body shape or “look” is right for the brief of the job. But, the choice to enter this world is one that these girls live and deal with, or they don’t, and they move on, like any career. There are times where my daughter is told she needs to lose weight and there are times she is told she is too small. And that is the nature of the industry. Certainly there are more and more advertisements with different body shapes and sizes and I believe this is a good thing.

BUT, and this is a big but… just because my daughter is a size 6-8, does that mean she is any less of a REAL woman??? Of course not! If you have an ample bosom and a fabulously juicy arse with a little extra padding around your other parts, does that mean you are more of a REAL woman??? Of course not!
We are all real women. Period!

Is there anything wrong with taking something you are born with and using it to your advantage? If someone has a natural talent for music, art or singing, do we think that there is something unfair about using that talent? No! We appreciate their God given gifts. Why is it different for those that are born aesthetically pleasing? We don’t hate on a beautiful flower for outshining the shrubby bush beside it, we simply appreciate its beauty. There also seems to be this assumption that because someone is genetically blessed when it comes to society’s current idea of beauty, that they must be stupid or not very nice. In my experience this is just not true. And it’s a stereotype that is just as bad as the assumption that when someone is carrying some extra weight, they must be lazy and eat too much.

You see what makes a REAL woman is all about what’s on the inside! A REAL woman is comfortable in her own skin, regardless of its shape. She doesn’t feel the need to compare herself to other women or put them down in order to make herself feel better. She is able to look in the mirror and love who she sees. She owns the space she occupies and she chooses to build others up instead of tearing them down. She is fun to be around and you feel good just being in her presence. In my opinion, that is a REAL woman!

How can we say that being a real woman has anything at all to do with body shape? There have been different ages and stages of my life where I was very skinny, and times where I was more than a little curvy, but I don’t believe that my status as a REAL woman was ever in question. And if it was, then I don’t much care for the opinion of those who questioned it!

I really do think that as women, it is time for us to embrace our differences and begin appreciating who we all are on the inside. There is no place for either fat shaming or skinny shaming. It is just as wrong for a person to say to a skinny girl “Oh you need to eat some more food” as it is to tell a curvy girl to “Push the plate away”.

If you are unhappy in your own skin, it’s time to find a way to accept and love yourself as you are right now, instead of trying to make yourself feel better through denigrating someone else.

How disappointed would you be if you went to a buffet dinner and there were a hundred serving dishes filled with the exact same food? Wouldn’t that be boring? After all, variety is the spice of life!

Tall, Skinny, Short, Curvy, Beautiful, Smart, Talented, we all have something unique to offer to this wonderful world and the people around us, but you sure as hell can’t do it while you are tearing someone else down just because they were made in a different mould!

Get your shit together and unite REAL WOMEN of the world! This place is big enough for all of us!

#uniterealwomen

Embrace the Journey !


Personal Growth is like a Brazilian……

Personal Growth is like a BraPersonal Growthzilian……

And no, I’m not talking about the glorious, cocoa delicious beauties that dance around at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

I’m talking about the kind that involves having hot wax spread on your nether regions and ripped off violently along with the attached curly bits! Ouch!

Bloody painful… however absolutely necessary (in my case at least!).

Let me explain….

This week has been really confronting. I have started an online course to deal with some self-limiting behaviors and have found that working through the daily exercises has uncovered some pretty deep-seated beliefs about my self worth. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a total bitch!

It has forced me to really focus on where these beliefs came from and how they have shaped the way I respond to everyday events. I’ve had to begin to face the negative and self-sabotaging tendencies that consistently rear their ugly head whenever my life begins to go in the direction I would like it to go.

A big part of my wellness journey has been to recognise that much of what I go through each day to manage my health and spread the message of pursuing wellness with a passion has to do with my state of mental health and my perception of myself, as well as my perception of what others think of me.

Hashimotos has been linked to mental health and anxiety issues and I am certainly no stranger to battling with these things on a daily basis.

This last week has been Mental Health Week and today is World Mental Health Day and as such there has been a lot of information and television based around the reality that mental health disorders are a huge part of life for many of us and if we are not personally affected, we will definitely have a friend or family member who is or has been affected at some time. These mental health issues can be triggered by many things in a persons life and I do believe that gut health can play a big part, but more about that some other time.

Mental health is just as important as physical health and whilst there are some disorders that we have no control over, there is much that we can do to work towards having a healthier mental state. Part of that is about learning to take responsibility for our mental wellbeing and personal growth and development can help us to move towards a more positive place both mentally and physically.

I, like most people, am my biggest and harshest critic, and I think that one of the hardest things to do is to face the areas of your life and behavior that you really don’t like, and try to figure out how to get to the heart of the matter, deal with it and move forward.

That’s where the pain comes in.

Taking a really truthful look at what is going on in your life and emotions can be really shit! No, really! It sucks the big one. Starting to dig deeper uncovers so much crap and it’s really hard to not just put your hands over your ears and go “La la la la la, I’m not listening!” And then cover it all back up and pretend you never saw it. But then, what would be the point of that? I guess then you just decide whether you are happy to keep going at the level you are at, or you decide that where you want to get to is more important than the temporary discomfort of having to face and change some things.

Personally, I’m not prepared to stay where I am at right now, because I don’t like how I feel inside sometimes, and I know that by facing the hard stuff (which can sometimes go right back to really early on in life), I can begin to create the life I want to have and share my experience with others.

Why is it that most people never reach their full potential? Or they have dreams that they never move actively towards? Is it because they are not smart enough? Or lack some special credentials to get what they want?

I don’t think so. I think it’s a case of not wanting to face the pain of personal growth. Of running away from the demons that confront them, and not facing them head on and smashing through it.

Because it hurts… a lot.

And sometimes it’s just easier to sit on the couch and make excuses about how life has dealt them a crap hand and you wouldn’t possibly understand because it’s easy for you.

We don’t know what is really going on in anyones life or head, unless they choose to share it with us. So why do we assume that the ones who choose to face their stuff head on and push through it, must have some super powers or unearthly talents that we can’t possibly have access to?  It’s really so much more about being prepared to push through the pain. Or that the pain of staying where you are, is actually becoming worse than the pain of facing the change required.

Imagine a mother giving birth. She gets to the pushing stage (which is frikking painful) and decides “Um, no! Sorry! Uh-uh! This hurts too much…I’m not going through with it baby, you’re just gonna have to stay in there forever!!”

Any mother will tell you that regardless of the pain, the end result is totally worth it. I don’t agree with the statement that you forget about the pain. I actually just think that the resulting blessing allows you to put the pain into perspective and you can see that it was necessary. The memory of the pain becomes less and less vivid and you begin to appreciate that it was just a part of the process to achieve the desired result.

So whatever it is that you want to change in your life, be it your health, your finances, your relationships or just your happiness factor, there is most likely going to be some kind of pain involved to get to where you want to be.

Will you go through the necessary pain to get the desired result?

Or will you just decide that you are happy to put up with the short and curlies??

Embrace the Journey !

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, please seek the appropriate professional help.


The most important person in your life is YOU!

The most important person in your life is youIt’s been an exceptionally busy time for me recently. A whirlwind trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to learn
more about essential oils, lots of planning and preparation for upcoming events and promotions at the Wellness Studio, and getting things set in motion for my biennial trip to hospital for the five day ketamine infusion that allows me to walk around like a normal person. On top of all the usual day-to-day running of the home, family, Studio and essential oils business stuff (plus figuring out how to get this blog up and running), I’ve barely had a minute to stop and just be still.

Which is when things tip into the danger zone for me. Living with autoimmune disease is something I’ve become accustomed to and I’ve learned to manage it fairly well mostly. When I’m careful to nourish myself well, take my supplements, get enough sleep and keep the stress levels under control, things go pretty sweetly. However, there are times that I forget that I don’t actually wear my undies on the outside and I’m not superhuman….(Ssshh…don’t let that get around, I may still have some people fooled). At those times, when everything seems to hit all at once and everything has “URGENT” stamped on it, I kind of forget that it’s actually more important to put my own oxygen mask on before I help anyone else put theirs on! After all, how much good can I be to those who depend on me if I am trying to get around on an empty tank ?

So, on the second last day of my awesomely exciting whirlwind trip, I became ill, really ill. I’m talking fevers, couldn’t breathe, lost my voice, coughing, all the fun stuff….and having to fly home the day after coming down with it didn’t make it any more fun. I battled on, believing that it would pass, after all, I’ve got my oils and my supplements and my good food choices and I haven’t got time to be sick anyway. Hey! I run a Wellness Studio goddamn it! I can’t be UN-well! Hmmm… nice sentiment, but sometimes your body just has other ideas.

What I’ve learned though, is that the warning signs were there weeks before I succumbed to this dreaded lurgy. When I look back, I am aware that I had stopped doing some of the things I had previously been doing to maintain my wellness. I was allowing my busy-ness to get in the way of the most important thing; the thing without which I have no business, no joy, no life really, and that’s my health. I had allowed my stress levels to rise to a point that was unacceptable (a massive no-no when you live with an auto-immune disease). I had started taking shortcuts with food, instead of making sure that I had the right kinds of foods available at all times that would give me quality nourishment, something that I’m normally pedantic about. I was’t sleeping well at all. I was burning the candle at both ends, so to speak and the worst thing was, I knew I was doing it!

Becoming complacent about our health is possibly the worst thing we can do, because no amount of anything else can replace it. I don’t like feeling like this! There are things I want to be doing, places I want to go, people I want to catch up with… I missed my first Bloom meeting this month since I became a member almost two years ago and I’m devastated, because I love those meetings and I miss the lovely Bloom girls, but I realised that I have to relent and go to the doctor.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not a big fan of going to the doctor. Don’t get me wrong, I believe modern medicine is a wonderful thing and I have a lot to be grateful for concerning it, but I do also believe that we are all too quick to reach for a pill instead of taking responsibility for our own wellness and making the lifestyle changes that result in better health.

And there it is…right there! I dropped the ball. I got slack. I forgot to listen to my body and the many warning signs it shows me so that I can make the necessary changes in time to create a different outcome. Life is just a great big giant learning curve isn’t it?? We get lots of messages from our body and it is our responsibility to begin to tune in to them or suffer the consequences. So off to the doctor I will go, because admittedly, I need a little bit of extra help this time. I will reset my priorities, begin to listen to my body and try hard to remember that I don’t have to do everything, all at once, to the detriment of my own well-being! After all the most important person in my life, is me!

Embrace the Journey !

What kind of messages does your body send you when you are pushing beyond your limits? And do you listen to them?