Adult Coloring for Chronic Pain or Illness

 

IMG_1021Adult coloring is all the rage right now. People living with pain should definitely explore this new fad as coloring can provide incredible relaxation and allow one to temporarily forget about physical pain.

Not to mention that scientists have found that coloring actually quiets the part of the brain, the amygdala, that causes stress and is often activated when we are distressed by our pain.

A recent Huffington Post article stated that the famous psychologist, Carl Jung believed that the coloring of mandalas could be used as a relaxation technique. I personally find mandalas to be the most calm-inducing items to color as the patterns are repetitive and require concentration. I get so focussed I literally am completely in the moment and don’t worry about my pain or anything else. Here is a photo of two manadult coloring bookdalas that I recently colored from the Just Add Color Mandalas Adult Coloring Book. I used two types of markers,
Stabilo Point 88 Pen Sets rollerset set of 25 and Stabilo Point 88 Pen Sets rollerset set of 25. These types of extra fine-tipped pens are required, especially if you plan on coloring the detailed drawings in the most popular adult coloring book right now, The Secret Garden.

secret_garden_roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to see if coloring should be added to your “pain toolkit”, you can download two free beautiful coloring pages, “Today is Going to Be Awesome” and a gorgeous owl.

Creative-Coloring-Inspirations-PrintableNature-Mandalas-printable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For people with chronic pain or illness, the great thing about adult coloring is that it can be done just about anywhere. You can color laying down, standing up or sitting. You can be in bed, at a desk, in the waiting room of your doctor’s office or my favourite place to colour, at the beach.

Is coloring going to heal your pain or illness vanish…no, but at least for brief periods of time you can hopefully forget about your health and feel a sense of peace and calm…a state of mind that is a welcome respite from the stress of living with chronic pain/illness.

Have you found coloring to be helpful when living with chronic pain or illness? If so, I would love to hear about your experience!


 

Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project Follow-Up

“Know This…You’re not alone and you’re more than your pain.” – Participant, Janice Feinstein

Chronic Pain Life’s online 21-Day Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project recently completed. The participants’ photographs and accompanying explanations were all incredibly impactful, insightful and powerful. The most popular of the project’s daily photo prompts were: Goals, Identity, Know This, Who I Was and Acceptance.

Day after day as participants explored and shared their experiences of pain/illness, through taking and sharing photos as well as viewing and commenting on other members’ photos, a sense of community was established. The online group space remains open indefinitely so that members can continue to connect and support one another through the sharing of photographs related to their pain/illness.

“I’ve come to love this group of women and men who share the same burden in life that I do. This group has changed my life, my marriage and my entire outlook on my illness. Your project saved me in a way I can never repay. I’m forever grateful to you for it.”
-Participant

chronic pain therapeutic photography
“I used the door and the half of me because one part of me puts on a good show for all to see but behind that door is pain non stop, worry, depression, stress, wonder, and the one with the eye means lots of people don’t see or understand at all. And the last one is the real whole healthy me.”

Several members expressed how photography provided a safe and less vulnerable way to explore and share their feelings about their pain/illness. As most of the participants do not regularly practice photography, most were surprised at how much insight, clarity and healing could take place through taking and analyzing photos.

“I had not used any visual means to express anything I felt about my illness/pain before this project. It gave me a way of saying things […] and helped me see myself more clearly.” –Participant

The success of the project validated my belief in the therapeutic value of photography for people who live with chronic pain/illness. Chronic Pain Life will continue to offer a variety of photography-related projects related to pain/illness. To learn more about these projects and therapeutic photography, join the Chronic Pain Life Facebook group and sign up for blog updates.

You can view more photos from the project on the Participant’s Photography page of the Chronic Pain Life website.

Insight Meditation App – Chronic Pain & Illness Group

Insight meditation appRecently I created a “Chronic Pain & Illness Meditation” group on the free “Insight Guided Meditations” app. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Insight app, it is a well-respected and popular meditation app. I literally give this app the credit for helping me to become a dedicated daily meditator. The app has a meditation timer as well as numerous guided meditations, including many body scans, which are great for people living with chronic pain/illness.

In the group we discuss meditation resources and experiences as they relate to chronic pain and/or illness. It would be wonderful to have you join the the group, whether you are just thinking about trying meditation or if you are a seasoned meditator.

Steps to Joining the Group:

  1. Download the app if you don’t have it already:
    Link to Insight Guided Meditations app for iPhone
    Link to Insight Guided Meditations app for Android 
  2. Once you have downloaded the app, click on the “Groups” tab.
  3. Scroll to the very bottom of the page click on the “Search” icon.
  4. Type “chronic pain” and the group will pop up.
  5. Click on “Request an Invitation”.

Yay, you are now part of an awesome pain/illness meditation community!

Join the 21-Day Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project

chronic pain photo projectI am hosting a 21-Day Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project in a closed Facebook group starting Monday, April 27, 2015. Each day there will be a photo prompt related to chronic pain/illness. Participate as much or as little as you would like. No experience necessary. Just use your phone-camera, snap away and share in the group.

If you are interested in joining the project click on this link.

Follow Chronic Pain Life on Instagram – @chronicpainlife
Hashtag your chronic pain photos with #chronicpaininfocus.

Meditating has drastically improved how I am able to handle Chronic Pain

meditation for chronic painI posted back in September that I had completed a 21-day meditation challenge. Now I can proudly, and more importantly, gratefully, say I have completed a solid 6-months of daily meditation practice.

I continue to reap the benefits of using meditation to deal with the challenges of chronic pain. The challenge is to put into words how exactly meditation has specifically helped me manage my daily pain. What I do know is I have a greater sense of calmness, increased gratitude, and I have developed the ability to not panic when I have a flare-up. I have learnt how to stay in the moment, to feel my body as it is and accept it. These abilities grew gradually with time.

I don’t find that meditation has in any way reduced my pain but it has become the most effective tool I have ever used to cope with the challenges of living with pain. By this I mean that meditation has significantly diminished, if not prevented, the feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, and fear that in the past would overcome me every time I had a flare-up.

I have to clarify though, that this took time. I think around the 3-month mark is when I really recognized the difference in myself. The shift was somewhat subtle but at the same time powerful beyond measure. Now that I have been meditating for over 6 months I can’t imagine my life without this practice.

Another benefit of regular mediation is the spillover into the other aspects of my life. Meditation is assisting me in dealing with relationship, financial, and many other life issues. I have learnt how to stay calm, grounded and connected to reality and the moment, not to the stories that swirl in my head and attempt to control my thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Back to meditation and pain…I did find that specific approaches to my practice made me ‘successful’. I have found that regular body scan meditations are the most beneficial type of meditation. I do one every night before I go to sleep. I have also personally experienced, and recently read research, that the regular use of the same guided meditations is more beneficial than flitting from one to another meditation to another.

For instance, In the past I would get bored of guided meditations and want to listen to a different one each time I meditated. Over the past 6 months I took a different approach, I downloaded the Insight Timer app (a highly recommended meditation app which has 87 guided meditations and/or a meditation timer). I tried out many of the meditations and then selected approximately 8 that I really enjoyed. I then began to use these regularly.

The other thing I like about the Insight app is you get rewards!!! Yes, STAR rewards just like in elementary school. I have to tell you, you have no idea how many times the lure of a star on my meditation profile ensured I meditated every day! Hey, whatever it takes! The app also keeps a tally of how many minutes you have meditated, and provides a variety of charts showing your meditation practice. More recently I have joined the groups that are in the app and have connected with others who are using meditation for dealing with chronic pain and illness.

I know many of you have likely read that mindfulness meditation is a great resource for dealing with chronic pain and like me you probably really struggled with sticking to it. I am here to say give it another go, keep trying, I know if you stick with it you will experience incredible benefits. Maybe you are like me and have stuck with it and appreciate all it offers you, I would love to hear about your experience. Maybe you have even been meditating for years and can offer myself and other readers more insight and knowledge about using meditation for the management of chronic pain/illness. I would love to hear from you too.

What I do know is I will be continuing my practice and sharing my experiences here on my blog. On that note, it is time for my nightly body scan meditation 🙂

What helped me succeed at my 21-day Meditation Challenge

meditation challengeAs of today I completed my 21-day meditation challenge and I succeeded! Honestly a huge part of me didn’t think I would, due to how many times I have attempted to maintain a regular meditation practice and not followed through. I think the 6-step approach that I laid out in my blog post 21 days ago really assisted me in successfully meditating for the past 21 days. Below I will comment on how I found each step to be helpful or how I amended it to be so.

1) Make a public commitment to meditating
I wrote a blog post about my meditation challenge which made me feel super accountable. I suppose I could have not written a follow-up post but I would have felt like I failed at meditating and blogging!

2) Make a daily checklist or write daily meditation time on a calendar
I printed a checklist and posted it on my fridge. I found that this was the BEST type of reminder since I go to my fridge multiple times a day. In the past I have put a “meditation” daily notation in my online calendar but I found it is too easy to gloss over. A checklist cannot be so easily ignored as that empty box beckons to be filled. For a list-maker, type-A personality like me it is very satisfying to be able to check an item off a list.

3) Create reminders on my phone
I pretty much forgot all about this step. I did initially add a reminder to my phone but I dismissed it the first time it went off and I never did receive another reminder again. I still think creating a phone reminder could be a valuable idea for helping to ensure regular meditation practice.

4) Make a list of meditation resources for quick reference
I referred to my list of meditation resources and made a point of utilizing a variety of them so that I wouldn’t get bored. What I found was that I really do love using the meditation apps on my phone because no matter where I am I have my phone by my side and it was easy to just click on the app and select a meditation. I actually created an app “Meditation” folder and put it on the home screen of my iPhone so that I would see it throughout the day. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up meditating because I glanced at this folder when checking my emails.

In addition to the ease of using apps, I really like how some of the meditation apps, such as Insight Timer, keep track of your progress which I found REALLY encouraging and motivating.

As for types of meditations, I really found “body scan” meditations really helpful for when I was feeling pain and even when I wasn’t. I am slowly learning to just “be present” with my pain through the use of these types of meditations.

5) Pick a realistic time of day to meditate each day as well as a realistic length of time
I originally said that I would meditate after eating breakfast. That happened exactly ONE time! I quickly realized that upon waking up I enjoy activating and stimulating my brain (ie. reading the news) not meditating. To ensure success I knew I had to choose a different time so I started meditating once I got into bed at night. The only problem with this time I realized what that I often fell asleep during the meditation. So I revised my goal time to the broad period of “after dinner but before bed”. This ended up being the most successful goal. The result has been that I have ended up meditating at all times of the day with evening being the most common time.

As for length of meditation, I have been meditating between 5 and 45 mins. per day. My original goal was 10 minutes per day so I am happy with what I have been managing to do. Some days are less than 10 mins but others are much longer. I would say that overall I probably average 15 mins. per day. I often find that I start with a short guided meditation but I enjoy it so much that I do another longer one right after the first.

6) Report back to someone

I told my therapist about my 21-day meditation commitment. I provided her with an update after one week of meditating and told her how I was going to amend my practice to be even more successful. I am to report back to her next week again. I think having a specific person to check in with REALLY increased the feeling of accountability.

NOW WHAT?!:

Overall I am really, really happy and proud of myself but I don’t want it to end here. I want to ensure that I keep meditating every day. I also want to expand my meditation practice to include more specific chronic pain resources. So here are my next steps:

*I am going to keep doing all the steps in my 6-step process. I think it would be too easy for my practice to wane if I am not checking off a checklist, reporting back to my therapist, etc.

*I am going to incorporate more specific “chronic pain” meditations such as those by Jon Kabat Zinn and Peter A. Levine, some of which are listed on my website’s Meditation page.

*I am going to do more healing visualization guided meditations. I will try and see if there are any guided visualization apps for iPhone.

*I will report back here with another blog post!!!

I am always looking for more resources, inspiration, and suggestions so I would love to hear from you! Happy meditating!

30 Things About my Invisible Illness You May Not Know

frida kahlo

invisible illnessTo help promote Invisible Illness Week I am sharing the MeMe:

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Internal Disc Disruption/Derangement (IDD)
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2012
3. But I had symptoms since: 2008
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Not being able to participate in even the most normal day-to-day activities as I am unable to sit, stand, walk etc. the majority of the time.
5. Most people assume: I look great so I must not be as disabled as I am.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Waking up and realizing a have another day to persevere through.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: I don’t have one.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my camera.
9. The hardest part about nights are: waking up from dreams in which my body is working normally.
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please) A couple of non-narcotic meds and many vitamins.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: have spent thousands of dollars trying everything with no results…acupuncture, acupressure, cranio-sacral, Reiki, healing touch, plasma injections (that athletes use), prolotherapy, body-mind therapies, visualization, etc.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: hard to choose…I am grateful that I look “normal” but daily I wish I had a way of showing people what I am truly dealing with each and every second of the day despite my “normal appearance”.
13. Regarding working and career: So sad to know that I will never have either again so I have to find purpose some other way which is hard to do when I spend 90% of my day laying horizontally.
14. People would be surprised to know: that to get anywhere I usually have to lay horizontally in the back seat of my car and have someone drive me.  
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: I may be this disabled forever and I am only 39.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: keep on persevering through it all.
17. The commercials about my illness: there aren’t any.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: sitting…to drive, to eat my meals, to watch a play, to fly, to watch a movie, to watch my nephew’s play sports, etc.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: the reality that I will never travel by plane ever again.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: blogging.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: hop on a plane to Kenya…a lifelong dream.
22. My illness has taught me: life is not fair, good health should be cherished every single moment, nothing should be taken for granted.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “have you tried…”
24. But I love it when people: say “Wow, you are so strong to handle how you have to live your life. I bet not many people realize how hard it must be.”
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: stay strong, no matter how alone you feel, you are not. 
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how there can be so few medical solutions or answers to my situation and so many other people’s. 
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: My Mom has repeatedly dropped everything to take care of me and comfort me.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I really want people to learn not to make any assumptions about someone’s health based on their external appearance.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: happy.

Peace and love,
Stephanie

21-Day Meditation Challenge for those with Chronic Pain

meditation photoDespite research showing that mindfulness-based meditation is very beneficial for those of us dealing with chronic pain/illness, I have yet to maintain a daily committed meditation practice.  I have definitely tried…I have taken meditation classes through the pain clinic at my local hospital, as well as online classes, I have mindfulness apps on my phone, I have chronic pain mediation CDs, YouTube mindfulness videos favourited, and I own many books on the topic. I have resources galore but somehow after a week or two of meditating I stop. Often a month later I will start my practice again. I don’t think I am alone in this start and stop relationship with meditation. Am I? Please tell me I am not!

As my level of disability and pain increase, along with corresponding depression, I recognize that I truly MUST make meditation be part of my daily routine. This time I am adopting a multi-step preparation approach to ensure I stick to my goal of daily meditation! I would love for you to join me for the next 21 days (this is the length of time it apparently takes to make a practice a habit!).


6 STEPS TO PREPARING FOR A 21-DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE

1) Make a public commitment to meditating
 I am writing this blog post.
2) Make a daily checklist or write daily meditation time on a calendar
I have printed a checklist and hung it on my fridge.
3) Create reminders
I am setting my phone to remind me daily. Once at 10am and again at 4pm in case I chose to ignore the first reminder!
4) Make a list of meditation resources for quick reference
My resources are listed after these steps (see below).
5) Pick a realistic time of day to meditate each day as well as a realistic length of time
I am choosing to meditate after I eat my breakfast cereal which is the first thing I do each morning.
I am committing to meditating a minimum of 10 minutes per day but with the hope that I will do more.
6) Report back to someone
I am reporting back to my therapist in two weeks.
I am also going to do a follow-up blog post.

I encourage you to follow the steps above or create your own. I would love to hear what additional steps or ideas you think would be help yourself and/or others to stick to a 21-day meditation challenge.


MY FAVOURITE CHRONIC PAIN MEDITATION RESOURCES
I have used ALL of the resources below so I can personally say I found them valuable.
I will put this list of meditation resources on the Meditation page of this website so you can refer back to them in the future. I will also add additional resources and details to the Meditation page that aren’t in this blog post. 

iPhone and iPad Apps:
Calm
Insight Timer
Mindful

CDs/Downloads:
Jon Kabat Zinn – Mindfulness Meditations for Pain Relief
Peter A. Levine – Freedom from Pain CD or download

Online Meditation Courses:
Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s –  21-Day Meditation Experience
Susannah Conway’s course – The Sacred Alone

Videos:
Click here to link to my Chronic Pain Meditation playlist on YouTube

Please let me know if you are going to join me on the 21- day challenge! I would love the motivation that comes from doing a challenge with others 🙂

One Lovely Blog Award – 7 Random Facts About Me

lovely blog award

I am honoured and thankful to Nicole, at Born a Lemon, for nominating me for a “One Lovely Blog” award! I still have a long way to go with my blog but this award encourages me to work harder at it. As per the award guidelines here are…

7 Random Facts about Me:

I own a glittery ten-pin bowling ball with my old bowling name “Princess” engraved on it.

I once took a Speedreading course so I am a super fast reader.

My most proud accomplishment was raising money for a young woman’s kidney transplant in Kenya. We are still very close friends and hope to meet each other one day.

I can’t watch or hear anyone brush their teeth. I get goosebumps all over and freak right out!

My middle name is “Gesine”. I am named after my aunt and grandmother who live in Germany. If I would have had a daughter I would have passed the name on to her.

I have numerous “tickle trunks” and love to dress up in wigs and costumes.

The most rewarding job I ever had was working for the John Howard Society, helping male prisoners prepare for their release from prison.

042_edited-1My nominations for a “Lovely Blog Award”:

Life in Slow Motion – the words on this blog so accurately capture what it is like to live with chronic pain.

Para Las Fridas – a fellow Frida lover and super talented woman who is a disability and human rights activist as well as visual artist. Her blog, too, shares what life is like with chronic illness and pain.

Chronic Fatigue Warrior  -the following isn’t a blog but she has my favourite Facebook group about chronic illness/pain. I love her artistic soul and she shares some great stuff!

Enduring Pain with Patience – this is a blog I just started following…the title says it all!

A Bowl of Cherries – Grace’s blog has already been nominated but I can’t help give a shout out to her and her blog…both of which are beautiful! She is a courageous woman with a big heart whose blog is a combination of her lovely photography and thoughts on life.

The Late Bloomer Revolution – Michelle’s lovely designed blog offers “complimentary seeds of inspiration, humor and mildly irreverent advice on how to awaken your inner bloom.

Sweet Sunflowers – A fellow photographer and life coach whose “helps her clients to visualize their dreams and take first gentle steps”.

Lolalina – Laura Gaskill’s serenely beautiful blog offers so much – inspiring “interiors, decor, food styling, flowers, art, and craft”.

B’s Bytes – a wonderful artist, writer and photography who shares a lovely sampling of each on her blog.

I know I was supposed to list 15 blogs but I only read a few at this point. I like to think of this as quality over quantity!

Guidelines for the One Lovely Blog Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award;
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post, your blog or both;
  • Share 7 facts about yourself;
  • Nominate 15 bloggers who you admire and consider “lovely.” Let the nominees know they have been nominated by commenting on their blogs.