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Ten Things to Declutter Damn Fast and Why

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Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Hello, Friends In Pain.

I have clutter and I would bet some of you do, too. Clutter and disorganization affect people with chronic pain mentally, and, in many cases, physically.

At the least, clutter causes anxiety, shame, and embarrassment, it saps energy just looking at it and planning how to get rid of it. Clutter also causes depression and steals your ability to focus. Clutter is stressful, you may trip over it and hurt yourself, or get sick from the extra dust mites or bacteria clutter may grow in your home.

The extent of the clutter in my home feels overwhelming. I feel shame and embarrassment and don’t want anyone to see the inside of my home. If I could have two hours a day for a month, alone, and someone to take the bags of stuff away, I think I could get it all done. If only…

The other day I didn’t have much time, only five or ten minutes, but I wanted to declutter something just to get another tiny bit further along in my home project. I began thinking of all the things I could declutter in five or ten minutes and chose a bin in the bathroom. It got me thinking I could write about my problem at that moment. Here are ten things you can declutter in five or ten minutes. Choose one of the following and set a timer. Ready, set, GO!

  1. Your car. Get all the trash out first. Don’t forget your glove box. Get all the old insurance certificates and registrations, and any other things that don’t belong in there. Do you, like me, have an extra tool to get the snow and ice off the car? Why exactly do you need more than one? Unless you have a good reason, get rid of any duplicates.
  2. One shelf in the kitchen pantry or cupboard, or the whole cupboard, if you have time. Look for anything that’s expired and get rid of it. Is there anything on the shelf that you won’t use? Can you donate it to your local food bank? Reorganize the shelf so you can see what’s in there and you can use it.
  3. Kitchen utensil drawer or container. Are there plastic spoons that are partially melted or have seen better days? Do you have stained wooden spoons? Are there any utensils you don’t like? Is there something you thought would be cool or useful and it turns out it’s neither? If it’s not in good condition, throw it away. If it’s in good condition, donate it.
  4. The refrigerator. First, get rid of all the expired food. Do you have time to clean the shelves and cubbies? Arrange things so you can see what you have and eat it. If, like me, you don’t see something, it goes bad, and you have to throw it away.
  5. Kitchen towels. Are there any kitchen towels or dishcloths that should move from the kitchen drawer to the cleaning rag drawer? If they are tattered, that may be where they belong. Are there any to donate, maybe ones that don’t suit your kitchen decor or that someone you don’t like gave to you? Are there kitchen towels that don’t “spark joy” when you take them out of the drawer? You know what to do…donate.
  6. Your sock drawer. Take out all the socks. Check for holes in the heels or toes and get rid of any you won’t be repairing. Also, get rid of any socks that don’t have partners.
  7. Underwear drawer. Are there any undies that are stained or holey? You wouldn’t want to get into an accident wearing those, would you? Get rid of them already!
  8. Medicine cabinet. Get rid of anything expired first. Is there anything in there you know you won’t use? If so, out it goes! Ask your pharmacy the best way to get rid of the medication. You don’t want to dispose of it incorrectly, such as flushing or washing it down the sink. You don’t want the drugs and vitamins to end up in the water supply.
  9. Makeup collection. Is there any expired makeup or makeup product that doesn’t smell right? Into the garbage can it goes. Is there something you know you won’t use? Are you still using that super sparkly neon green eyeshadow from 1982? No? Bye bye, it goes!
  10. Cleaning products. I had a bunch of cleaning products that were half gone and hadn’t been used in ten years or more, probably more. I got rid of them and so should you. If you liked them, you probably would have used them by now.

Okay! How did it go?

What areas did you declutter? How long did it take? Do you have any other ideas on areas to declutter fast? Please, comment below. Thanks for reading!

Julie, The Pain Guru

What Is Feelin’ Guru-Vy?

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Me, Feelin’ Guru-Vy On a Nice, Sunny Day

Hello Friends In Pain,

At the top of this page, my mission is spelled out: Helping Relieve Chronic Pain So You Can Feel Guru-Vy Again. But what is guru-vy? It’s different for every person. And it’s a fine exercise to see what guru-vy means to you. It’s good to know what to work toward to have a better, more enjoyable life.

To me, guru-vy is directly connected to what is most important to me, freedom. Freedom is what makes me feel life is worth living. The second I feel trapped without a way out, I feel like I’m done, anxious, depressed, and angry.

Freedom is like riding my bicycle very fast with my arms out, feeling the wind blow by my body, whipping my hair to a frenzy, riding a motorcycle with no known destination, or riding a roller coaster that lets your legs hang free. It makes me giggle with unbridled joy!.

Freedom also means I choose when to say yes or no, when, where and how. Freedom governs where I go and with whom, when can I be out of the house, and when I’m well enough to drive. This kind of freedom depends on my healthy lifestyle. Without my healthy lifestyle, I have no freedom, except to lie in bed all day feeling like my body is dismembering itself with fire. If I don’t eat nutritious food, get some movement, take correct medication and/or supplements, and get proper sleep, I have no freedom. Freedom is something I choose to have because the alternative is too painful, emotionally and physically, to live with.

As an independent woman since birth, just ask my mother, freedom isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. There are times I don’t feel as free as at other times. That’s natural. I can deal with it as long as I get back on track in the next day or two. In this way, I’m free, even in choosing when to have a flare. There are times it’s worth it to drive to see family, even though the twelve-hour car ride will make me feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. We are free to stop often for breaks and walk around the car. It takes longer to get where we’re going, but I don’t feel as many spasms and cramps when we get there.

Freedom is my brand of guru-vy, my favorite jam, and better than a whole pot of fragrant, organic, fair-trade coffee. What is your guru-vy? If you don’t know, let the question sink in, percolate. (Clue: It will be the thing you feel you will die without.) When you know, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.

They may take away our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!

William Wallace, as played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart (the movie)

I don’t know if the above quote was actually said by the real William Wallace, but it’s a good line.

If you have any questions or an idea, or just want to say hello, please comment below.

All the best to you,

Julie, The Pain Guru

Surviving the Loss of Your Life: 3 Stages of Grief

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Hello Dear Friends,

It has been quite some time since I’ve written, since November. It has been a busy time with trips during the holidays, and some unexpected deaths in my family, a cousin and one of my dogs.

My husband and I, along with our other two dogs, have been actively grieving the loss of my dog, Pearl. She was one of the sweetest dogs I’d ever met, coming to our family on July 9, 2012. She was six years old at the time. And, oh, was she cute! Her hair was so smooth and the little curls made it feel bouncy. Pearl was warm and loving; cuddling and gazing at you were her favorite passtimes. She “spooned” our other dogs, and me. While we slept, she would get behind me and press her belly to my back and her nose into my hair. It was quite comforting, even though she was a dog. Her eyes were gorgeous, dark amber and brown with an indescribable depth. The only way I can describe her eyes are to say they looked like round, polished tigers eye. My sweet girl passed from congestive heart failure on January 2, 2019. She was one month short of 13 years old. I’ve been very sad about her passing. I miss her so much. Though both our dogs miss her, my Yorkshire Terrier seems to miss her the most. She was his adoptive mother, as he was only six months old when we adopted her.

Pearl Hodges, February 6, 2006, to January 2, 2019

A long time ago, I suffered the death of a significant relationship, a breakup. It ripped the ground right out from under me. My therapist gave me a book, How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Melba Colgrove, Ph.D., Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D., and Peter McWilliams.

I was a bit confused. No one had died, except me – inside. My therapist explained that there are all kinds of losses, death, divorce, loss of a relationship, a belief, a cherished animal, or even a lifestyle.

When I got fibromyalgia, I felt lost and depressed, like all the light had left the Universe, leaving behind pain and fatigue, and dark loneliness. The person I knew as myself had died. I went to see another therapist. I didn’t know what to do to recover some semblance of my life. What my therapist saw was a woman who felt confined to a wheelchair, but no one could see the wheelchair or the fact that my body didn’t work the same as it had before. Those were my therapist’s words. That was it; I had lost the body and the life I’d had just weeks before. She offered me a book I’d read before, How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

If you have chronic pain, you have likely suffered the loss of your lifestyle, your life, your health — your “normal self.” Though you may feel like you have, you haven’t lost who you really are.

It was as if all the bright, shiny and good things about my life had vanished. Never again would I feel joy. My emotional state was a black pit. How would I ever clear away all the darkness?

Through reading the book, and a great amount of work with and without my therapist, I regained my joy and created a new “normal self.” I had always been Type A, driven, ambitious, goal-oriented. Now I didn’t know what goals to strive toward. I couldn’t work. I was stuck in bed most of the day. Just going to the bathroom was a major event. Confusion had drawn around me and my heart like the darkness of a closed tomb.

When we are amid grief, our body and mind start a natural repairing process, but in our culture, we tend to fight such things. We put on the face of “oh, no, I’m fine.” As we speak those words, we know it feels like a lie. We aren’t fine, but we can be fine again. In grief, many things happen to our mind and heart while we are suffering a loss. For example, other than sadness or depression, we may be angry, fearful, apathetic, or pessimistic. We may lose our appetite, hope, ability to sleep or concentrate, or sex drive. We may be more clumsy than usual, drop things, or we may speak or move more slowly.

To recover, or heal, from a loss, there are three natural and necessary parts of the healing process.

Shock, Denial, and Numbness

At this point, you may not want to believe the diagnosis or how you are feeling physically or emotionally. You may think it can’t possibly be true. How can you live like this for the rest of your life?

This is the time to concentrate on survival. Three suggestions from the book that helped me the most were the following.

  1. I had to remember that this wouldn’t kill me. I would survive the grief I felt at losing the life and body I’d known.
  2. If you need help, get help right away, as I did. I believe there are times (many times) when we all need a therapist. It’s likely this is one of those times for most of us.
  3. The book suggests reaffirming your beliefs. As a Buddhist, we believe nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable. I read a few books and followed some suggestions for meditation during chronic pain. I found that the places I felt the most pain changed immediately on discovery. I learned that the worst pain isn’t always the worst pain. Even pain changes. That gave me hope!

Fear, Anger, and Depression

This stage is the time to concentrate on mourning and healing. It isn’t the time to resist, this is a time of emotional work. If you step on a nail, you might go to the hospital to get the wound treated, you might even get a tetanus shot. In any case, you have to do something about it or you may interfere with the healing of the wound. An emotional wound is the same as a physical wound. The body has a natural sense of what is needed to heal grief. The three most helpful suggestions are as follows.

  1. There is no hurry. Let nature takes its course and be patient with yourself and the process. There is no timeline for healing grief. There will be steps forward and steps backward. You need to care for yourself as you would a dear friend who needed care. Nothing was more important than self-care for my healing process. I would expect that to be true for you.
  2. Feelings are normal, so expect to have feelings. Feelings are a part of life, and they are definitely part of the healing process. I was sad, fearful, depressed, and pissed off at the world and myself. I had myself a nice, long pity party. I remember lying in bed, tears pouring down my face, running into my ears and hair. I often said out loud, “God if you exist, I will be okay if you let me die in my sleep.” Though I meant it at the time, I wouldn’t have done it myself. One more thing here, don’t allow the expectations of another person to guide any aspect of how you feel.
  3. Pamper yourself and find some ways to reintroduce joy. Go to dinner and a movie with a close friend. Cuddle with your cat or dog. Get a manicure and pedicure. Take a nice bubble bath. Meditate or pray. Move your body in a way you find pleasurable. Buy flowers for your kitchen table. By pampering yourself, you remember the things that bring joy to you and your body.

Understanding, Acceptance, and Moving On

This is the time when you realize you have survived a great loss, you have changed during the healing, you know the emotional pain has lessened. You have a new understanding upon which you can build a new life.

  1. You are now stronger than you ever thought you could be. There is a feeling of empowerment that can come as a result of doing something you never thought you could do. I see it as a yoga teacher when someone goes upside down and into a headstand for the first time.
    They stand taller, are sporting a huge smile, and the light in their eyes shines like someone put LED bulbs into their eye sockets. Although, healing from a loss takes much longer, emotionally, than the physical demands of going upside down. You may well have that same smile and lit-up eyes. Celebrate your new, stronger, braver, badass self!
  2. Praise yourself for your courage. You are a different person now than you were. It’s time to see what lessons you may have learned from the loss of your “normal life.” One thing you have now is the ability to relate to those suffering the same grief you have suffered. This is a good thing! I promise. For me, I knew I could be a better, more compassionate yoga teacher. When I began doing yoga again, I started moving myself into poses on the bed, then the floor, then I did yoga standing up. I learned how to use blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters and other yoga props in new ways to help my new body do yoga poses. I can almost feel another’s physical pain when I look at a person’s body or face. With that information, I can help a person be comfortable and get the most out of the pose by working with their body and different props. When a person is able to relax into a yoga pose, I see the transformation they feel.
  3. You have the choice of what your new life will be. Try some new hobbies, travel if you feel like it, discover new people, rekindle friendships you may have let dangle in the breeze. Have healthy conversations. Enjoy the freedom to choose, you are in control of how you live this new life. I know there will be limitations. Everyone’s life has some limitations, be it from the country in which you live, financial, or because of illness. But maybe there is a way to work around even those limitations. Try. Ask questions. Go out there and discover your new world.

One thing I would offer from my own experience is to get support from anyone you can find going through a similar trial in life. Those of us with chronic pain are going through something no one else understands. Find someone who does understand. But this support is not to have a bitch session. Yes, talk about how you feel, then move on to something positive. This support is to brainstorm solutions, to share what helps each of you so you may feel better and gain a greater understanding of yourself and your body.

This brings me to the purpose of The Pain Guru and this website. I am here to support you in the grieving process, and, eventually, to assist you in finding support partners, so you don’t feel alone in grieving the loss of the life you once had because you aren’t alone. There are millions of us with chronic pain. In this new world of the internet and social media, we can find one another and support each other in finding new joy in life.

One place to find others is The Pain Guru Tribe group Facebook page. We also have a Pain Guru Instagram account, @thepaingurujulie.

If you need help with chronic pain, disability or some kind of illness that causes pain, let me know. I will soon be doing remote private yoga and meditation sessions over the internet. Help is available.

And please, if you feel you cannot go on any longer, call the NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE at 1 (800) 273-8255. For more information go to http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Wishing all the best!

Julie, The Pain Guru

Happy Flare-Free Holidays!

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Hello Dear Friends,

Here we are, resting on the brink of the holiday season. It’s a time of love, friends, family–and stress. Since this week is Thanksgiving in the U.S., you may be already in the season, with shopping and house guests.

The holiday season is also part of the “cold and flu season,” and the pain and fatigue flare season for those of us with chronic pain and fatigue. Self-help and success guru, Tony Robbins, says the idea of a “cold and flu season” is a myth. The viruses that give us a cold or flu are in the air anyway. The reason so many people get a cold or flu during or right after the holidays is our bodies aren’t able to handle the viral assault. We are too stressed due to the holiday season. Because of the stress, our bodies are depleted and unable to defend themselves from the germs they normally fight off without a problem. I tend to agree with Mr. Robbins.

If we chronic pain and fatigue sufferers allow ourselves to be stressed out and run down, we are prime candidates for flares, as well as a cold or flu. Either will put a damper on holiday fun.

We can remain healthy, prevent flares, and enjoy the season, by placing ourselves at the top of our priority list. I used to say, “There isn’t time to put myself first!” I have learned that when I put myself first I still get everything done and I feel better afterward, physically and mentally.

There are five main ways I care for myself while preparing for and enjoying the holidays. Each of them will help you fight off flares, as well as the cold or flu.

Sleep

Good sleep is the body’s first defense against nearly any type of assault. Sleeping well is difficult for many people, but there are tricks that help. First, create a sleep routine. Wake up and go to sleep at the same times each day.

At least one hour before bed, turn off all electronic screens. Screens on your phone, television, tablets, and computers emit blue light, which prevent your brain from releasing melatonin, the neurotransmitter which helps you fall asleep.

Light your home with candles or dim the lights. Less light can remind your body it’s late in the day and you will be going to sleep soon.

It helps me relax when I take a warm shower, or bath, a half hour before bed. After my shower or bath, I put lavender essential oil, or a lotion containing the essential oil, on the soles of my feet and a drop on the crown of my head. I sometimes use an aromatherapy diffuser at night with lavender, Roman chamomile, or a different sleep-inducing scent.

Another trick I use is to put Bluetooth headphones in my ears and play sleep hypnosis or yoga nidra videos on YouTube all night. This helps me get to sleep, stay asleep, and go back to sleep if I get up to use the bathroom during the night.

Do your best to get the sleep hours you need. I generally sleep seven or eight hours a night. Sometimes I still need an additional hour or two during the day, so I nap.

Exercise

Regular exercise gives you extra energy during the day and helps you sleep better at night. You don’t need much, even ten or fifteen minutes a day may help. If you are in the mall, walk a lap or two without stopping.

Play a couple of your favorite songs and dance. Just playing my favorite songs puts me in a good mood, dancing makes it even better!

There are many different kinds of free exercise videos on YouTube, including those with chair yoga and walking in place. If you’ve never looked, you’ll be amazed at what’s available! You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise, unless you want to, of course.

Nutrition And Water

Good nutrition and plenty of water are essential to protect your body from flares and illness. The easiest way to drink all your water is to carry a water bottle with you, no matter where you go, and refill it at any opportunity. I drink around a gallon of water a day. I put colored hair bands on my water bottle so I know how many fills (and ounces) I’ve drunk that day. Herbal teas count toward your water consumption, as do clear soups or bouillon. Fruits and veggies are often high in water content, which also helps flood your body with the water it needs. Bonus: The more water you drink and eat, the fewer wrinkles you will have and the healthier your skin will be, overall. Yes!

Filling your plate with fresh veggies, greens, grains, fruit, and lean protein fills your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to run its best. Think of “eating a rainbow” every day. Each color of fruit and veggie has different vitamin and mineral content. “Eating a rainbow” ensures you get more nutritional value from your food. Sugars, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods are best in limited quantities. They don’t help you be healthy, release unneeded hormones, make you sleepy, and may actually hinder your body from efficiently using certain nutrients. Be careful how many holiday goodies you eat at the office, unless there is a fruit or veggie tray. I take supplements to ensure I get all the nutrients my body needs to perform at its best. Ask your doctor what types of supplements you may need. Some supplements can interfere with some prescription medication.

Make The Holidays Easier

There are ways you can make the holidays easier. Some ideas include having potlucks instead of cooking the family dinners by yourself. You can assign people to bring an entree, side dish, veggie, or dessert, for example. (I love to delegate!)

Do as much gift wrapping, food prep, baking, rolling out pie dough or cookies while sitting at the kitchen table.

Buy gifts online. If you don’t know what you want to buy, go to the big box stores in person, or simply look online. Once you know what you want, buy it online and get the gifts wrapped and sent to your loved ones. You save time in line at the store, at the post office, and you don’t have to wrap it. You can even order your food online and have your baking goods and spices, for example, sent to your front door! If you want your groceries delivered to your home from your local grocery store, your store may deliver. If not, check the Instacart smartphone app.

You can get your holiday stamps at http://www.usps.gov, along with boxes and other supplies to mail cards and gifts (in the U.S. only, check your country’s mail service).

Relax And Enjoy The Season!

Don’t forget your meditation practice. Have coffee with friends. See a movie. Catch up with family and friends over the phone or email. Skype with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Play Candyland with your kids or grandkids. Make some fun memories. And, no matter what I said about good nutrition, don’t completely deprive yourself. Enjoy some holiday cookies, pie, and festive drinks! Remember, the holidays are for celebrating!

Journaling Questions

Please comment below. What suggestions will you use to have a healthy, flare-free holiday season? Do you have any ideas of your own to make the season healthy and flare-free?

I wish for you, your family and your friends a joyous holiday season!

Julie

What I Fear

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Hello Friends,

I have always considered myself courageous. There are few things of which I’m truly afraid. Since getting Fibromyalgia, there has been one thing that terrifies me – pain, unrelenting, untreatable pain. It happened to me after I got Fibromyalgia, and now I have Degenerative Disc Disease, as well, which has caused me even more pain. After a time, some of my fear had calmed. My medication and lifestyle were pretty stable, as was my pain. Sure, every now and then I have flares that can get pretty nasty. But my fear of current, unrelenting pain had subsided. Until now.

The governmental response to the “opioid crisis” scares me. It is unfair that those of us with chronic pain are viewed with suspicion and seen as drug-seeking criminals. A chronic pain patient is, normally, not an addict. Yes, one’s body may be tolerant of a drug, but addiction is an emotional disease. We aren’t drug seekers in the way an actual drug addict would be. We want nothing more than to be able to have, even a modicum of, a life. Most of us cannot have that without pain medication. We will do anything we can to get our pain meds, including to use our meds the way our doctor tells us to use them. I have been taking the same pain meds for Fibromyalgia since 2004. I have always taken them as my doctor has instructed me to take them.

Many of us might commit suicide rather than live without pain meds. And they are. Pain patients are committing suicide because getting their pain medication has become so difficult or impossible to get due to current laws and fearful doctors. The latest I’ve heard of was a woman in Kansas. If I’m hearing of this woman, without looking it up online, how many are there? This isn’t because we are weak, criminals or addicts. It’s because we lose all quality of life without the meds. Those who have no experience with chronic pain patients should not be the ones deciding who can and cannot have, and how much, pain meds a patient should have…ever. But that is what’s happening.

As my current doctor told me, “In this day and age there is no reason for anyone to suffer like that.” He said that when a previous doctor refused to help manage my pain.” The doctor I was seeing at that time treated me like a criminal. I’m a lucky woman to have the doctor I have now. Still, because of Nevada’s current prescription laws, I am having trouble getting my prescriptions filled, and they aren’t even opioids! They just happen to be in the same medication class as some opioids.

I am afraid, though, because those in control of the U.S. and state governments treat pain patients like we created the opioid crisis, as if we’ve been killing people. The strange thing is that those who die are also, strangely, demonized, while being simultaneously seen as the victim! They should not be demonized. Addiction is a disease.

Why can’t the “authorities” see the truth? The sellers on the street and the pharmacological companies who pushed medication to be given to those not needing it are the real criminals. If pain patients cannot get what they need, it is they who will be on the streets buying whatever they can get their hands on, not to get high, but to have the relief they should be able to receive legally.

So, please, write to your representatives at the federal, state and local levels. Let them know what a pain patient is and what we are not. Tell them what pain meds give you and what life would be without them. Tell them the truth. This is the time we must stand up for ourselves! If  you don’t know your representatives, google them at “who are my representatives.”

What do I think should be done? I don’t know what the answers are; it’s an enormous problem. One thing that might help is to provide a lock box to all patients expected to be on opioids or pain medication for a term of six months or more. Maybe the purchase of the box could be completely covered by your insurance policy or having one could get you a discount on your insurance. That’s one of my ideas. But brainstorming possible ideas could start a dialogue. Dialogue can create a revolution, a renewing of ideas, and workable solutions.

I do know having fear increases pain and fatigue because fear causes stress, which always makes things worse. I manage, mostly, by not thinking about it. Other ways I cope with stress are meditation, journaling, exercise and getting good sleep.

Journaling Questions

What do you fear? How does it affect the pain you feel? What do you do to cope? What do you think the government can do to help the opioid crisis?

Please tell me what you think in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Julie, The Pain Guru

Can Rock Lobster Bring Pain Relief? Music and Chronic Pain

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Hello Friends,

I recently returned home from a vacation to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. (I live in the Reno, Nevada area.) It was a perfect trip! My husband and I had quality time with our grandchildren in Washington and Oregon. We also celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary on the road. We enjoy road trips.
 
On our way home, we stopped for gas at the Longhouse near Sequim, Washington. I went inside and found myself in line to get a hot breakfast for my husband and me. Over the speakers the song Rock Lobster by The B-52s, a song I danced to during many school dances. There are portions of the song during which dancers do certain things, like going “down…down…down” toward the floor. I tapped my foot and made very small motions toward the floor, etc. I spotted a man of my age making the same movements. We looked at one another and laughed. I have felt joyful the last three days after this experience, going through the song in my mind. It’s a catchy song. If you don’t know it, here it is.
 

The experience sparked a question. How does music affect chronic pain?
 
Music can be used to motivate, relax, soothe anxiety, relieve depression, make us laugh or bring tears to our eyes. Science has long known music can raise one’s mood and help acute pain. What does science say about chronic pain and music?
 
A 2014 study at the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN) at Aarhus University, Denmark found Fibromyalgia patients experience less intense and less unpleasant pain after listening to music. The Patients chose music which was pleasurable and relaxing.
 
Line Gebauer, a postdoc fellow at CFIN, believes music may help relieve pain via the release of endorphins or because music distracts us from the pain. Because the benefit remains after the music stops, Gebauer believes the pain relief is likely because of the release of endorphins.
 
To use music to relieve pain, start by identifying what kind of music you like that relaxes you. It doesn’t matter what kind of music. Even music with a strong beat can slow breath and heart rates by stimulating brain waves, even those that govern our autonomic nervous system.
 
Other studies found that the benefit of music is even stronger when one creates the music by playing an instrument.
 
I don’t know how much the Rock Lobster helped me, but I know I didn’t have to use extra medication after the car trip. That could be a sign the experience did help my pain.
Music can help you take charge of your health in a different way. It may help relieve the emotional stress that comes with chronic pain, as well as relieving the pain.
 
Use music to help you. This will take some investigation, some trial, and error. But it will be an enjoyable journey.
 

Journal Exercises

 
Have you used music to help relieve chronic pain? Does it help you? If it does, in what ways does it help you? What other ways have you used music? What have your experiences been like? If you have never tried music as an aid to health and relief from pain, try it and let us all know how it works out. What kind of music worked for you?
 
Do you play an instrument? Does playing music yourself change the way the music affects your body? How?
 
Let the music soothe you and move you.
 
Julie

Relief That Smells Great: How Essential Oils Can Relieve Pain

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Hello Friends,

I’ve always loved using essential oils, and often put them on myself to help relieve pain and stress. I also use a diffuser daily, in my office to keep me focused but relaxed and while sleeping to alleviate sinus trouble in myself and my dogs. I also rub lavender essential oil on the bottom of my feet and the top of my head to relax and help me sleep. Orange and peppermint essential oils help me wake up and have energy.

Though I use essential oils to relieve pain, I didn’t know that essential oils had been studied with regard to aromatherapy and pain relief. I can’t tell you how excited I am to know this!

We can use essential oils in three ways, by aromatherapy/smelling the oils, by putting it on your body, and by ingesting the oil.

It’s not the smell that affects your body or mood, it’s the chemicals in the plant itself that your body reacts to, whether you smell it, rub it on your body, or eat it. (Please note: not all essential oils can be eaten!) The chemicals can reach the limbic system and, for example, reduce the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream, reduce your heart rate, relieve stress and inflammation, and improve anxiety and depression, all of which can reduce your perception of pain and improve your mood for between thirty minutes and several hours.

Tips For Using Essential Oils

  1. Always use therapeutic grade, 100% essential oils. (Scented candles and perfume oils are not essential oils and are not useful for aromatherapy.) Some good brands are DoTerra and Young Living. There are some other brands available on Amazon you can try. I’ve tried Plant Guru and a couple others, and they were fine, but I wouldn’t ingest them.
  2. Make sure you aren’t allergic to an oil before you use it. If you are unfamiliar with an oil, smell it, then mix a small amount of essential oil and a carrier oil. Place a dab of the mixture in the crook of your elbow and wait at least an hour to be certain you won’t have a reaction to the oil. An allergic reaction may include, but is not limited to, the following: a rash; a hoarse, painful or itchy throat; wheezing or other signs you are having trouble breathing.
  3. If you plan to put an oil on your body, use a carrier oil with all oils but lavender, which can be put directly onto your skin. I use coconut, sweet almond or grapeseed oil for carrier oils. There are others, such as olive oil and sesame oil. On one occasion I used tea tree oil without a carrier and I was burned. That was more than twenty years ago and I still have a scar. Please don’t make my mistake.
  4. To scent the air or linens, you can put some drops of the essential oil in a mister/spray bottle with some water. Shake the bottle and spray away!
  5. Put some drops of oil on a piece of cloth and smell it any time you like.
  6. Make some of your own cleaning products with essential oils. I like lemon or orange essential oil with white vinegar in a spray bottle to clean mirrors and the inside of my refrigerator. I mix baking soda and essential oils to clean the kitchen sink.
  7. There are websites and that tell you how to make your own personal care products. I like to mix equal amounts of white, granulated sugar and baking soda with a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oils. It’s a wonderful facial scrub! I like to use baking soda with stevia and peppermint oil as an alternative to toothpaste.
  8. I have used frankincense, myrrh and helichrysum, mixed with coconut oil, to help ease the pain in my knees. (I have a torn meniscus in both knees.) I must tell you, though, even though it works, it’s scent isn’t to my liking. But, there are many other mixes. Find some you like.

Some of the oils that may help with pain include, lavender, peppermint, bergamot, cinnamon, geranium, lemongrass, and frankincense, also known as the plant Boswellia, a main ingredient in some natural arthritis pain rubs. There are many others. Each person is different, so you have to be a detective to suss out what works best for you. If essential oils are interesting to you, it can open up a whole new way to live.

Journaling Questions 

Have you ever used essential oils to help with chronic pain? What oils have you used? What has been the effect of using the essential oils? Do you use essential oils now? Would you like to try them?

Let us know how you use essential oils, ask questions, or talk about something completely different in the comments section.

Sending you love and only the good smells!

Julie

You Too Can Be Thrice Blessed!

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Hello Friends,

Unable to think of what to write about today, I grabbed a book off the shelf, Successful Women Think Differently by Valorie Burton. I randomly opened the page to find the heading “Three Blessings.”

The three blessings section spoke of research that confirms the power of writing down what you are grateful for. Your three blessings are deeper sleep, fewer colds, and less anxiety. This happens if you write down your blessings, what many call gratitudes, every night for three weeks before bed. Interestingly, there is no effect when you think about what you are grateful for or even speak it out loud.

I can attest to the fact that having a gratitude journal can make a significant impact on your happiness. Any time you focus on things that make you feel happy and grateful, you feel happy and grateful. And feeling happy and grateful makes you feel better. It cannot take your pain away, but thinking of the good in our lives can release some of the emotional sufferings we feel when physical pain takes hold of our minds and bodies.

I’m going to go a little further than the book and describe how I think is the best way to write your gratitudes. I like to write down my gratitude in a proper sentence along with why I am grateful. For example:

  1. I am grateful for my ability to read because reading can introduce me to new worlds and new people I wouldn’t have a chance to visit.
  2. I am grateful for my family and friends because they support me no matter how fantastical my ideas may seem.
  3. I am grateful for the weather today because it is warm enough to spend some time outside in the fresh air.

See what I just did? I typed three gratitudes. It took no time at all. 😉 And like everything else, it gets easier with practice. Girl Scouts honor. Seriously, if you are writing any gratitude at all, you are ahead of the curve.

Journaling Exercise

Every night for the next three weeks write down three things for which you are grateful. We will have a 21-day challenge on The Pain Guru Facebook page and The Pain Guru Tribe Facebook group, starting July 1, but feel free to start today and to continue after July 21. If you are not a member of the group, please join. It is a closed group to keep it for those in chronic pain.

I hope you are having a wonderful day. If you would like me to address a topic or if you have any comments about your experience of using a gratitude journal, or anything else, please feel free to comment below.

Cheers,

Julie, The Pain Guru

 

Depression, Anxiety, and Pain, OH MY!!!

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Hello Friends,

While it is no longer Mental Health Month, that matters little to me. We will still be talking about mental health and what it means to a person with chronic pain.

You may have experienced depression, anxiety, and pain together, and that isn’t abnormal. I know I have felt that way. At the very least, I’ve been depressed that I will have chronic pain the rest of my life, and I’ve been anxious because I didn’t know how I could thrive having a life with permanent, chronic pain. In 2008, a study by Matthew J. Bair, Wu, and others found that chronic pain patients had the most severe pain when depression and anxiety were added to the pain. These patients also had a greater disability, as well as a poorer health-related quality of life. In 2003, Lachlan A. McWilliams, Cox and Enns found the presence of one psychiatric disorder didn’t cause additional disability. But, when there was more than one psychiatric disorder, disability was significantly increased. This seemed to be worse when there was a panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Depression and anxiety have always been bedfellows, each can cause chronic pain on its own, and they can be treated, naturally, in much the same way. What we can do about it? There are some tips on how we can alleviate some of the pain and emotional concerns, both medically and naturally.

Talk To Your Doctor

Keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctor. Though he may not bring up your mental state, you can. Tell your doctor if you feel any symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and how you feel the symptoms relate to your chronic pain. This will give your doctor what he needs to treat you, as his patient. Similarly, let your doctor know if you have any of the symptoms of stress-related back pain (similar to those of fibromyalgia). These symptoms may be back and/or neck pain, diffuse muscle aches, muscle tender points, sleep disturbance, and fatigue, or, as in many cases, the pain may feel like it moves around.

Get Appropriate Exercise

Exercise is good for you! Exercise can help relieve depression and anxiety, for one. Secondly, chronic pain can become worse because of physical de-conditioning. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about appropriate exercise. Don’t overdo it! It takes time to recondition your body and mind around exercise. I know you may be fearful of extra pain. There may well be some extra pain until your body gets used to it. That’s why talking to your doctor or physical therapist is the best way to introduce exercise to your lifestyle. They will know how much you can do.

Identify Stress or Emotional Triggers That Increase Chronic Pain

The easiest way I’ve found to identify triggers of any kind is to keep a tracker or journal. A tracker is where you make a graph, with symptoms along the top and days down the side. You would note the symptoms for that day with an “x” or maybe the time. To journal your symptoms, you would write about your symptoms. For example, “At 1:00 today I had a panic attack.”

Knowing your triggers is the first step in avoiding them. For example, if you feel stressed because you are always late for appointments, you can plan your time better. If watching the news before bed makes you sad or interferes with your sleep, watch the news earlier (or not at all). If you have young children and need some time alone in the afternoon, barter with another mother for help once a week. Many situations can be worked out if you are a bit creative.

Seek Different Treatment For Physical and Emotional Pains

A multi-disciplinary treatment approach to chronic pain and depression and/or anxiety can be more effective than that of medication alone. A therapist or support group can significantly improve your emotional outlook and soothe depression and anxiety, resulting in less chronic pain over time. Additionally, it’s important to understand some pain medication can cause depression and anxiety. It has been found some medication can help the body AND the mind, specifically antidepressants.

Physical therapy can tone muscles and soothe the body. Acupuncture has had many types of benefits for the body and mind, as does chiropractic, yoga (talk to the instructor, there are many types of yoga), massage, energy healing, hot baths, aromatherapy, naps, etc. There are more than I can list!

Breathing – The Easiest Tip Of All

I know it sounds funny, but, as a yoga teacher, I see many people who have forgotten how to breathe! As babies, we use all our lungs to breathe. As we become adults, we often breathe only into the upper third of our lungs. When we breathe deeply, expanding the lungs and allowing the belly to expand, we oxygenate the body and we feel better. Especially when doing specific exercises, it’s important to have the best posture possible.

Breath can create anxiety and depression. Think of how you breathe when you are anxious. You breathe shallow and quick. Think of how you breathe when you are depressed. The shoulders are often hunched forward and the head may be looking down. In both cases, the breath is shallow and constricted. The lungs cannot be fully utilized for their purpose.

When I breathe deeply, which you can do standing, sitting, or lying down. I like to start by inhaling through the nose and exhaling out the mouth with the biggest sighs I can. As Lilias Folan says, “There are too many un-sighed sighs.” So make your sighs big, deep and noisy! After you are done with your sighs, inhale and exhale through the nose. Let your inhale go all the way down into your belly, let the belly expand, and slowly release your breath, let your breath linger for a short moment after each inhale and exhale (the bottom and top of the breath). Try to make your inhale and exhale of each breath be even. For example, inhale for five seconds and exhale for five seconds, with a second at the top and bottom of the breath.

If you have no trouble with high blood pressure, extend your exhale to twice the length of your inhale. For example, if you have a four-second inhale, have an eight-second exhale. It takes practice, but it’s worth it. This longer exhale is especially good for stress and can help you get to sleep quicker. It is thought to work by stimulating the vagus nerve, which causes relaxation and is good for depression, anxiety, and fatigue. You can do this at any time of day. Take a breath vacation!

Journaling Exercises

Have you tried any of these tips? Which will you try this week? What happened when you tried them?

Please comment below what you think of these. So you have any tips I didn’t mention? What tips or other things you would like me to write about. Let me know how it goes. Please do sign up for the newsletter for more discussion and the perks of being a member of the Pain Guru Tribe. Thanks for stopping by!

Julie Hodges, The Pain Guru

Anxiety Can Be A Real Pain!

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Dear Friends,

Anxiety is a mental health condition, but it has many physical symptoms. These physical symptoms may exacerbate, or even become, chronic pain.

Some of the more common physical symptoms of anxiety are hyperventilation or fast breathing, muscle tension, trembling or the “jitters,” the feeling your heart is “pounding,” accelerated heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, shortness of breath, pain in the stomach or ulcer, and frequent urination or diarrhea.

Pain can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause pain. Over time, the stress and tension of chronic pain can cause a person to become hypersensitive. The person with chronic pain can be so “on edge” about their health concerns they notice every single symptom and pain they experience, even if it is mild. But when a hypersensitive person’s mind focuses on these symptoms or pain, the symptom or pain may feel more severe than it really is. Our body has sensations off and on during the day, which is normal. You may feel an itch or a muscle cramp. A person without anxiety or hypersensitivity may not notice a particular physical sensation. For a person who has developed hypersensitivity, the same sensation may be uncomfortable and cause concern.

Anxiety can cause many types of physical pain, hormonal changes, even mild organ damage. I obtained the following list of anxiety-caused physical pain from an article found here. Instead of rewriting the list, I have copied the list word for word. The CalmClinic website has an immense collection of information on anxiety, including an online test. If you have anxiety or think you may have anxiety, it’s a great place to go for information.

  • “Muscle Pain – Muscle pain is by far the most common type of pain. Muscle pain occurs as a result of muscle tension, which can put a strain on the muscles and ultimately lead to mild to severe pain. How you adjust to muscle tension may lead to pain also, because many people slouch more or sit awkwardly when they have anxiety.
  • Chest Pains – Anxiety can lead to hyperventilation, and hyperventilation can cause chest pains. Chest pains are a frightening anxiety symptom, and often actually create more anxiety on their own. Chest pains and hyperventilation are one of the leading causes and symptoms of panic attacks, which can feel to many people like heart attacks.
  • Headaches – Stress may also cause headaches, and not just typical tension headaches either. While the most common pain is around the temples, some people experience severe migraines which can affect other areas of the brain as well.
  • Joint Pain – It is not clear how or why anxiety causes joint pain, but it likely has to do with a combination of inflammation, hypersensitivity, and physical/behavioral adjustments that you make when you have anxiety. Joint pain can be a troubling anxiety symptom, but usually the pain is manageable.
  • Tingle Pain – Anxiety and hyperventilation can lead to tingling hands and feet – sometimes even tingling in other parts of the body as well. In general, this is the same feeling that your body goes through when it is waking up a nerve that’s fallen asleep. However, some people experience pain or burning instead of just a tingle. While it is not clear what makes this different for some people compared to others, the pain can be somewhat pronounced.
  • Stomach Pain – Anxiety can cause stomach pain as well. Often this is the result of indigestion, as indigestion creates gasses and bloating that may lead to general pains. Some people find that hyperventilation causes them to feel bloated, and this may also lead to stomach pain.
  • Eye Pain – Eye pain is a less common but still prevalent anxiety symptom. Like some anxiety symptoms, the reason for eye pain isn’t necessarily clear. However, the muscles around the eye may strain during stress, and the pupils may dilate when you are feeling anxious which could conceivably cause pain from light and eye strain.
  • Back Pain/Shoulder Pain – Back pain is also very common with anxiety. Like many other types of pain, back pain and shoulder pain are primarily due to muscle tension. But there may be other factors involved, such as how you sleep when you are anxious and the amount of stretching that you do that can also contribute to these types of pains.
  • Throat Pain – Throat pain, like a sore throat, may also occur with anxiety. It is likely that anxiety doesn’t create the throat pain directly, but could cause changes in stomach acids that lead to acid reflux or cause a coughing habit which can irritate the throat and lead to throat pain.”

Natural helps for anxiety include belly/deep breathing, meditation, scheduling time for yourself to do something pleasurable, exercise, enjoyable time with friends, adequate sleep, nutritious food, essential oils and aromatherapy, anything that relieves stress may make anxiety more manageable.

Journaling Questions

Have you had any experience with anxiety? What symptoms have you experienced? Has anxiety changed your pain experience? How?

Next time we will talk about the link between depression and anxiety and chronic pain, as well as some more non-drug techniques to relieve depression and anxiety.

Thank you for reading this post. I wish you all the best with any pain you may experience.

Here’s to feeling guru-vy!

Julie, The Pain Guru