Tag Archives: tips & hints

In, On, Move: A Wellness Series.

Move: I’ve been having motivation issues lately. I know yoga makes me feel better when I do it, but I still have trouble talking myself into doing it every day. I’m a big fan of joyful movement, and the idea that, regardless of health, ability, size, or shape, pretty much everyone can find a way of moving their body that feels joyful to them. I made a decision to give myself a break from yoga and go with what feels good for a little while.

For me, what feels good is dancing. I love nothing more than getting dressed up to go bump and grind with friends in a dim goth or alternative club. Mostly, my fatigue and pain get in the way of such a massive undertaking these days. Since I like making things easy for myself, I figured incorporating dance into my day was a good way to get myself moving without it feeling boring and difficult.

I’ve noticed that there are a few songs on my Spotify list which make me inevitably start moving when I hear them. Whether I’m dancing as I do the dishes or make dinner in the kitchen, doing an improvised bellydancing routine in the bathroom, or just stretching and wiggling to the music in bed on a terrible pain day, I have to move to them.

I’ve started setting a mobile alarm with Rakim by Dead Can Dance on it once or twice a day. That way, I hear it and start dancing. I often replay it a few times because I start enjoying myself. And because it’s in the privacy of my own home, I can let loose and be my uncoordinated and ridiculous self and it doesn’t matter. I’m also a big fan of the album Beats of Ice and Fire by The Boomjacks.

Music on its own can be therapeutic anyway, and singing along helps encourage deep breathing and thus relaxation. So, in the spirit of sharing and increasing my repertoire, give me one song that makes you just have to move. I’d love a complete playlist to work through over the week.

In, On, Move: A Wellness Series.

On: My skin, since developing autoimmune issues, has become even more of a Goldilocks than it used to be. That product is too harsh and I am burning and rashy and bits of my skin are falling off! That product is too weak and it doesn’t actually do anything! Occasionally though, I find something just right, and I wanted to share what works for me.

Facial wipes are a necessity for me, because I am lazy, but I am also trying really hard to be a grown up and stop going to bed with makeup on. Also, my skin hates water (yes, tap water gives me a rash, because I am a delicate flower) so by washing with water once and using facial wipes once I get to minimise irritation and still not be filthy. Yay!

Too harsh: I tried Wotnot Facial Wipes, and I wanted to love them. They are marked as suitable for sensitive skin, reasonably priced, 100% certified organic, and “free from sulphates, petrochemicals, parabens, artificial preservatives and fragrances”. I used a packet of 25 wipes and was really happy with them, repurchased, and got about half-way through the second pack when my skin started burning and blotching post-use. I bought a third pack, because I am stupid sometimes, and ended up needing to use the rest as body wet-wipes because they made my face burn so horribly. If your skin is less ridiculous than mine, give them a go though.

Too gentle: After my burning experience, I wanted gentle and soothing (also cheap, in case they were another bust) and grabbed some Dr Organics Aloe Vera Wet Wipes. These were indeed soothing and refreshing, and didn’t irritate my skin even by the second pack. Unfortunately, they also didn’t really do much else; my eye makeup would not budge with these, and it didn’t feel like they completely removed my foundation / tinted moisturiser either. I kept using them anyway, failing something better, but when they were out of stock upon trying to buy my third pack, I ended up with…

Just right: Ecocare Facial Cleansing Wipes in Organic Honey and Apple. To be honest, to me these smell… weird. The honey and apple combines into a boozy, mead-and-cider type thing that I don’t love. But the actual wipes are made with organic cotton, and they are soft and grippy, so they actually feel like they are cleaning effectively, and they get rid of every speck of makeup, so I can deal with the smell. They were about $8 for a pack of 25, so not super-cheap but still pretty reasonable. I’m on my second pack and haven’t broken out in hives yet, so it’s looking good. Praise be to the gods of unjustly sensitive skin!

Do you have any recommendations for sensitive skin cleansers / wipes? I’d love to add to my options 🙂

Note: I bought all of these myself and this is my honest opinion!

In, On, Move: A Wellness Series.

My first post in this In, On, Move fortnightly wellness series got crazy-long, so I’m going to break them up in future. Tuesdays will be In (food), Wednesdays On (beauty & personal care), and Thusdays Move (exercise and activity). As always, take what works for you and leave the rest 🙂

In: So my inner self is a five year old who throws tantrums at the slightest hint of deprivation. What, I can’t have dairy?! ALL I WANT is dairy. I have found the best way to deal with this is to keep experimenting with non-dairy imitations of delicious dairy foods, and then once the five year old is distracted digesting her treats, I sneak in lots of vegetables, fruit, and meat. Hence, the peanut butter chocolate milkshake (that contains no peanuts, chocolate, or milk).

Lots of non-dairy healthy smoothie recipes containing avocado and spinach pretend they taste like a regular milkshake. They are frequently delicious, but they are also dirty liars because they do not taste like milkshakes. To me, at least, this one actually does. It is my adaptation of this recipe from Detoxinista.

Ingredients:

– 7 icecubes

– 2 frozen bananas (peel the bananas before you freeze them, otherwise it is a giant pain in the ass to get the peels off).

– 1 to 1 + 1/2 cups of milk. I use almond, but go with your favourite. I use 1 cup if I’m making just for myself, and it comes out thickshake consistency, or 1 + 1/2 if I’m making a serve for me and one for my partner, and it is more regular milkshake thickness.

– 1 tbsp sweetener. I use maple syrup or agave, you could also use coconut sugar, stevia or honey depending on preferences.

– 2 tbsp of nut butter. I use almond when I want a more peanut buttery taste, while cashew gives a creamy texture without affecting the taste too much. If you can have peanuts, try peanut butter. If you can’t eat nuts, I’d try a tbsp or two of coconut oil for a good fat boost and some creaminess.

– 1 tbsp maca powder (optional) + 1 tbsp of cacao powder. I get this in a blend and use both, but if you’re so inclined just use cacao. Try and get cacao rather than cocoa if you can, as cocoa has had most of the nutrients processed out of it. Maca is good for hormone balance but don’t take it if you’re pregnant.

– 1 tbsp lucuma powder (optional). I love this stuff; it can be a bit hard to find, but it has a nutty caramel flavour that’s great with chocolate.

– Pinch of salt (optional, but it helps complement the chocolate flavour of the cacao).

– 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of vanilla essence. I use a tbsp because I love it.

– 1 serve of protein powder (optional). I just started trying a carob-based vegan protein powder, since most contain dairy products, grains, or legumes.

Instructions:

Crush ice. Slice banana. Blend ingredients. That’s it!

I have had this for breakfast every day for a week and I’m still not sick of it, plus it’s a solid energy and nutrient hit. Let me know if you try it!

In, On, Move: A Wellness Series.

At the start of the year, I made some resolutions, which I’ve managed to maintain reasonably successfully. The core aims I had were to care for my body and try and minimise the strain on it by being mindful of what I put in my body to nourish it, and what I put on my body in terms of personal care. I also wanted to focus on moving my body when I am able in a way that celebrates the function and strengths my body has, rather than beating myself up because I can’t do things ‘right’, or as punishment for unhealthy eating, or purely to burn calories for aesthetic reasons.

I realise these things probably sound like no-brainers, but it took me a long time to start being kind to my body post-chronic pain and illness. I fought my limitations, berated my body for its weakness, and restricted food and pushed it to exercise in ways that made me unhappy because I was trying to mould it into something it wasn’t. My mental shift has been gradual, and I still have lapses, but I feel like I’m in a much better place than I’ve ever been before in appreciating my body and prioritising my health and wellbeing.

Wellbeing is a huge part of my approach to living with chronic pain and illness. The goal of a lot of current chronic pain management programs, when they can’t cure the source of pain, is to maximise wellbeing, or physical and mental health, even in the presence of illness and pain. My goal is to be as well as I can be given my circumstances, and the resolutions were my way of prioritising that.

Because I’m nosy, and I like hearing about what others do in their pursuit of health, and also because I use this blog to keep myself accountable for continuing to try and implement positive change, I wanted to start sharing some things I’m trying and enjoying in terms of food (in); beauty, personal care, and cleaning products (on); and ways of moving my body (move, obviously).

As with absolutely everything on this blog (and elsewhere on the internet!) these are suggestions. I like recommending what I’ve found helpful, but people vary! You may not have the same issues I have, and you may not approach things the same way I do, and that’s fine. If, however, you see something you think would be helpful for you, please, please, make sure with your health providers that it is safe for you to do, with your particular set of circumstances. Especially in the case of movement, one size does not fit all where sick people are concerned!

In: Having been in a particularly chocolate-craving frame of mind lately, I decided to give making my own chocolate a go. I don’t tolerate dairy, and soy also leaves my digestive system disgruntled, so since cutting those out of my diet store-bought chocolate is pretty hard to come by. I’ve had some luck with organic, raw varieties like Pana and Loving Earth, but they get expensive! I tried this recipe, which was quick, easy, and delicious. I used maple syrup as the sweetener and added in sultanas and crushed cashews to make a Cadbury Fruit and Nut imitation (apparently I am the only person alive who enjoys it!), but the potential varieties are endless. Tastes amazing, and no tummy dramas = bliss.

On: My skin has been struggling this week. My dermatitis seems to be getting worse and worse, and I’ve tried a variety of creams and serums which seemed promising for a day or two, and then exacerbated the problem. I also had a couple of giant, sore pimples, courtesy of having a couple of higher-dose oxycodone days.

My go-to emergency mask is just two parts organic raw honey to one part baking soda. I add in some oats if I’m particularly itchy. I just put the ingredients in a bowl, mix them with a finger, and then goop it on to a dry face (and in this case, chest and arms). Be warned, this can be messy, so do it over the sink. Leave it on for 10 – 30 mins (I like to have a bath in this interim so I’m not dripping honey everywhere), them add some warm water to your hands, work it in to exfoliate with the baking soda a little, and wipe off with a warm washcloth. Use a cotton ball dipped in half-and-half apple cider vinegar and distilled water as a toner afterward if you feel like going full hippie (by the time I followed up with my usualy moisturiser I no longer smelled like a bizarre salad, in case you were wondering).

I have crazily sensitive skin and this doesn’t bother me, but if you’re concerned, either patch test or use less baking soda to begin with. The honey is antimicrobial and helps with infections. I find this leaves my skin smooth, settles the flakes for a day or so (I tend to use it the day before I have somewhere nice to be), and takes the redness and swelling out of spots. Plus, I get a childlike glee out of smearing food all over my face. Just me?

Move: I have been all about yoga this year. I’m noticing distinct differences in my muscle strength with brief daily practice that fill me with glee, and most importantly, they can be done in the privacy of my lounge room, which means I can fearlessly wear a sports bra and shorts, and also do my routine directly in front of an air con vent. Key considerations to getting through a Western Australian summer! (Useless fact: the highest temp in my state this summer was 49 degrees Celcius, which is 120 degrees Farenheit. I can’t even.)

I’ve been mixing up back, neck, and shoulder routines from Ekhart Yoga on Youtube, with this and this being current favourites. She often outlines accommodations if you can’t manage a pose, but generally speaking hatha, yin, and restorative yoga are helpful for people with pain or injury. Several of these poses and stretches have been recommended for me by my physiotherapist, so they suit my issues, but be careful to find something that suits yours if you’re interested.

I’d love to hear what you do to keep yourself well and get some new ideas (like I said, nosy).

Fun Facts.

[I want to preface this by saying that I am not currently mentally prepared to engage in a discussion regarding the ethics of inducing pain in animals to advance scientific knowledge. However, given this study has already been done, I think sharing and learning from its findings are a way of making animals’ suffering not be for nothing. As with all things, you are free to respectfully disagree.]

So, we know social factors influence pain experience. And you guys, I just found out mice with pain who are allowed to hang out with their sibling mice experience greater pain relief from narcotics. Adorable. Go hug a mouse. Or your family. (If you have a mouse as a family member, you win at pain relief!)

And if you don’t trust mice, women given electric shocks while holding their spouse’s hand found the pain less unpleasant (as compared to women holding a stranger’s hand, or no hand), as it reduced the perceived threat of the pain. Takeaway lesson for the day: if you can have your family or a loved one present during a painful treatment or intervention, do it!

References:

Coan, J. A., Schaefer, H. S., & Davidson, R. J. (2006). Lending a hand: Social regulation of the neural response to threat. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1032-1039. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01832.x

D’Amato, F. R. (1998). Kin interaction enhances morphine analgesia in male mice. Behavioural Pharmacology, 9(4), 369-373. doi:10.1097/00008877-199807000-00009

Silver Linings and Small Victories.

Being chronically ill or in pain is not, generally speaking, particularly awesome. It isn’t always terrible, but sometimes it is, and people aren’t exactly lining up to be gifted with the eternal joy and enforced co-dependency of being sick for most of their lives.

Also, chronic illness and pain aside, I am not a hugely positive person. I am sarcastic and cynical and live with the mentality that, if I expect the worst, at least I can prepare myself for it, and if it doesn’t go as badly as I’m expecting, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I have kind of a dark sense of humour. I understand that this type of disposition makes you more prone to depression and a short, nasty, brutish life, but it’s a hard thing to turn around.

I’m probably slightly more complainy and pessimistic on this blog than I am in real life, because I feel like I can vent about the negatives to the faceless internet in a way that I can’t always to the people who love me, care about me, and worry about me. Plus, they get sick of hearing it by virtue of being stuck with me a lot more often than my readers. Having this blog as an outlet for when I am struggling or things aren’t going that well is important, and serves a purpose for me.

However, I don’t want it all to be doom and gloom here. There is research in the positive psychology and resilience realm which indicates that individuals with chronic pain and illness who practice mindful gratitude – taking time to note what is good in their lives and for what they are grateful – have better outcomes.

(Side note: this topic is something I have encountered in my studies, but a quick search turned up these two pieces of related research for anyone interested:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/6Emmons-BlessingsBurdens.pdf

http://hpq.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/03/12/1359105312439733.full.pdf+html)

I don’t want to pretend it is always (or even ever) easy to be grateful for my illness and pain, but there are things in my life which I am grateful for and proud of, which have come about as a direct result of my spinal problems and autoimmune disease. So, I will be making a concerted effort to, once a week, make note of them here. Sometimes there might be lots, sometimes only one, but this is me making myself accountable for my own mental health in the face of adversity.

This week, I am grateful to have a mother who understands what I am going through.

I am grateful to know how deeply my partner cares for me and wants to help me.

I am grateful to be much better than I used to be at prioritising what is truly important and to have finely honed time management skills.

I am grateful to have access to the internet, which facilitates connection and entertainment when I cannot leave my house, or my bed.

I am grateful to have grown in patience and to have a less judgemental attitude than I used to.

I am grateful to have a significantly increased capacity for empathy for those who are distressed or suffering, which will make me a better psychologist, in addition to making me a better person generally.

What are you grateful for?

Link Round-Up.

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/boyfriend-doesnt-have-ebola-probably.html

At the risk of being hyperbolic about a site called Hyperbole and a Half, this is the most important thing on the internet for individuals with chronic pain. Nope, not the Wikipedia page for your illness, or the website you can use to make doctor’s appointments, but this: A Better Pain Scale. I would have already had this printed on a t-shirt to wear to medical appointments if that wouldn’t require me pointing at my boobs when confronted with the “where are we today” question.

http://www.xojane.com/healthy/my-disease-my-family-and-my-finances

A realistic and practical (while simultaneously depressing) account of the financial impact of degenerative illness, and one family’s measures to deal with it. While the government support and likely the legal issues vary between the US and Australia, it still raises some useful things to think about when preparing for probable long-term disability and unemployment.

http://now.tufts.edu/articles/world-hurt-pain?utm_source=Tufts+Now+-+Faculty+and+Staff&utm_campaign=c675a03828-Tufts_Now_internal_120919&utm_medium=email

An interesting look at the history of pain management in the medical field. Happy 60th anniversary, pain specialisation! The article touches on the mechanisms by which chronic pain perpetuates and is distinct from acute pain. It also relates research findings that for individuals with chronic pain or illness, “blogging relieved personal isolation while providing a renewed sense of purpose”. Win!

http://now.tufts.edu/articles/healing-words

Further information regarding the research mentioned above. I had a project involving use of health blogging as a support for those with chronic illness in mind for a potential Masters project, so I’m excited to see research being done in this area. I think online services are uniquely appropriate and important for individuals with illness, pain, and mobility, who may otherwise be isolated and unable to attend pain management or support services. Also, I really wish I was in the US and could do the Tufts School of Medicine Masters degree in Pain Research Education and Policy. It sounds amazing! Hopefully more universities will begin to offer pain management-related courses in the health professions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRFanGInvlc

A video on Ronald Melzack, a psychology professor who was a pioneer in pain research and whose findings are integral to our current understanding of the complex processes involved in the pain experience. The video also gives a good outline of historical and current pain theories, including the gate control theory of pain. Melzack also created the McGill Pain Questionnaire based on his research, which as a pain patient I am very familiar with!

http://www.bodyinmind.org/seeing-a-needle-prick-makes-it-worse/

Empirical support for my mother’s advice to wiggle your toes when you are getting an injection/ having an inept phlebotomist dig around for your cowering veins during a blood draw; by not only avoiding looking at the needle go in, but focusing on another part of your body, your perception of the pain is reduced. My mother also sings ‘So What’ by Pink during particularly painful procedures, but each to his/her own.

Thank you to Sunlight in Winter for pointing me in the direction of a few of these valuable links, and for the further resources available she has collected here:

http://sunlightinwinter.wordpress.com/resources/

In the Words of Others.

So there are lots of people smarter than me who also write about chronic illness and pain, and rather than continuing to collect hundreds of bookmarks, I’m going to use semi-regular link round-ups to keep track of them and hopefully share the wisdom (and ridiculousness).

http://www.xojane.co.uk/healthy/my-bad-health-isnt-a-choice

An excellent article, written by someone with the same class of illness as me (connective tissue disease) on why unsolicited health advice based on the assumption that you are ill because you make bad decisions is unhelpful and often unnecessary.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201212/physical-illnesses-may-soon-be-labeled-mental-disorders

Ugh. Uggggghhh. An overview of the proposed changes introduced to the DSM-5 (used by health professionals to classify and diagnose psychiatric disorders) regarding the ridiculously broad and all-inclusive Somatic Symptom Disorder; the symptoms of which describe pretty much every sick person ever, including those with, for example, cancer or diabetes.

http://www.umass.edu/fsap/articles/ill.html

A basic but helpful primer on living with chronic illness.

http://www.spine-health.com/forum/treatment/back-surgery-and-neck-surgery/post-op-must-haves-0

A wonderfully comprehensive list of what to do and take before surgery and what to have handy afterwards; geared towards spinal surgery but useful in general. Also, note that some of the products are American (a ‘johnny’ is an open-backed hospital robe, if anyone was wondering). A lot of products like ‘grabby sticks’ (my term), shower and toilet chairs can be hired short term from chemists, hospitals, or Medihire. I wish I had seen this before my back surgery, as there are some great ideas (towel on bed = genius) but I am bookmarking it for future use.

https://www.facebook.com/may12th.awareness/posts/10151168199522161

Some thoughts on invisible illness and the ubiquitous “But you don’t look sick” (to which my internal reply is usually, “Well, you don’t look like an insensitive ass, but here we are”).

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/disabilities

A link to a Preparing for Disasters kit by the Red Cross for people with disabilities and illness. I live directly next to a frequent bushfire area, and we are currently experiencing a pretty massive heatwave, so bushfire preparedness is on my mind. People with mobility issues need a solid plan in place before something happens; if I’m having a day where it takes me ten minutes to get from my bedroom to the front door, I need to be on alert for emergencies to get myself out in time. I also need to know that someone else can grab my cat to bring her out if I’m not able to carry her.