Doing Nothing Isn’t Easy


Meditation never came easy for me. Sitting cross-legged, back straight, hands on my knees, eyes closed, saying ‘ahm’ repeatedly feels awkward. On the other hand, I began practicing yoga – on and off – when living in Alaska six years ago. Walking or snowshoeing when 50 below isn’t fun especially with CFS/ME and fibromyalgia. Yoga dvds work for my life style.

A wandering mind always proved frustrating when I tried meditating in the past.  Instead of calming, I grew impatient sitting there.  My mind runs six thousand thoughts a minute when trying to sleep, read, or any other idle moments.  I couldn’t push aside thoughts while meditating.

In addition to yoga, I use deep breathing in hopes of lowing blood pressure before the nurse wraps the sleeve around my arm, reduce some anxiety before participating in unpleasant situations, and occasionally even in hopes of falling asleep.  The last exercise rarely works.

What I did not know is that the beginning and end of many routines I practice in yoga include several minutes of lying or sitting still and focusing on the breath actually is meditation in its simplest form. Reading Kabat-Zinn’s book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, I learned  lying on my back with eyes closed and bringing attention to breathing is meditation.  Also, a wandering mind is totally normal and a-okay!  I either read or heard in a podcast on meditation that thinking of thoughts is a wave that flows in and out during the process of meditation.

If a critical piece of mindfulness is daily meditation, I need practice and patience or my journey ends before getting started.

I try remembering daily that I need a few minutes but have yet to make it routine. Usually, it seems that I forget until I’m lying in bed wishing I could sleep.  Sometimes, I close my door at work and try while sitting at my desk or after I feed the dogs and before making dinner.  I glance at the clock before closing my eyes and breathe.  Inevitably, thoughts take over.  I continue breathing and remember thoughts are simply ‘a wave’.  But they feel more like a rip tide pulling me away from my intent and the next thing I know, my eyes are open and two or on a good day, five minutes have passed.

Today, while hubby was napping, laundry was washing, and dinner was progressing I lay down on my bed.  The thoughts continued to roll ashore as I inhaled then I tried letting go with each exhale.  Inhale, and a new thought drifted in, exhale and I let it go.  When opening my eyes, 25 minutes had passed!

I felt calm and ready to get back to house duties.  I start a new job in a couple of weeks and start about an hour later.  Meditation could be a mindful way to start my day.

My Journey Towards Mindfulness


Listening to my dogs and husband’s breathing while they slept the other night reminded me that taking slow deep breaths relaxes me and eases anxiety. Stress and letting go are constant battles in my brain.  The former can aggravate chronic and mental illness and pain.  I practice yoga and other exercises that are gentle on my body  (though, admittedly, not lately) and learned some time ago the value of deep breathing.  Not the most disciplined person, I find myself needing more – a tangible, realistic way of letting go of circumstances that are toxic to my brain.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Watching Anderson Cooper on a 60 Minutes report on mindfulness, my curiosity piqued when Cooper said research of the practice showed positive results for sufferers of chronic illness.   Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction and Relaxing Program (later renamed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.  While he studied Buddhism, Kabat-Zinn prefers taking a scientific approach to mindfulness and apparently, it works.  American Mindfulness Research was created in 2013 to support empirical and conceptual data as well as develop best practices.

According to the website: www.mindful.org: “Mindfulness is the innate ability we have to be present, composed, and to pause before we overreact to the challenges of our busy lives.”

I’m intrigued that practicing mindfulness can improve physical, as well as, mental health.  The practice may also improve eating habits and insomnia.  Through research and practice, I hope I can better manage stressful situations – especially those that I cannot change – and improve my health.  Never before disciplined with daily meditation, I recently started listening to a podcast offering free mindful meditations (Mindful Meditations) before sleep.  I think I’m ready to take the next step and practice mindfulness in my daily life.

In addition to the websites mentioned above, I’m reading two books by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Mindfulness for Beginners 
Wherever You Go, There You Are  

I welcome comments from readers who practice mindfulness and anyone who wants to join me on my journey.

One Year Later


My life changed dramatically in the past year. I began working full-time, my husband and I bought a house on 5 acres, and I needed to find a new health team. I put my blog on the back burner because it was an obligation that I could not add to my busy plate. But I’ve missed the process of writing and sharing. It is a project that gives me purpose. While sometimes a painful and challenging process, clicking submit always satisfies.

I am not sure where my writings will lead this time around. Reading past postings, I realized that there was too much about my health challenges. How boring is that?! My original intention was writing as a motivator, educator and counselor but it sounded more like a whiner. I do not feel pity for myself so why would I write like I was seeking consolation from others?

This time around, perhaps Erato, the poetry muse, will bless me with inspiration more often. Perhaps my camera lens will document some of the remarkable landscape, creatures, and loved ones that surround my life. All I know for certain is that I want to nudge my creative self.

I continue to manage life with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyletis (we have to find a new name for this disease!) and fibromyalgia. Postings will continue to be influenced by my chronic illness, as it is a component of my life. But now I plan on sharing experiences from my exploration of ways that enhance my life – increasing joy and giving purpose in life.

I hope you join me on my new adventures.

Tips from my Website


You can conquer any mountain
You can conquer any mountain

Below are tips for sufferers of chronic illness from my website LB Webb Coach.  Check out more useful information at www.lbwebbcoach.com
Please Note: It is important to talk with your physician, physical therapist or other licensed professionals before trying new physical activities or tools.

Find a Trusted Medical Professional – Communicating with your physician is critical. This is the most important advice I can offer.   Go to appointments with lists of questions.  I can offer suggestions on how you can self-advocate.  If you are not comfortable with your physician and (s)he minimizes your concerns, find another!! Talk candidly about medications and if one doesn’t work, explain how it makes you feel and try something else. If unable to find a physician who doesn’t listen or make you feel valued, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and other health professionals may help.

A Trusting Ear – Good mental health is an important part of your health program. It is important to have someone to share frustrations as well as successes. Ideally, everyone needs multiple people they trust depending on the circumstances. Family members, friends, professional therapists, life coaches can all be considered. The key is finding someone who you know who does not judge you, accepts you, and appreciates you.

Exercise – Start slow and easy but do something! Whether walking for 5 minutes; sweeping the floor; practicing tai chi or yoga, it is very important to get into a routine of using muscles and joints. Swimming is probably the best exercise for chronic pain and illness as it easier on joints and muscles. Many pools offer classes specially designed for people like us.

I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.
I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.

Find a Hobby –  Knitting, crotchet,  creating scrapbooks, photography, bird watching, gardening or anything that is pleasurable for you and takes your mind off your pain is important.

Massage – Many people in pain (particularly fibromyalgia patients) cringe at the idea of anyone touching let alone massaging muscles. Communicating with the massage therapist can make the experience both pleasurable and helpful.

Pampering – Part of the massage experience feels good because it’s important to be good to yourself.  If massages are not comfortable, try a manicure and pedicure (not just for women anymore).  Going to a matinee, museum or having lunch with friends can  feel like a treat.

Warmth – Baths, hot compresses and heating pads, preferably moist, provide temporary relief.

Massage Foam Rollers – Using gentle pressure on targeted areas by moving the roller back and forth on the floor can be very painful in some areas at first. But even doing a few times at first, muscles are more relaxed and fascia (connective tissue that surrounds muscles and nerves) are lengthened and softer.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit – TENS is a pocket-size device that sends electrical impulses to block pain signals. Electrical currents are mild but can ease specific areas of pain. TENS is not helpful for migrating pain.   NOTE: Ask physician or physical therapist about TENS and how to use it properly.

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I can help you live a joyful life.  Contact me for a free consultation at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com

Goals and Dreams – Yes! Resolutions – No!


So long 2012, Welcome 2013!

This time last year, I wrote about my distaste for resolutions (see post below).  I still feel the same but I am in the process of developing major changes in 2013 by setting personal and professional goals intended to improve my health and quality of life.  Goals are achievable and measurable outcomes that have clear, step by step plans of action to success.  Goals require thoughtful consideration, documentation, and flexibility.  Goals need periodic reassessment and nurturing.  Resolutions are whims and wishes that can easily be broken year after year.

For example, one of my professional goals for 2013 is to build and expand the number of blog followers, Facebook likes, and website sign ups for each of my sites.  This requires a series of marketing steps over the next several months.  I can easily measure my success by the number of hits on each site.

It is sheer coincidence that the changes I begin making now occur as one year ends and another begins.  As the new combination of medications and vitamins relieve debilitating symptoms, my brain fog is dissipating.  I decided to focus all of my professional energy on my life coaching and exploring the possibility of writing a book on living joyfully with chronic illness.  I am exploring new ways that bring me greater satisfaction in personal development.  In short, I have spent some time on my web of life, considered its weakness, and am working on strengthening it once again.

I don't care about traveling much anymore but I dream of going to Hawaii with my husband some day.
I don’t care about traveling much anymore but I dream of going to Hawaii with my husband some day.
I've dreamed of owning an alpaca farm for years.  It will happen some day!
I’ve dreamed of owning an alpaca farm for years. It will happen some day!

I have many dreams in my future but achieving my goals and setting new ones are

needed for my dreams to come true.  Making new changes in life is kind of scary but it is also exciting.   I realize that my chronic illness may need adjustments to timelines that I set but that’s okay.  I know that my illness is part of me.  But it is not

I dream of a veggie garden that makes me proud - end of  Texas drought required.
I dream of a veggie garden that makes me proud – end of Texas drought required.

going to stop me from doing what I want and living the life I dream.

I can help you set new goals to live more joyfully despite chronic illness.  Contact me at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com and let’s schedule time to chat on the phone!

Resolution Free – Re-post from January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

I want to briefly write about resolutions because I think they are foolish.  Lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, blah blah blah.  Each year, people decide that this is the year of change but do they really want to make those changes or do they simply think they should because of how others may feel or because they don’t feel good about themselves.

The truth is, the calendar has no relevance to living and managing the life you want.  If  you want to do something, and you feel good then you are more likely to success.  When you are up and in a positive mood and your instinct tells you the time is right, you will be able to think clearly and increase your chances of achieving your dream of a healthier and happier life.

When I made the decision to move to Alaska to become a school counselor in remote villages, it was not a resolution that made me do it.  When the opportunity presented itself, I immediately took the opportunity because I knew in my gut it was the right thing to do.  I owned a house that wouldn’t sell, a house full of furniture, memorabilia, and junk that needed dealing with but I didn’t care. I also have chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia and would be driving thousands of miles with two dogs.

Eventual Iditarod Winner Lance Mackey arrives first in Nulato, AK

Nothing is insurmountable if it’s what you believe is the right thing to do.

It may be cold outside but our hearts are warm

When I met my husband in the tiny village of Nulato, Alaska, I was not so much resigned but accepting of living my life as a single woman with my dogs. But my instinct for the first time, told me that this was a man who was good for me.  After three years, we moved to his home state of  Texas, married and life for me is as it should.

It wasn’t my resolution of 2011 to become a life coach for people with disabilities.  Coaching was in the back of my mind for years but it just didn’t seem doable. In fact, my ‘aha moment’ came one night while in the midst of a fibro-flare up.  I needed to take time off from completing my M.ED because I was unable to think straight, suffered low energy, and was functioning on auto-pilot and not with purpose.  One night, it just hit me and I knew it was the perfect career choice.  I got busy marketing, talking to people, and writing.  I’ve had lots of experience in non-profit management, education, and even some corporate experience but knew nothing about starting my very own business.  But I am finally working towards growing my dream career regardless of obstacles.

Of course nothing is easy and dreams are usually developed over time.  You will know when the time is right to move forward and act.  Your mood will be high, your thoughts clear, and you will follow your instincts.

Instead of making resolutions this year, consider your dreams and if you need to get your ‘head’ in the right place to move forward, I can help you move forward to strengthen your web of life.

My Health My Life These Days


Even the most optimistic person can have tough days.  While I do not claim to always look at the sunny side of life, I try staying positive and happy. In many ways, my life is exactly the way I dreamed with a wonderful husband, living in the country, with dogs and a horse. But life is far from perfect and my typical attitude of making lemonade out of lemons with chronic illness simply has not worked for me lately.

The past several months have been especially difficult.  Constant aching burning pain in my hips, pelvis, wrists, and fingers override the migrating sharp pains I am now so familiar with from CFS/ME and fibromyalgia.  Light-headedness, exhaustion, and ongoing headaches topped the list of symptoms at my next doctor’s appointment when I told him that we needed to revise my treatment plan as  I was not living well.  A record number of vials are laid on the counter for my blood and I joke with the lab tech that this must be a new record.  I wait in radiology forever  and finally my spine and hips get x-rayed.   I make it to the pharmacy just in time for them to fill my new medications.  I guess I should have kept my big mouth shut.

The x-rays show wearing of my bones and the doctor orders a Dexus test to assess my bone density. Uh oh, has my ongoing vitamin d deficiency contributed to osteoporosis??

A few days later, it struck me that I was suffering from a sinus infection. I waited another week, trying homeopathic steam, Mucinex, and rest to let the virus run its course. As always, the infection settles in for a long stay and I make the call for antibiotics. Finally, my head begins to clear.

The two youngest in the house confer on how to give mom grief!

During this time, I decide that I am long overdue for an eye exam.  One morning, I leave my only set of glasses on the night stand and discover a few minutes later that the kitten played soccer with them (she plays soccer with everything she can move with her front paws these days) and kicked a goal into the mouth of our youngest dog.  I don’t know if she made the goal or missed but I am certain Hooch could not resist the new toy the kitty flung on the floor.  Fortunately, there is only one bite mark in the left lens but that is my

Thai first found us at 8 weeks with a damaged eye. She adopted my husband and our 3 dogs and tolerates me since I usually feed her and clean her litter box. It did was no time before she felt at home and into everything!

good eye.  Recently, my right eye has become very blurry.  It was time for new glasses and contact lenses.

I make an appointment and luck out as there was a cancellation that morning. While trying to do the tests, I discover that I am effectively blind in my right eye.  Everything below the center is a total blur and there is a red dot blocking my central vision.  The optometrist immediately refers me to a opthamologist – do not stop for lunch, do not worry about payment, just go!  Uh oh, this sounds like a real emergency.  Am I going to lose my eye??

Hours later, the result is that I have what’s called a retinal occlusion – blood in my retina.  I’m not in my 80’s, do not have high blood pressure, diabetes, and never had a stroke. It’s a mystery why this happened.  I must wait a month to see if it improves.  It does not.  Last week I had the first in a series of monthly medicinal injections in my eye that dissolves the blood.  It was scary, painful, but really not that big of a deal.  I don’t look forward to future shots but the alternative of not seeing out of that eye is not an option if it can be saved.  Eventually, this should clear up and the likelihood of it happening again are slim.  Yeah!

Yesterday, I had the Dexus test and I am still awaiting the results.  I want to know something definitive for a change but don’t want another diagnosis. This may not make sense for many but I lived with the ephemeral illnesses of CFS/ME and fibromyalgia for so long that I understand them.  They are part of who I am.  I am not the picture of health but I know my limitations, what to say to doctors, how to exercise, and best manage my life. A new diagnosis means new life adjustments. In fact, I am in limbo now worried about doing any exercise beyond walking for fear that it may cause more harm than good.   Will I never be able to ride a horse again for fear of falling off and breaking a fragile bone?  Have I been doing the wrong yoga moves?  What is the best exercise for osteoporosis?  Is my body now fragile?  Is there a diet for osteoporosis?  My diet of trying to eat well slipped to more comforting foods and sweets as my anxiety increased. Now my difficulty in concentration is the result of nerves instead of infection.

The good news is that while still in a holding pattern, I am moving beyond the mental paralysis that left me depressed.  My concentration levels are slowly increasing.  My wish to again find my footing in the world of helping others is beginning to take hold. This is a new beginning and the series that I recently wrote inspires me.  My life great! I am loved and I love!  For me, those are the most important things in life.  My health is okay and once I better understand what is happening in my body, I will do what is necessary to feel more alive. Yeah, it’s a bumpy ride now but that’s okay. It makes the good times that much sweeter.

Forget Routines – Get into a Rhythm


 

I never like people say ‘ get into a routine’.  I find routines boring, implying an obligation in activities when we should take pleasure in our daily duties.  I am fortunate to now work from home providing flexibility in completing daily tasks.  Of course, it also requires discipline but as a sufferer of chronic illness, I can more easily alter my schedule if necessary.  It also means that I tend to work 7 days a week and weekends.  If I hit a wall, I can take a break and focus on my body through rest, stretches, or exercise.

I worked for 20 years in schools and nonprofit organizations and I never worked 9-5.  I rarely brought work home but after hours duties and meeting deadlines were not uncommon.  When possible, I drove different ways to work allowing me to break from the norm and see new things.  When living in Alaska, I counseled students in 5 villages.  I traveled by airplane and weather, mechanical issues, and occasional scheduling issues could make someone dependent on routine go mad.  Realizing years ago that stress led to flare-ups, I usually dealt with last-minute changes in stride and altered my rhythm depending on circumstances.  Cancelled flights allowed more

Even in winter, Alaska’s unmatched beauty and clean fresh air gave a wonderful rhythm in my walks.

time with students at the school I visited, unplanned walks in the chilly air with spectacular views.  The only routine that I insisted on was a weekend at home.  I needed time to rest and rebuild my energy as well as get lots of loving from my dogs and future husband.  Otherwise, changing my rhythm when situations change no longer stresses my brain. (Don’t misunderstand, I too many other things

I never tire of looking at our pasture.

cause me stress.)

Mornings begin with the rhythm of enjoying my coffee outside under shady trees looking out over 20 acres of brush, cacti, trees, and our horse, Amigo.  I water the gardens, walk the dogs in the pasture, and have breakfast.  The order of these activities depends on the heat, dog hyperactivity, and hunger but they all need completion, and hopefully, before the Texas heat gets unbearable.

I respond to emails, write, and other business duties keep me busy most mornings.  When I run errands depends on my working rhythm.  Client sessions always invigorate me and the process of prepping, talking, and summarizing each conversation with a client brings me joy.  Pursuing your passion enhances rather than saps energy.

Having a routine of daily life is difficult for sufferers of chronic illness and pain.  Going to work, making dinner for the family, house cleaning, and caring for children, spouses or parents is an overwhelming burden at times.  It adds to the stress and can lead to increased pain and depression.

Here are some ways to find rhythm in daily life:

Change your frame of mind from the burden of having to do the same old same thing every day to finding a rhythm in those activities.  Music can help focus on demanding and tedious work duties.  Music can also get you into the rhythm of exercise and even the rhythm of cooking and cleaning.

Another way to break away from the daily routine grind is to find a few minutes to stop, close your eyes and do nothing.  Meditation is not easy for me as my mind never seems to stop.  I use guided imagery audio for attempts at relaxation and try to place myself on a beach, field or winter cabin .  The voice on the audio helps to guides me back from the myriad of thoughts while trying to lay on the soft sand, gaze at stars, and hear the breaking waves of the ocean.  I am improving and have even fall asleep occasionally before the session ends.

The ocean, the sound of waves, and green-blue water can relax the mind and body. Relaxing can get you back into the rhythm of the day.

Sufferers of chronic illness and pain need flexibility in their lives.  Life’s daily duties need completion but turning the humdrum routine of life that can seem overwhelming into a rhythm of life offers a positive element to the day.  If feeling poorly and pain causes a break in your rhythm, that is okay.  Find a rhythm in something else.  Meditation, guided imagery, rest, a walk or another activity that works for you can cut ugly symptoms. When you go back to the rhythm of what you must complete, you will be more focused and less stressed and overwhelmed. Changing the daily grind to a rhythm of life really can ease stress and increase productivity.

I can help you to live a full and joyful life despite chronic illness.  

Contact me for a free, no commitment exploration session at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com