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.

What a Difference a Trusted Doctor Makes


Last fall, I began treatments for venous retinal occlusion – a broken vein bleeding into the retina. Not knowing any ophthalmologists in my area, I accepted the urgent referral from a local optometrist. What followed over the next eight months were a series of very painful injections into the eye and one equally painful laser treatment.

While I noticed some progress to my vision, I was less than impressed with the ophthalmologist’s bedside manner and the office’s lack of efficiency.  Each visit lasted at least 2 hours and one ghastly appointment continued for over 3 hours where I was the last patient in the office and when my husband asked the receptionist where I was, she went back to look for me and never returned!  The owner of the practice – not the doctor treating me – brought me into an exam room one time thinking I was someone else.  It wasn’t until he called me by another name that I realized his incompetent mistake.

Finally, I contacted another ophthalmologist for a second opinion.  Walking into the office, I felt the difference.   The other doctor’s office felt like a factory with the waiting rooms (yes there are more than one) full with patients shuffled from one conveyor belt to another.   While the waiting room was large, there are never more than a few people waiting at a time.  While I’ve only been to the new doctor twice, I’ve been treated warmly and never waited more than 10 minutes, even when arriving 15 minutes early.

The major difference is the doctor-patient communication.  Whereas the first ophthalmologist ignored my concerns, my new ophthalmologist and  retinal specialist (referred by my new ophthalmologist) heard my concerns, talked more clearly about the treatment process, and quickly eased my mind.    The final clincher for my trust in my new optical team occurred when they explained why I felt so much pain  after the injection.  Apparently, the antiseptic betadine aggravates the dry tenderness.   Rewetting drops help remove the antiseptic and cools the irritation.  While not completely pain-free, rinsing my eye after the treatment and using drops throughout the day helped tremendously.  The nurse said she always advises patients to use drops after injections for the very reason that betadine can irritate.   I wasn’t a wimp after all!  That little piece of information made the world of difference to my psyche.  This health team actually cared about how I felt post-treatment.   What a concept!

Before switching doctors, I had accepted my fate of being partially blind in one eye.  The first ophthalmologist did nothing wrong professionally though my appointments took twice as long as the appointments at the new doctor’s office.  I researched the process for the treatment and  substantiated it with a second opinion.  The difference is trust.  I forgot to take my own advise to keep looking if I don’t trust a referred health professional.  I know there are no guarantees any physician can save my vision.  I also know that the treatment process will continue to hurt though, thankfully, not as acutely.

Now my voice is heard.   I’m confident my vision team will satisfactorily answer any of my questions or concerns.  And that is what we must strive for when managing medical treatments for chronic illness.

Live, Life, Love Living Life


I’m having a rough flare this week and today I feel especially weak.  I slept 11 hours last night and then went back to bed this morning and slept another two hours.   And I’m feeling happy about livin’ life today.   Typically, when suffering through flares, lack of sleep typically accompanies pain and exhaustion.  But I slept.  I really slept.  This calls for celebration – or maybe just another nap.

While most of us with chronic illness may not think much about the little things missing from our daily lives – like fewer symptoms during a flare – but I think being appreciative is important.  Gratitude can turn a lousy attitude into a more optimistic one and a depressed mood into a happier one.

Recently, I started keeping a gratitude journal.  Never very good at maintaining a personal journal or diary, I wasn’t certain of my success in keeping this journal either though I like the idea.  Journalists write in their gratitude journal nightly listing three things that they are grateful for the past day.   While I don’t write in the journal every night, I write most nights before bed.  I like the brevity and the discipline of finding gems of positive moments in every day.  Surprisingly, it’s not very hard even on the most trying days.   And I find it very satisfying.  I went online and explored how I could make my journal better.  Below are some tips on keeping successful gratitude journals from The Greater Good website:

  • Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
  • Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  • Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  • Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  • Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  • Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”

For more information on keeping a gratitude journal go to the following link:  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_keeping_a_gratitude_journal

I think I earned another nap.

Live more joyfully despite chronic illness.  

Contact me at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com and let’s schedule time to chat!

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

The Self-Assessment


I am back!! Forgive me, committed and new readers, for not writing in a while.  Recovery from surgery was slower than I anticipated though Dr. P reminded me that it may take time for my new medication to tackle the illness that took over my body.   Six weeks later, I can tell you that I am gaining energy and mental clarity more each day.

The Web of Life
The Web of Life

It’s truly remarkable.  I wake up at 6:30 each morning now after sleeping seven hours.  I enjoy coffee and ponder how I should spend my day.  I don’t plan my day around my level of pain and the density of my brain fog.  I look forward to the daily stroll in the pasture, watching the dogs run, sniff, and pester Amigo.  I stroke Amigo’s nose when he takes a break from this grass and greets me.

Last week, I started substitute teaching again.  Last year, I tried to help out in the school where my husband teaches but was too exhausted after one day.  While I don’t regret leaving my career as a school counselor for coaching, I do miss interacting with kids.  I know many of the students and substituting is a great way to fill my need of teen time.  This weekend is prom and one of my spousal duties includes being my husband’s date for the evening.  I  look forward to going this year and dancing with my date.

I review my  Web of Life and consider areas that need addressing and strengthening. I

Amigo takes a break from grazing to check out the scenery.
Amigo takes a break from grazing to check out the scenery.

look at my web differently now.  Health takes on a different meaning, for I no longer assess which part of my body requires greatest attention.   I also look at personal development with fresh eyes and open mind.  I spend more time exploring my spirituality.  Joy & fun plans are now made without fear of cancellation due to illness.

I go to bed without fear of tossing and turning.  I started writing a gratitude journal and document three things that I am grateful for each day.  I indulge in new dreams and strive to shed old burdens.

I know the phantom inside me exists and while it sleeps soundly now, I realize it may awaken again.  But I relish each pain-free day and look at life with a new sense of purpose.

Live more joyfully despite chronic illness.  

Contact me at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com and let’s schedule time to chat!

Hopeful Progress


I returned home from Alabama a week ago.  I never thought much of  ‘Bama’ before though thrilled to mark it off as the 47th state Alabamathat I visited.  Before landing in Birmingham, my knowledge of Alabama was limited to its ignoble role in civil rights history and the crimson tide at University of Alabama.  Now I know that U. of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa (and its a beautiful campus).  I know tall

Evergreen forests blanket Alabama's landscape
Evergreen forests blanket Alabama’s landscape

evergreen trees blanket the hilly landscape. And I discovered hope for a healthier life in Alabama.

While not yet fully recovered from my surgery, I notice major changes in my body.  My headaches are gone.  I have not experienced phantom stabbing pain since I left the hospital in Alabama nor have I felt constant aching in joints.  I can’t say that I’m clear-headed as I’m still taking pain medicine but I don’t feel like I’m in a fog either.  As for sleep, I think that I am still recovering from the surgery and travel, but I’m hopeful (yes, truly full of hope!) that my sleep patterns are improving.

The biggest challenge now is my diet.  For 3 months, I am forbidden to eat bread and meat, not even chicken or fish, until my esophagus heals completely.  For now, I’m keeping gluten-free.  I wish I could say that I’m starting with a clean plate and healthy eating but I don’t write fiction.  The gallons of ice cream in my freezer likely will keep me from losing the 30 pounds I’m expected to lose.

Yes, I am hopeful.  I am becoming a believer in Dr. Pridgen and his medical wisdom.  And my confidence is growing that the FDA will approve the treatment later this year (yes, in 2013) and  real help will finally become available to the tens of thousands of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue sufferers.

The Live Well Chronicle


I have just completed my first newsletter for LB Webb Coach! To receive a free copy, simply visit my website (link below) and complete the very brief sign-up form.

http://lbwebbcoach.com

Unfortunately,  wordpress.com does not let me to add a form on my blog though wordpress.org does.  I just learned today that there are 2 different sites – who knew??

The newsletter  provides  information about coaching people with chronic illness as well as useful tips and suggestions to ease the pain suffering that intrudes on many of our daily lives.

I hope you can find a few moments to read my newsletter and find the info useful.  I welcome comments and suggestions for topics on future articles.

Warm & Gentle Hugs!

Laura Webb