The content in this blog is based on my experiences and the guidance I have received from my Care Team determined by my individual and evolving needs. Before beginning, trying, or experimenting with anything mentioned in this blog, you
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Attempting a Mental Escape


Like many others with chronic illnesses, I am struggling to make it from day to day.  Juggling responsibilities, trying to manage my care, racing home to try and rest/relax before the next round that begins the following morning.  As others may or may not know, stress can make a chronic illness (like fibromyalgia, lupus, diabetes, PCOS, etc) worse.  All of which are ganging up on me.   

Once upon a time (in college) I studied meditation and it helped manage my stress (and relax me) tremendously.  Today I find myself reaching back into my memory to try and bring some of that calm to today’s storm. 

First thing I tried was closing my eyes, taking several slow deep breaths.  I imagined my worries/problems leaving my body with each deliberate and slow exhale.  Blowing out my worries over money, my fear of not doing well at work, etc...  Each breath in, I imagine a warm light that fills my entire body, slowly at first, pushing out the darkness that symbolizes discord.  Picturing negativity leaving my body each time I expel the breath from my lungs, leaving more room for the calm. 

Go ahead and try it, I’ll wait.

Are you back?  How did it feel?  Did it help?  Normally it works for me, but today not-so-much.  So then I thought I would add the muscle relaxation technique I learned. 

Starting at the toes, squeeze your toe muscles tight for a few seconds (I tend to do 5-10 seconds) then relax them.  (I try incorporate the breathing technique here too, squeezing muscles as I breathe in and relaxing them with each exhale).  Move on up to your feet muscles, squeeze and hold for a few seconds.  This goes on up the body, from muscle group to muscle group, so on and so on.  For me, it ends in a slow circling of the neck, rotating from left to right then right to left.  Most of the time, if the breathing imagery doesn’t work this will work.

Not today.

So taking it a step further, I began to try and convince my senses that I was on a hiatus.  One of my favorite “go to places” for a mental vacation is the farm I grew up on as a child.  I imagine myself laying in the crisp grass, a gentle breeze arousing a dance of tree limbs and calming caress of my hair against my forehead.  I remember the scent of the corn and tomatoes that lingered that summer, the harvest coming soon, everything in full bloom.  If I listen close I can hear my Grandfather talking to the cattle as he goes about to check on th---good grief!  What is that?  Something is biting my back – please don’t be a tick.  Squirming and reaching around me to scratch at that place – dang Fibro and your nerve twitching!  ~Ugh!~  Fibro even distracts me from a mental vacation!

Lets try my second favorite spot, the beach.  Small splashes of salt water on the breeze that sweeps across the ocean, cool kiss of it upon my skin.  Warm sand shifts beneath me with each lick of the surf that comes up over my toes, color of my polish glitters beneath the foamy surf under the bright sun.  I love the smell of sunscreen as it dances with the distinctive aroma of saltwater.  Quiet chatter of children building sand castles in the distance, as I become lost in the tide.  Breathing in time with the roll of the ocean, feeling my body grow heavier and heavier... anchored in the tranquility of the – that almost worked but I think I took it a little far.  Face is feeling warm, color rushing to my cheeks as the fibro delivers on a headache strong enough to rip me from the beach! 
  
Ok, switching tactics.  

Stretching.  When I was getting regular massages I used to stretch a lot and it helped me relax.  Let’s try that!  I’m going to walk around a bit, using this opportunity to stretch my large muscle groups and then try my smaller muscle groups when I get back. 

I’m back!  What began as an (imaginary) errand turned into about 25 minutes of power walking.  The more I thought, the faster I walked.  The more I stressed, the harder I stomped.  The more I worried, the more I pumped my arms.  Ooohh!  This seems to help!  I’m going to take a few minutes and retry the beach scenario now that I have most of my nervous energy out.  

While I’m doing that, here is more information about creating your own mental vacation.  Please take a moment to let me know what you think.  I love getting comments and am interested in your take of things.  Good luck, let me know please in the comments if you found something to work for you and what you thought about it :) 



PS  I think I will play boxing on the wii tonight, it helps me get aggression out safely and might wear me out the rest of the way for some peaceful sleep tonight! 


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