IN THE FLOW..Vacation from pain

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by sues1, Oct 29, 2005.

  1. sues1

    sues1 New Member

    A friend sent this to me recently......

    Sitting in the Queen Anne's chair by the window, a sleeping cat at my feet, I
    sigh and start reading Jo Beverly's newest novel. The phone rings. Startled,
    I realize three hours have passed. My world has become Regency England, and
    while I am there, I'm no longer in pain. Instead, I've been in flow.

    Fibromyalgia pain has been my constant companion for 15 years, at my side
    during each massage, on every walk, refusing to go away even when I'm taking
    prescription painkillers. Sometimes it's just the feeling that everything that
    touches my skin, including the softest silk, is uncomfortable. The worst pain is
    what I have named the ice pick: an acute deep muscle pain that radiates
    through the surrounding muscles, as if someone had cooled an ice pick in dry ice,
    then stuck it in a trigger point. But I've found a way to take a vacation
    from pain: I found out about flow.

    When you are completely absorbed in something you love doing, when time
    ceases to exist, you are in flow. You could be reading a book; gardening;
    woodworking; playing a musical instrument; practicing aikido; dancing; playing bridge;
    making love; playing soccer; visiting with a friend; or, for the fortunate,

    Flow is a state of mind characterized by a harmony of thought, desire, and
    feeling, when you are neither bored nor anxious, your skills almost meet the
    level of your challenges, and you can immediately judge your progress.
    Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term, has studied flow for decades,
    and has found it to be the defining characteristic of happiness and
    Another term he uses is optimal experience. Whatever you are doing,

    IF you are at one with it,

    in the zone, having a peak experience, grooving with
    the music, entranced, or following your bliss, you are probably in flow.

    My favorite days are ones spent sewing. Climbing the stairs, I can feel each
    ache and pain, from calf muscles that are too tight to that place under my
    left shoulder blade where the ice pick seems to be lodged. I turn off the phone,
    open the windows, and perhaps turn on some music. Reaching for the quilt
    blocks I finished last week, I contemplate their arrangement in the quilt, whether
    or not to set them on point, if sashing is needed, border possibilities, and
    color choices. The challenges of putting the blocks together are just beyond my
    skills, but I'm determined to finish the quilt. Soon I'm immersed in fabric,
    surrounded by music and purring cats, oblivious to anything that doesn't
    pertain to finishing the quilt. I'm in flow.

    In flow, I don't worry about the strange noise my car has started making. I
    miss lunch because I'm not aware of being hungry. Not once do I think about
    what I am wearing or whether my hair needs coloring. Time ceases to exist. Even
    finishing the quilt becomes secondary: my enjoyment comes from the process. And,
    best of all, I no longer realize that I'm in pain, not because the pain has
    ceased, but because my attention is so focused I ignore it automatically.

    Now I structure my life to increase my chances for experiencing flow, and
    actively pursue it as a means of pain management and relief. I set an alarm clock
    rather than wear my watch, so I am not distracted by what time I have to start
    dinner. (Setting the alarm clock also prevents me from exhausting myself by
    working too long.) I turn off the phone to avoid interruptions. I ask my
    boyfriend not to distract me. I play familiar music to block out noise. Often it's
    the same CD over and over, since my focus isn't listening to the music.

    In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience1, Dr.
    Csikszentmihalyi notes that almost any activity can become a flow activity. An engaging
    conversation, driving a car, a long walk, and rocking a baby to sleep can all
    become optimal experiences. People use flow to survive unbearable isolation.
    Prisoners survive by devising internal games to play or challenges to meet. Assembly
    line workers do the same, integrating flow into their workday. Addictive
    behavior can arise from a desire to recapture the feeling of flow one can find in
    gambling or shopping. A thief may continue to commit crimes for the joy of
    being in flow, rather than for wealth. One person may hate public speaking or
    being on stage, while another revels in front of a crowd, fully in flow.

    If you want to forget your pain for a few hours, cultivate activities that
    foster flow. According to Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, the steps you need to take are:

    Have a clear set of goals to strive for, recognize the challenges, develop
    skills, and pay attention to the feedback.
    Become immersed and deeply involved in the activity.
    Pay attention to what is happening, but don't be self-conscious.
    Learn to enjoy immediate experience.2 The next time you wish you could take a
    vacation from pain, pick up a good book or work on a favorite hobby.
    Eliminate distractions and throw yourself into it. As you enter flow you'll forget
    your pain and worries, and return feeling fulfilled and less overwhelmed by your
    fibromyalgia symptoms.
    With some of us..the computer and yourself becomes one. Or sitting out doors and watching the birds and the trees sway in the breeze.
    Whatever takes us away from ourselfs makes our muscles relax
    and we are happy within ourselfs. Blessings
  2. ldbgcoleman

    ldbgcoleman New Member

    When you dwell on something it can seem emense. Taking your mind off of it and doing something you enjoy helps alot. Thanks for the post! Lynn
  3. matthewson

    matthewson New Member

    Bumping this because I think it is important! Have started to do just this when pain is bad. It can take your pain away for awhile and sometimes that is enough to knock it down a level or two.

    Thanks for the post sues1. Sallly
  4. elastigirl

    elastigirl New Member

    I find crocheting really relaxing. I've considered myself a "beginner" for decades now, LOL. But lately I've noticed that I've been crocheting so long now, the quality of my creations is getting better and better. I'm starting to get compliments now.

    This further supports my positive associations with crocheting. For me, taking a half an hour to work on a project (or 1-1/2 if I'm watching a movie) is like a mini-vacation.

    Sometimes my hands tremble or my fingers are too weak from FM to crochet, but I just wait for a better time and work on my projects when my hands are functioning correctly again.

    Unless I sit for too long in one position, I feel virtually pain-free as I'm lost in my thoughts, stitching, stitching, stitching.

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