Mindfulness for Anxiety/Stress & Pain Relief, PLEASE READ!! :))

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by G.I.Jane, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. G.I.Jane

    G.I.Jane New Member

    Hi everybody! I've been doing Mindfulness - it's a type of meditation - for over a year now to help with my FMS pain and with the extreme stress/anxiety that I get with it. It has made an INCREDIBLE difference, and I don't know what I'd do without it. I really wanted to share with everyone out there who's stressed and anxiety-ridden, too, from being sick all the time. I was skeptical at first about meditation - (Am I going to be sitting around going OMMMMM?? . . because I don't think I could do that!) - but I took a course offered by the hospital's health network where I live and it wasn't at all what I expected. I was one of only two people who were ill, and everyone else had anxiety and depression - some post-partum depression. I strongly recommend taking a course to learn - it's usually covered by insurance so you only end up with a copay - because learning from a book or tapes may not really teach you what you need to know to use mindfulness properly or to it's full benefit. If you're looking for a nearby course, try going to: http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/ - There is a menu on the left. Click on 'Other MBSR Programs' at the bottom of the list, and then you can choose your state or foreign country to see Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses offered near you. I can't stress enough how profoundly this has helped my anxiety/stress and pain - I can also say how much my class members said it also changed and helped them as well. I never thought I would be someone who meditates - I always thought it sounded too serious and silly. But it's not what I thought, and what I've learned is *absolutely priceless*. If you're in pain, or have anxiety or stress, please check this out. Wishing everyone well - I hope you all have a wonderful year! Hugs - jane
    ps: if you want to ask me anything about this, go right ahead, I'd be happy to tell you anything you want to know :)
  2. G.I.Jane

    G.I.Jane New Member

    Hi! I'm happy to tell you as much as I can - and if I'm unclear in any way just keep asking until you understand, I don't mind a bit - this type of thing can definitely be confusing. (Be aware that what I can tell you can't come anywhere near substition for a qualified teacher leading you in a course. My course was 8 classes - once a week for two hours - and one retreat(local, half-day). My copay was very doable for us (thank goodness) and ended up at $20/per class. I also paid for a CD with my teacher's voice-recordings leading common mindfulness practices, it was $20.)

    So, you asked specifically what I do during a mindfulness session, what I'm thinking about and how I'm breathing. First, the definition of mindfulness would help: 'A concious moment to moment awareness, cultivated by systematically paying attention on purpose' or 'A state in which one is aware and highly focused on the present moment, accepting and acknowledging it, without getting caught up in thoughts that are about the situation or emotional reactions to the situations' - Jon Kabat-Zinn's definitions. I took them from the papers given to me in class. Kabat-Zinn's written a few books on this and is considered one of the foremost teachers of mindfulness right now. I own one of his books, 'Wherever You Go, There You Are' - like I said, the books weren't enough - I needed a teacher, in person, to really understand how to do this. Very worth it!! I can't say it enough:)

    Okay, specifics. Let me start by saying that those definitions above didn't make sense to me until I took the class. I thought I kind of understood, but I didn't. Obviously *you* might understand - everyone's different. I follow sessions according to different ways of using mindfulness meditation. For example, the types I learned in class were: The Body Scan; Mindful Yoga; Awareness of Breath, Body, Sounds, & Thoughts; and mindfulness meditation using bells. Mindfulness of breath, body, sounds, and thoughts were separate types - I'm not saying you try to pay attention to all of those at once, that's probably impossible or close to it:) Let's take one type of practice as an example, and I'll tell you everything I can about what I do during that type of session, breathing, thoughts, etc.

    I often choose to meditate on the body and sounds. It's personal choice - those are just the ones I like the best. Mindfulness walking is great, too. So - The Body Scan was the first mindfulness I ever learned in class. You can lie down on the floor for this, or sit if lying tends to make you too sleepy. For any type of meditation you *must* be relaxed but focused - awake and *alert* - so sleepiness doesn't fit well. I never seem to stay awake on the floor - I get too relaxed and plus it's not comfortable, so I do the Body Scan sitting. Any of these can be sitting meditations (okay, except yoga and walking!). You can use blankets and pillows on the floor to keep you comfortable and warm if you choose to lie down.

    These practices are used to produce deep relaxation and to help you become aware of sensations in the body. Mindful awareness is realizing whatever it is that YOU are experiencing in this exact moment. And then the next moment. A moment at a time. Some things you will be aware of may be unpleasant sensations - like a tingling in your foot or soreness in the body - and some are pleasant or neutral - it's whatever you're feeling - trying to acknowledge and accept it openly without judging. Just seeing what's happening in your body moment to moment for each session. Depending on the type of practice you choose each time you'll be alert and focused and aware of different things. Aware of sounds versus aware of your breath or body.

    You should always wear comfortable, loose clothing, and make sure you won't be distracted by the phone or family - find a quiet place. You should also make sure to help the areas of your body that you know to cause you discomfort - cushioning or whatever helps. First you close your eyes and notice the parts of your body that are in contact with the seat/cushion/floor - noting your body is supported, your weight is held up. The practice continues with you taking some deep breaths. I learned Tai Chi years ago and it teaches breathing with your tummy, or diaphramatic breathing (sp?)- this is a fantastic way to breathe for relaxation and is often taught, however you should probably do what's comfortable for you. You're taught to focus on your breath to begin, and find where in the body it's most accessible to you, whether that is in your nostrils, your chest, your tummy - wherever. Noticing how breath goes in, your chest and tummy rises and falls, letting your breaths go at their natural pace. They remind you that if your focus wanders this is normal, and to gently bring your focus back to the practice when this happens. It takes practice and time to teach your mind to be focused, alert, steady, and relaxed.

    They say to try and notice *each* breath like it's the first time ever, looking at each breath anew, at it's uniqueness. You go on from there to scan your body veryyyy slowly, starting at your toes. You spend several long moments on each part. Noticing your toes and how they feel - no need to move them to feel something - just as they are. Are they numb? No feeling at all? Tingly? Cold? Just notice and be aware/watchful/mindful, then move to the next spot up, the foot, then the ankle, and it continues slowly in parts from there. Other practices like body & sounds have you spending time noticing your body as a whole, breathing and feeling what's happening moment to moment. Or mindful of sounds like traffic or your tummy growling or the fridge humming or birds, etc. Becoming totally focused on each part of the sound you hear, studying it as it changes - looking at it's different parts. You're to approach the things you focus on with new wonder - without judgement. Letting them be what they are - if something hurts, try to focus on the sensation and it's pieces, with curiousity on what is in that sensation, or move to focus on an area that doesn't feel badly to manage/avoid it.

    It's difficult to tell you exactly how I go through a session - hopefully I've managed to give you an idea of what a session is like. Without a real teacher and you in a room to listen to someone qualified leading your mind the right way, teaching you how to do this on your own, it's hard to get across what you need to know. I hope this gives you the answers you wanted - feel free to ask me again, or more specifics on what I've said or something else entirely. I tried very hard to be clear, but it's a difficult thing to explain properly. I had wonderful teachers and this has made a huge, positive change for me. You must be aware, however, that like most things used for help, this is up to you. It is **tool**, not a cure-all. What I mean is you must continue to practice forever to maintain it's benefits. We only get out what we put in - this isn't any different. You should definitely try to check out whether there's course near you - it makes the difference that a book, tape, or some stranger like me:) could never make. I wish you the best, and like I said, go ahead and pick my brain some more if you need to :) Jane
  3. angeldust

    angeldust New Member

    Hi

    I read your post with interest. I'm seeing a Dr who specialises in stress reduction techniques. He highly recommends mindfulness and suggested I read the book "Full Catastrophe Living". I agree with you everyone should try it.
  4. G.I.Jane

    G.I.Jane New Member

    It's so nice hearing from all of you:) Lamotta77, I'm so sorry about your anxiety and panic attacks. I have had anxiety, and panic attacks, and wow - I was so shocked - it was one of those things I couldn't imagine happening to me. I never have had them be severe, though, so I can only imagine how challenging this is for you. YES - the people in my class with severe anxiety and panic attacks (we all got to know each other a bit in the group - we were free to share our experience or not) made enormous improvements - they said it helped them tons, and I know from some of their descriptions just how bad a level of anxiety they were starting from - *very* severe from what they said, I was wowed. They said things like they felt like new people, they were beaming, it was so great:))

    Now, you asked very specifically about your thought process during meditation and whether you're on the right track - I can't stress enough that I am not qualified to teach you, you need someone professional. My thought is if you're steering away from a course for whatever reason, you could try to work out these specifics on your practice by contacting a Mindfulness teacher near you by phone/email. Explain your situation, and maybe run your questions their way. I know the teachers I worked with were wonderful people. I know also they'd strongly stress that only a course - *hours* spent with someone qualified leading you - can properly teach you what you need to kick anxiety to the curb. I'm not trying to discourage you, but I learned this correctly only due to the hours I spent listening to a leader who knew how to answer the VERY difficult questions we all came upon in our beginners practice.

    That said, I'll still try to answer your specific question on your thought process while meditating, just keep in mind I can't answer you like a teacher could, and therefore may not be able to help you on such a specific level: The first statements you said I believe are right on track, assuming you and I are understanding each other :) - your last was 'So what I will do is spend my time envisioning the anxiety producing thoughts . . . negative influences' - I'm a little confused on whether you are meditating ON your anxiety. Yes, mindfulness is about being watchful and aware, almost like you're letting go by seeing things as they are and finding peace with whatever you find that to be. You definitely bring your thoughts BACK to whatever your mindfulness session is on - like the body. If you've reached the hip, and you're calmly studying everything your right hip is experiencing - maybe it's relaxed with little feeling at all - or no feeling, or maybe it's stiff or tingly - and then your mind starts to get distracted (again, this is very common) by your anxious thoughts then you gently pull yourself away from that back to your focus - back to your right hip and what IT is experiencing *moment to moment*. Your goal is to learn relaxed awareness of each present moment, to focus your mind and do so peacefully. MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) could definitely help your anxiety and panic attacks - knowing myself just how nasty they are (even little ones, like mine:), I'm so happy you're considering mindfulness as a tool to help yourself. It's up to us :)) Blessings to you!! And again, you can ask me more if you'd like.

    Hi angeldust!! That's so fantastic about your doctor!! Wow! And 'Full Catastrophe Living' IS wonderful - our MBSR teachers made a list of recommended books and Jon Kabat Zinn's were biggies since my instructors had studied under him. Pretty great. Since you're seeing someone who employs stress reduction, did you know about biofeedback? It's something I'm looking into - I'm planning on not doing the traditional doctor's office computer program but buying the new at-home one from www.wilddivine.com. I'm so excited about it, I've read again and again how much it can help, and I have a lot of muscle tension with my fibro pain. I'm hoping to learn to control my body and how it reacts to my pain/stiffness/stress, etc. (after learning mindfulness I realize how strong the mind can be in helping the body! whoa!). Anyhow, I just thought I'd mention it since you're interested in stress relief, too :))

    Hi allychally :) That's so amazing that you've seen Jon Kabat Zinn in person - I'm sure he does resonate peace and tranquility! Wow. About the course - mine was over $600 without insurance (!!) I almost stopped right there in complete horror, but right before I jumped off the phone the woman said Wait! insurance usually covers most of that, with just copays left, - and she called to check mine out. I know most of my class (if not all) only had a copay, so maybe you can take it after all:) Not that what you learn isn't worth the full cost, because considering things I might just think it is completely. I'm not in MA, I'm in Pennsylvania - Allentown, specifically. But we're moving to Chester County soon - my hubby got a promotion! It's extra great because my family lives over there. I saw Dr. Susan Wiley and Dr. Joanne Cohen-Katz for my MBSR course. Dr. Wiley was my course leader, but I met Dr. Cohen-Katz for the retreat because they run it together. They're both wonderful, and so was my second in-class teacher - kind of in-training with Dr. Wiley. I think her name was Ally, actually, but my memory's terrible. She was sweet - they're all extremely kind. And the class was full of nice, open, honest people. I've never been comfortable in a group setting, but I was there. Everyone's got their problem on their sleeve, so suddenly you just feel at home being yourself. It was one of the best things I've ever learned.

    Loved posting with all of you!! Jane