Mindfulness seems to be a phrase mentioned a lot these days and it’s no wonder, because it can offer real benefits to our health. There are now studies that show the various health benefits of practising mindfulness meditation, including for people who are experiencing chronic pain, which is definitely a positive for those of us tackling endo.
What is mindfulness exactly? It stems from the practise of meditation but has been given a modern name. It simply means being more present, being aware of what’s happening right now. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in studies to improve chronic pain; it’s been shown to create a sense of well being, which comes from the acceptance of pain and a reduction in anxiety; changing our relationship to pain, acknowledging it and relating to it differently, encourages more consciousness to the condition.
Pain is extremely complex, everyone has a different perception and experience with it. Those with chronic pain conditions like endometriosis may become highly sensitised to pain stimuli for various reasons. As everyone’s perception of pain is different, so will be their experience of mindfulness; there’s no one-size-fits-all with mindfulness meditation. There’s many different types of meditation out there, so it’s worth trying some different styles to see what works for you.
Here’s a simple mindfulness meditation to get you started:
- Set aside 20 minutes of uninterrupted time every day (if you only have 10 minutes, that’s ok too, you can always build up over time).
- Sit upright in a chair or on the floor in a comfortable position you can maintain.
- Close your eyes and simply observe; it may be your thoughts, your emotions, your breath, how your body feels, or sounds you can hear.
- Let go of judgement; if you notice you start judging, that’s ok, just observe and allow the judgements to pass.
- If you become entangled in mind chatter or a story, just observe what just happened without judgement and keep going with the practise.
It’s simple in theory, but it can be difficult in practise, the good news is with time it becomes easier and when we start to experience the benefits it makes it so worthwhile.
Health and healing,
I was in Bali recently for one month of intensive yoga teacher training. I didn’t quite know what to expect other than learning the asanas, pranayama, meditation, anatomy and yoga philosophy, the stuff that happened in between all of this made it a transformative process for me, there were spiritual experiences and an intense amount of self-study known as svadhyaya.
I’m thrilled to be a yoga teacher, the practise is so important to me and a part of my daily life, even if I can’t practise physically, I still meditate. Yoga has been a critical part of my journey to health; when I was in my darkest moments suffering from anxiety, or depression associated with having endo or gut issues, I knew I could turn to yin or restorative yoga to give me relief, in fact just the process of being more present (which yoga instils) helped me manage my symptoms. There are also specific poses that really helped with pain, there’s a post I did a few years ago that shows these.
My yoga teacher training experience really helped me explore my own behaviour; understanding our behaviour patterns and why we behave in certain ways helps us to develop, but it also assists in the healing process. I also feel my health improved over the month from an energetic and physical perspective, I was able to let go of pain I was holding onto; I was really surprised when I realised how much pain I was holding onto in my abdomen (even though I rarely get endo pain any more), but the pain was significant because you couldn’t even brush my abdomen without me flinching, strangely it’s just not there anymore. Pain is complex and can be different from person to person, the nervous system can hold onto the memory of it, I think this happened to me and lasted about 10 years. Pain, whether it’s physical or emotional can manifest in unusual ways, so ignoring it or thinking you’ve dealt with it but you’ve actually suppressed it will only allow it to manifest further. Once we start to identify and acknowledge the source of our pain, only then can we can start to let it go and heal.
I am now available to teach here in Brisbane, so I look forward to sharing with you when that will be happening. Keep an eye on my instagram for updates.
Yours in health,
We all know that if we have regular feelings of gratitude, compassion and kindness towards ourselves, we’re going to generally feel better than if we allow our inner-critic to dominate our thoughts and feelings.
According to Harvard practising self-compassion can improve your overall health and reduce levels of anxiety and depression.
About six months ago I learnt a technique from a psychologist that I now practise daily, it’s similar to practising gratitude but it’s more specific and I’d like to share it because it’s simple and proven to relieve anxiety and depression.
The practise: everyday find three positive things to say about yourself which can be said aloud, in your head, or written down.
These things can be like “earlier today I offered to make my partner a cup of tea, that was a thoughtful and kind act” or “today I went to yoga and I’m happy I took some time to look after myself”, or “I listened to my friend when she was going through a difficult time, I am a kind and supportive person”.
Even though some days it may seem insignificant or you can’t think of anything interesting to say, don’t underestimate the effects this practise can have, it takes time and like anything if you practise daily it becomes a habit, except this is a healthy habit to maintain which cultivates self-compassion and self-esteem.
Health and healing,
I recently gave floatation therapy a try at Bliss Float.
In case you’re wondering exactly what floatation therapy is all about, it’s basically a pod (see below image) that is filled warm water and salts such as magnesium that allows you to float, the room is quiet and dark and the aim is to completely relax.
Floatation therapy isn’t new and there are studies that have documented its benefits. Being a health science student, I felt the need to explore these studies myself before signing up to float and indeed there is evidence to suggest that flotation therapy can assist with stress, anxiety, pain and fatigue.
I was initially concerned with feeling claustrophobic, but I quickly realised there was no need to worry, as the pod was completely adjustable including the lid and could be left open if you didn’t want to be completely enclosed. There were soft lights that moved through the chakra colours (colours of the rainbow), if you preferred some light instead of complete sensory deprivation.
So how did I like it? At first I’ll admit it felt strange, I tried to fight the strange buoyant water and alien environment and kept checking the pod lid was open ajar (hello my friend anxiety). After about 15 minutes I noticed a shift, all my muscles relaxed and in fact I forgot they were there until I noticed some leg twitching, then I knew I was in a deeply relaxed, meditative state. I went through phases of being more alert to being more relaxed which I find normally happens in meditation. At the end when the music came on again, I knew I was very relaxed, so relaxed my body felt like jelly. Floating truly felt like a healing experience.
After I managed to drive myself home that afternoon, the effects lingered into the evening, although I experienced some nausea it passed quickly and that night I slept incredibly well. Floating is definitely something I want to do again. Now I’m over the initial strangeness of trying something new, I believe next time will be even more beneficial.
Yours in health,
I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis in January 2014, at that time and for many years prior I was extremely unwell and could barely function.
Endometriosis is a multi-faceted disease so it needs to be considered from all angles. It doesn’t just include monthly pain – the pain for me was daily, but there was also extreme fatigue, depression, gut problems including bloating, constipation, bowel pain and malabsorption of nutrients.
These days I am feeling much better and rarely experience the symptoms mentioned above. There are many factors that have contributed to my improved health and I want to share with you some of my learnings. Firstly, let’s understand a bit more about the disease:
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside this area and creates inflammation, scar tissue, adhesions, pain and sometimes infertility. It is unknown what causes endometriosis but there are a few factors that may contribute to the disease:
Estrogen dominance is one factor that may contribute to endometriosis. If this hormone is not being expelled appropriately from the body it can worsen the disease and create other symptoms associated with estrogen dominance. There are two key components to maintaining optimal hormone levels; the liver which removes excess toxins, including excess hormones such as estrogen (and xenoestrogens) and the gastrointestinal system which is essential for absorbing nutrients and expelling waste.
Here are 5 tips for managing endometriosis:
- Find your health care A-team; for example, I have the support of a general practitioner, a gynaecologist (who specialises in endometriosis), a naturopath, a gastroenterologist and an acupuncturist. Make sure the people you do see really understand the disease and are up to date with the latest research. Good health care will make a difference. Take responsibility for your own health though, do your research and ask questions; if you’re not comfortable with what your practitioner is proposing, seek a second opinion, it’s your body and you know it better than anyone. Excision surgery done correctly by an endo specialist is widely regarded as the best way to improve symptoms and quality of life.
- Establish your support network. Having a chronic illness can be very isolating and can lead to depression. Creating my Instagram account healingyogi and this blog, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; the support from other endo sufferers (along with the support from my husband) was incredible. In addition to social media, you can find support networks through friends, family, local support groups and through a psychologist.
- Consider your diet. As mentioned earlier, if your body is not absorbing the appropriate nutrients and expelling waste/toxins as it needs to, it’s only going to make you feel worse. There isn’t one diet for endometriosis, but there are a few guidelines that can help:
- Eat a high fibre diet.
- Buy food as close to its natural state and prepare your own meals as often as possible – eat lots of veggies!
- Buy organic where possible and reduce the amount of toxins you consume.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats found in olive oil and wild salmon as they are anti-inflammatory.
- Avoid soy products such as tofu as they contain isoflavones which are similar to estrogen and therefore can have similar effects on the body.
- Reduce your sugar intake (including alcohol). Processed sugary foods and drinks can cause inflammation and will only make you feel worse.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Reduce your stress levels. By allowing your body to rest appropriately it will switch on your parasympathetic nervous system and allow your body to do things such as; conserve energy, digest food and reproduce. Find your happy place! Whether it’s playing sport, painting or going for a walk in nature – just do something that gives you time to nourish your body and mind. Not surprisingly, I recommend yoga and meditation as it provides benefits for both body and mind and can help manage pain. Restorative yoga is brilliant for when you are unwell and not up to doing exercise.
- Address your digestive problems. If you’re tackling endometriosis it’s important to have your gut absorbing the appropriate nutrients. After many years of gut problems, last year I was finally diagnosed with SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) which meant I was malabsorbing nutrients along with some other unpleasant symptoms. At the time I had blood tests completed and was low in iron and vitamin B12; I suffered from extreme fatigue and brain fog as a result. Research your symptoms and talk to a naturopath / gastroenterologist. Find out what’s going on and take steps to address the problem so it doesn’t create additional health complications going forward.
There is so much more I could write about with regards to managing endo, but these are the 5 points that come first to mind. What are your tips for managing endo? I would love to know your thoughts.
Yours in health,