Meditation as a tool for chronic illness management
Meditation is a phrase that is thrown about a lot when talking about self care and chronic illness. I posted a blog entitled ‘Fill your own cup first‘ where I mentioned that I used to meditate quite regularly and that perhaps I should start again.
Therefore, I have decided to do a 7 day meditation challenge. I will be meditating daily for 7 days, for as little as 5 minutes at a time, to see what benefits or effects it has on me, as a parent and on my chronic illness. I want to see if I can add it to The things I do to try and manage and subsequently share my findings with you so you can make an informed choice as to whether meditation is for you.
I know as chronic warriors, we are fed up of people saying to us “have you tried meditating?” but I did wonder if perhaps there would be some observable benefit to my health and my parenting style if I completed the challenge. So, here goes!
Day 1: Understanding Mind Wandering
After my boy had gone down for his afternoon nap, I wanted to learn how to begin potty training (the joys of joy) and subsequently began running about getting it all ready for when he woke up. Then, I felt a little jittery so I thought now would be a good time to practise a meditation. I sat on my sofa and used an app called Balance. They gave me a year’s free trial of their app, which is absolutely great as we don’t often get something for nothing in this life! I am still on the foundations plan at the moment, which is where they teach you all the basics you need to know to start meditating successfully.
My meditation was called ‘Understanding Mind Wandering’ today. I started to close my eyes and focus on my breathe but all my brain could think about was the potty training research I had just been reading, what my next snack would be, what activity I’d do with my boy when he awoke, what I would write for my next blog post and so on. I found it calming though and grounding to have just a few minutes peace without any visual stimuli. I have to listen to guided meditations as I find these work best for me.
Day 2 Breath Work
Today’s meditation was a much needed rest! I’d had a busy morning with my nieces and nephew and my boy. I’d been writing my blog since he fell asleep at 1 p.m. and sharing it across media platforms. It felt nice to close my eyes for those 5 minutes to give me a little boost. It felt like a mini nap without me having to Sleep when the baby sleeps. Yes, my mind did wander and yes 5 minutes felt like an eternity when my to do list was piling up but it really helped me to see what hurts in my body today and what I can do about it. I found I’d been using my hands a bit too much as they are quite sore and that I haven’t drank enough because I have a headache. I don’t think I would have noticed these things without that mini pause.
Day 3 Habit
Today, I decided to complete my meditation in bed nearing the end of the day. I got snuggled up in my blanket with my hot water bottle and hit play. Straight away the calming benefits of the first few breaths took hold.
Earlier on in the day, my boy and I completed some calming breaths together when he was upset and it really helped the both of us to relax and respond from a calm place.
As the rest of the meditation continued, I noticed that for the first time today I was checking in with myself and I immediately remembered I’d forgotten to take my night time tablet. I don’t think had I taken those 5 minutes I would have remembered! It also dawned on me how overwhelming exhausted I was. As busy parents and chronic illness warriors, we often forget about the one element that is crucial to success with an illness like mine – pacing! Since completing the meditation, I felt like I actually had more energy so stayed up and watch some more Lincoln Lawyer! (Read this post to discover more about The Lincoln Lawyer You are more than your illness)
Day 4 Basics of the body scan
Such a busy, busy non stop day today so I left my meditation till late again. I chose to complete it when I was dying my hair purple and waiting for it to develop!
The basics of the body scan meditation focuses on separating the physical sensations with the emotional sensations and recognising where we have pain and tension in the body. There have been many studies that suggests meditation and body scan work can lower pain levels in an individual.
The first thing I noticed when I closed my eyes though was I had the song ‘We don’t talk about Bruno’ in my head from Encanto! Not only that but my husband came bounding up in the stairs, into the bedroom and shouted “Hello, how are you?” right in the very middle of my meditation. Furthermore, my timer for my hair dye also went off towards the end too. So perhaps not the best time to chose to do my meditation, but a pat on the back is deserved as I did it anyway. I think next time though I shall tell my husband I am meditating so he doesn’t interrupt!
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that this body scan meditation lowered or reduced my pain in anyway but it doesn’t claim to be a miracle. However, what it did achieve was helping me to notice specific areas where I was in pain. I noticed my jaw was quite tightly clenched as was my forehead and my neck and shoulders were tense.
This meditation was slightly longer today at 10 minutes and I did feel this to be too long for me. On the other hand, I am certainly noticing the benefits of this challenge on my parenting.
I am generally a calm parent anyway and understand how to talk to my boy in a calm, clear manner taking his feelings into account but, I’m sure like most parents, I’m not a saint. Sometimes, I can become a little irritated, grumpy or annoyed without meaning to be. Today though, I noticed I was able to handle situations a little better today, especially with my wriggly worm at bedtime. I focused on my breathing in moments of struggle today and I’ve generally felt calmer and less fraught.
(Here’s the finished picture of my hair by the way!)
Day 5 Body Scan Tips
Another jam packed day today (when will I ever learn Pacing) and doing a meditation felt more like a chore than fun. I had been busy since my son went to bed at night learning about Query Loops, Tags, Categories, Navigation Menus and other complicated terms to try and improve my blog. However, I knew I needed to get my meditation done so I could begin my Friday night with my husband as I know the importance of spending quality time together .
Today’s meditation looked into body scanning more and not only noticing the sensations but also the intensity in different areas of your body. Again, not a miracle cure but a nice reset and end to the day. I am definitely feeling calmer as a parent and I am hoping the feeling continues.
Day 6 Breath work and body scan
Last night at 10:30 p.m. I realised I hadn’t completed my meditation yet, so I got down to it right before bed. Today’s focus was on a combination of breath work and body scanning. I enjoyed focusing on my breathing, as it involved counting and I like order and logic and numbers. Not only that, but after it my shoulders and neck felt better! I also felt ready for sleep!
However, in the living room I could smell my husband’s wet, soggy running shoes so pick your location wisely!
Day 7 Review of foundation plan
This was the final day of my meditation plan in the Balance app foundation series. I’d had an awesome day today with a powerlifting session in the morning, out for lunch in the afternoon and an all round good day.
However, after tea I started feeling skitty and anxious, in pain and tired and I needed a rest. My husband suggested I go for a nice, long bath and I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone today and complete the meditation in the bath. It felt nice and relaxing as the water filled up around me and I focused on my breath.
Unfortunately, again, I felt like 10 minutes was too long. I had a good true crime podcast I wanted to listen to, I was munching my way through a family sized bar of Dairy Milk and I needed to get rid of my yeti legs so I could start wearing dresses again. So, if I’m totally honest I skipped the final 3 minutes as I just couldn’t concentrate and I wasn’t deriving any benefit from it.
Even though meditation has never claimed to be a miracle cure for chronic illness sufferers, I noticed during this challenge that it helped me focus on the specific areas that I had pain in. It helped to calm my mind and body down.
I noticed it had a positive effect on my mood during the 7 days and I felt myself able to handle more complicated aspects of parenting, like tantrums and late night awakenings.
Furthermore, I also taught my son a few deep breathing techniques from the meditations that, for example, we used at 3a.m. this morning when he was getting cross and upset.
What I found out through this challenge was that it is a tool in my big Mummy the Fibro Warrior toolkit I could return to, whenever I felt the need. I think forcing yourself to do it is not the right way to approach this tool as it should be something enjoyable and something you look forward to doing.
Mummy the Fibro Warrior Top Tip:
1. When you are feeling anxious, stressed, angry or upset meditation is a useful tool in your bag to use to calm yourself down. This will have a positive impact on your mood, help you feel calmer and help you focus on the specific areas you are experiencing pain.
If there is one takeaway I’d like you all to remember today is that meditation could help take away your focus on your pain, even for a short while. It is not something you have to do or should force yourself to do. It is not a miracle cure to our illness but a helpful asset to have in the toolbelt. I need you to know you are doing the best you can, your child/children love you just as you are and you are Mummy the Fibro Warrior.
Until next time,
P.S Have you ever tried meditating? If so, what app or videos do you use? What other methods do you use to destress? Please do let me know in the comments below!
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