Begining to Retrain your Thoughts from Negative to Positive; Adding to this, Daily Journaling to Track Your Chronic….

via Begining to Retrain your Thoughts from Negative to Positive

If you follow my blog on chronic pain, now also featuring a subtext of chronic anxieties, I hope you’ve used the technique above with some success. I suggest techniques that have assisted me, or other peers, that have a good track record for us chronics.  Using the above technique is not something I did, or do, for only a month; I have found that committing to tools that work for me means repeating the technique throughout the year(s). Once I’m comfortable with one, it’s time to add another. The next step in this writting process is journaling.

First step, get a journal. I have used large address books that come with tabs and mini binders filled with paper I found at thrift stores (once I knew I was consistent in using this review of my self with pain, anxiety, and triggers of these, I bought a cute, handmade journal). Your selection should be one with sections, I use five, you may only need three or perhaps you will want nine; it’s your journal for your unique needs. Next, buy a set of five different colored pens or pencils. I have a set of pencils from “The Dollar Store”, I also wanted to invest in myself to create further investment in my daily writing, so I went to a office supply store and picked out colors I related to for each of my  sections (I’ll write more about this in-depth below). You will now use this one journal for the circles of negative and positive thought, emotion, behavioral outcome, so remember to set aside the front section for this practice. Your also going to commit to tracking both your personal triggers and your good moments, hours, or days.

I created my second section to begin a conversation with myself about what Wellness feels like for me. In this same section, I write about how I can try to stay Well, what support items, people, medications, alternative resources, quiet time, might help me get back to being alright again. Included in this are are my “Action Stepstones”; this comes from the first exercise I started with, circles of patterns that assist me in awareness of positive and negative behaviors. Last, before embarking on my new daily journal toolkit, I have a third section that’s used to create my “Paths” to both my positive and my ability to practice acceptance.

You may be starting to feel overwhelmed, this is a good time to practice nice, deep, breathing. Remember that you work at your pace. This is your place. Start with a sentence or two and reward yourself for being courageous. Each section is a process. I made plans that didn’t work. I wrote out “Wellness Action Stepstones” before I knew that some of the stones were too negative. That’s what’s great about tracking with journaling, your observations, plans, positives and negatives, can change! Mine change often as new situations arise, new symptoms, less symptoms, different seasons of the year, my journal writing reflects my constant understandings over the years. The key to success is your commitment.

It’s important that you write daily for one month. Create a third section where you write one sentence in the morning and one at night. These reflect how you are coping/feeling. The morning is an observation of how you feel as your day begins. The nights sentence examines how you felt throughout your day. Using a different colored pen, write a brief note about your pain(s), anxiety, (your struggle), was it positive, good, bad, negative, was there a trigger, did you use a “Stepstone”?  Picking another color, rate how it felt; it was a good day and you used a tool from your kit, 2. It was a hard day, you weren’t able to take care of your chores, 8.  Circle these scores and a corresponding words that allows you to go back and scan the entry at any time. Example; “I was triggered by an unexpected loud noise at the store, my anxiety took over and I went home to bed”, 8 – circle “unexpected loud noise”, and “anxiety”.

After you have worked with this system, if you want to try it that is, you can get more in-depth or less. It depends on the person. I got more detailed as I used this tool. I also found that as I have mTBI, my journal needed to be one I could take with me. I created a section on cognition and a separate section for notes. There is one more writing/witnessing exercise I use, but it’s too early to introduce. This is a lot to begin with. Remember that no one else is looking at your toolkit. Tweak it for you. Do commit. It’s not a miracle and you get out only what you put in.

I am going to be running an online course in this, and more, with time put aside for us to support one another. Once I have it up, I’ll put a link in my blog.

Lucinda Tart, Advocate/Educate, Chronic Survivor


Second Step in Keeping a Journal for Pain and Triggers in Fibromyalgia

fibromyalgia feelings at end of the day

This is the second step to add into your personal journaling of your day. These steps are meant to assist you in identifying your personal triggers, your steps towards health, medication tracking, and creating a personalized program to stay Well.

Step 2)  At the end of your day record what you did throughout that day. Keep it brief by jotting down the general errands, cleaning, or work chores.

a) Note three-four items from your day. Underneath each write what hurt, or increased your pain. Example, lifting a grocery bag, driving, pushing a vacuum, sitting at a desk.

b) Across the page write down the scale of your pain levels during each; use the Fibromyalgia Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest. Remember, this is your private journal. If you felt a pain of 8 after lifting the grocery bag, put it down.

c) Under the number you put, write another to note if the pain decreased. Add in how many minutes or hours it took for it decrease.

d) Write down how you feel at the end of day, using the pain scale.

Finish by jotting down a few simple notes. Example; “After I vacuumed the living room and went grocery shopping, transferred the bags to the car and then brought them in the house, my pain was at a level of 7. I had to wait an hour to put them away, or, I asked my husband/partner to put them away as I had to lay down.

Use these steps for two weeks. Keep it gentle and simple. If you wish, you can also use this space to rage or vent about your pain. Also, remember it is very important to note what actions made you feel better.

More later. This is a building block process and I don’t wish my Peers to become overwhelmed, thereby defeating the entire process.
























Fibromyalgia, Winter is Here

winter and the white owl

Winter is here. All of us with chronic pain are getting our “bundle up” clothes out, getting our layers of clothes ready. I have a window during the day of about three and half hours when I can get by with a light sweater top or a light sweater over a long-sleeved top, with scarf.  Mornings, I crawl out of bed to touch a cold floor. I put on my pj sweater to make my tea in the cold, cold kitchen. Then, I pull open the curtains and get  to my couch to cover up with a throw blanket while I wait for the sun to warm the room. By the early evening the process starts again.

When I go to bed, I keep my pj sweater, sweatpants, and socks on. This despite having a down comforter and a thickly knit blanket on the bed already. I am keeping a scarf, hat and gloves at ready in my car. This does not include the few extra warm pull-over jackets with hoods that are always in my trunk. Or all the socks that are strewn about the house, socks that just a few weeks ago were put away for the summer.

I love the winter months, with all its glorious sunsets created by the rain clouds. The sound of rain is melodic, it soothes my soul. The opposite of this is that internal pain as I feel the pressure dropping. I have come to dread this. Despite this dread, I still have the choice of snatching that positive moment each day and holding onto it like treasure. I choose to keep my treasured moments each day, holding them close to help me ignore my pain.

This last week has been a time that is reminding me of the winter to come. The extra pain my body will endure. As I hold this reminder, something else has been on my mind. When I go to my beloved forums and blog sites, I am frustrated. I read the comments posted about virtually every subject, and, I read that my Peers are continually fighting with their pain. Their comments are sad. Their comments are mad.

I understand, I too get negative. But, in order to come to terms with this syndrome, I must stay in those moments of small gifts. I have lived with this for 16 years. I watch my Peers continue to complain, year after year, and I wonder what would happen if they just stopped fighting this? I believe it is possible they would live better. Yes, the pain and the brain fog, along with exhaustion would remain. We are more than our pain. We are human beings with much to offer others. I do not believe getting your feelings out with a negative statement every day, even to an anonymous site, helps our brain to reframe itself.

Tonight as I wrap myself up in warmth and feel a headache from the neck and shoulders coming on, I pray that my Peers can get through another winter without focusing on the negative.

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Advisor

Creating the “Me Space”, It’s Not as “Easy as Pie”. More Wellness

Source: Creating the “Me Space”, It’s Not as “Easy as Pie”. More Wellness

Yes, People with Chronic Pain/Fibromyalgia do Work

new good spirits
new good spirits

working and firbo assistinng huricane katrina survivorsWorking while surviving and planning to live Well with Fibromyalgia is not uncommon. I have worked, volunteered during Hurricane Katrina, spent 8 years in college and then two years in graduate school. During those last two years, I interned 24 hours a week; with a full schedule at the university. I was in pain and many days it was a struggle. Once every other month I had to call in and tell them I was unable to come in as my pain level had increased. Usually, I was able to cover most of the work from home, otherwise I completed  the next day. It was an interesting experience to work with my fibromyalgia syndrome; in many ways.

I never had a supervisor or coworker come right out and tell me that I was incapable of performing my job duties. I am actually a very competent worker, or was then. Most coworkers were considerate about my pain syndrome, but, there were always the few who I just knew looked at me sideways. I choose to ignore them as simply being ignorant of my situation. Better than that was doing this;  if the opportunity came up, I would spend a few minutes in conversation with the person, discussing what it felt like to be in my body. I let go of their internal reactions. Afterall, this was not my personal issue and didn’t serve any positive purpose for me.

I am not currently working but I would prefer it. I found out that I did better when I was out among people. When I moved my body and mind from task to task. I definitely paid for it some days! I have often pondered why working and studying so hard helped me with my pain levels. I have come to the conclusion that my serotonin and endorphin levels had a greater output. Why? Because, I was happy, I was exercising, I was using my brain to focus on others and other things. I was not giving it the time to focus on my pain.

This has taught me a lesson that I keep close to my heart; keep as busy as I can. My busy today doesn’t come close to the busy then, but it still accomplishes some of that distraction that I used to experience. I know we all get angry at our doctors and family who tell us to stay busy. I did and do, don’t get me wrong. However, it turns out they are correct, at least for me. On the days when I flare beyond my endurance to get up and move my focus is all on my pain. There is no joy, no tasks, no focus on something besides me which stops those all important  neurotransmitters from firing as well.

I am not writing this to chastise those of us who can no longer work. I am remembering that it can be better than just staying home. Work is a subjective idea. I try to work on my blog and other plans every day at home. I stay busy with odd, small and quick jobs in the house. I pick one larger chore each week and focus on it for an hour. Keeping an organized, and same plan in place for what needs to be done each day also allows me to look forward and know where, and if, I can do outside of the home activities or maybe just spending time drawing for a half hour.

I have spent today engaged in a few small tasks, like this blog, responding to Peers on forums and blogs, submitting a page for publication (it was already complete) and know I am going to work on a my once a week large project. I am going to go do this, despite feeling like a large flare is coming on; perhaps if I get going with it, my pain levels will decrease. Perhaps not. But, for me, it is worth trying.

If you missed my organization tips for a binder or a daily reminder book, or just handling your chores, use the search box. Wishing you all the best in whatever efforts you can handle today.

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Coach

Begining to Retrain your Thoughts from Negative to Positive

Hello Peers,

I stated in my post, about our need to know what items to bring with us in situations that arise unexpectedly, that I would add links above it. I was able to find a good link for basic mediation learning. Emotional retraining, not so simple. Most links I found were actually advertisements for their various learning courses; sneaky.  I understand the basics of emotions and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, since there are no reliable links to add for your own research, I am going to post a simple process I have used with both myself and with others.

The first thing our brain does is  latch onto a thought. Negative thoughts might be thoughts such as, “I am a failure”, “I never accomplish anything”, “I can’t handle this situation”, “I am just going to give up” or worse. In using these specific examples I am trying to recreate thoughts I have had, and have, because my daily life has changed from living with Fibromyalgia. Despite my ability to live Well with chronic pain, I am not perfect, I am human.  Our brains will always default and take the most used pathways. Once a pathway is established as our usual belief, our thoughts, emotions and behavior becomes automatic.

In our situation these thought paths can effectively create behaviors where we just stop trying to accomplish it in order to not fail. We know we can’t handle it, we won’t complete it, so we don’t. This example is fairly clear; thought creates behavior. Negative behavior is based on negative thoughts. This automatic process is one that we are not conscious of. We become stuck in a cycle that hurts us.

You can begin to recreate pathways that latch onto positive thoughts, emotions and behavior. You can  retrain your brain. Start simply. Begin to notice your thoughts, emotions and subsequent actions. Drawing a circle with three headings each equally spaced around the circle; Thought—->, Emotion——>, Behavior—–>, with the circle completed when you reach Thought again. You now have a closed circle with the three key words waiting for you to use in retraining your pathways. Make the circle large enough that under each heading you can put your automatic thought, emotion and behavior. Pick one after a week of practicing noticing your automatic negative thoughts. Write them under the headings in the circle, then add a positive Thought, Emotion and Behavior under the negative ones. For instance, you first thought, “I am a failure”, now you add underneath it, “Doing the Best I can”, followed by the new emotion and behavior that accompanies it. Use this basic circle as a new tool that will begin to change your negative, self-defeating brain. Put this somewhere where you see it every day.  If that is too much right now put a note on your mirrors with the new positive thought. Watch as your behavior begins to move forward.

*Update: 10/2015. This is also a good worksheet to keep in the front of your organization binder, or, tuck into your daily reminder book/memory book.

This is a very simplified explanation of what CBT can assist people with. Right now, keeping it simple is all we need. Actually, keeping it simple is all anyone ever needs!

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Advisor

*As always, this blog is in no way a therapy site, I am not offering professional advice and I advise anyone experiencing new or unusual problematic thought processes or behaviors to immediately contact their doctor.