Pura Vida and Other Mantras

So to be fair, I’m not 100% sold on mantras. Repeating a phrase to myself over and over until I a) either feel better, b) it comes to be, or c) both. The thing about mantras, at least from my understanding, is that you really have to believe in them for them to have an effect. I rarely find a mantra that I truly believe in. Yes, I believe that I’m awesome, but repeating that to myself doesn’t do much for my self-esteem or confidence in most situations that cause it to be lower. Occasionally I do find one that I love.

imagesImage from: https://www.facebook.com/powerful.mantras.ibiza/

The first one, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before: I am, I can, I will.
This isn’t one I heard somewhere but something I came up with myself. I’m sure many others have before. I even have a friend who told me that he tells himself the same thing. It’s simple and I believe it. It can be applied to so many situations from getting into grad school, to fighting through chronic pain. I have it tattooed on my forearm. My mother says so that I won’t forget it, which is hilarious. In reality, this tattoo, like all of my tattoos is a reflection of me. And… I am, I can, I will. Always.

IMG_1240 I got the tattoo as part of my solo LA trip. On a surf board because for the first time I took surfing lessons.

The other mantra that I ran into more recently is one I also love. Pura vida. It directly translates to “pure life” but in Costa Rica they take it to mean “life is good” or “everything is great.” And despite chronic pain, and the anxiety that I’ve dealt with the past few years, pura vida really resonates with me. Life is good because life is what I make it. Most things don’t turn out the way we want them to but finding the good in it… finding those pure friends, finding your passion, and enjoying the good times.. that’s what makes life good, despite everything else. Pura vida.

Pura-Vida-Lizzie-Lau-signImage from: https://multilingual.com/pura-vida-translation-industry-way/pura-vida-lizzie-lau-sign/

If you want to read some research on the positive effects of mantras, check out this study by Lolla (2017): https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10943-017-0371-7 

I’m Great but My Body Isn’t

About a month ago I was in the waiting room of my rehab clinic, just watching and listening to the other patients as I waited for my physiotherapy appointment. There was an older gentleman there (okay, maybe not that old but probably in his 50s) waiting for his appointment at the pain clinic. He was friendly and chatting with the receptionists. One of them asked him how he was doing today. “I’m feeling great! Well, my body isn’t but I am,” was his response. It made me smile. The ability to separate physical from mental, because so often those of us with chronic pain and chronic illnesses can’t do so. Pain affects our mood, mood affects our pain. Does it have to? Does it always?

posthink_slideshowImage from: https://iskconnews.org/who-knows-the-way-to-happiness-positive-psychology-or-bhakti-yoga,5051/

There are times where no matter how positive and optimistic you are, what you are going through is going to affect how you feel emotionally. And there are times when you can separate the two, just as this gentleman did. Now, for all I know this was a good day from a period of days where he hates the world. That’s not the impression I got though. I felt an overall positive energy comes from him that seemed genuine and enduring. Again, he probably has some good days and some not so good, but positivity in the face of it all is great to see.

downloadImage from: https://www.psandme.com/psa-uncovered/chronic-illness-quotes/

How can we help ourselves feel great while not feeling great? That’s a big question with more than one not so small answer. Self-care, in any form, I think is very beneficial. I feel better when I take a bath or get a massage or go to the gym or take a few minutes to read a chapter from a book. Whatever I have to do to calm my mind or take it off the other predicaments of life, such as health. Meditation I have found to also be helpful. And talking. Therapy, or with friends and family, can do wonders for your mental health (or even just sharing on a site like this). Just know, that like that guy, we are capable of feeling great, while not feeling great.

%cuoZTA4RBiHDVm4MrNhnwFeeling great, even when I’m not feeling great #puravida

Autogenic Training – Stress Relief, Symptom Relief?

Good morning Everyone! As promised, today I will be bringing you a quick recap of the self-study project I did for my most recent course. It was a Biopsychosocial wellness project that emphasized the safe and effective use of self. I realize that sounds like a lot but what I really did was use Autogenic Training, mindfulness relaxation practice, every other day for a month to see if it improved my stress levels, and to see if it helped with my work/school-life balance. I was literally asked by a coworker yesterday how I was managing to do a Master’s while working full time. “I bet you don’t have a social life, right?” she asked. Somehow I’ve managed to. Though a few of my good friends have moved outside the city so I don’t see them that often anymore.

IMG_2895Work-life balance (pre-broken toe)

I’m not going to bore everyone with the details – my hypothesis (which I vaguely explained above), the research literature supporting my hypothesis, the procedure, etc. Yes, this was designed like an experiment, and my paper was written like a journal article. Hopefully not as dry as many I’ve read. What I am going to share with you are the results. My stress levels improved by 8 points on the Perceived Stress Scale after 12 sessions of autogenic training. My work/school-life balance also improved by 4 points on the Work-Life Conflict Scale. Basically, mindfulness works to improve stress. Yay! I kind of new that already based on personal experiences, but it’s nice to have a little experimental backup. This isn’t to say my study didn’t have flaws, it did, but the feeling of being less stressed after a month of training is good enough reason for me to keep autogenic training as part as my mindfulness repertoire (already use meditation, deep breathing, body scans, and progressive muscle relaxation regularly).

Image from: https://slideplayer.com/slide/10286891/

The cool thing about AT that I will mention from my research is that there is a large body of evidence that it helps with several medical conditions. From insomnia, to anxiety, to migraines, hypertension, and so forth. Relaxation is key, and autogenic training brings on a considerable amount of relaxation. If anyone is interested in more information. Please feel free to message me.

QMVQ91hCSOuqNFU8A0s8IwTHis is what I call relaxation.

Broken Toe, Summer Please Don’t Go!

Hi all, sorry I haven’t written much lately. I’m finding it harder than I thought I would to balance keeping up a weekly blog while in school. Let me tell you, doing a Master’s is intense, especially when you’re working full time! I am going to definitely put in more of an effort to keep this blog up though! I actually just finished a really interesting self-study on autogenic training as an intervention for stress and work/school-life balance. I’m going to tell you a bit more about my results in next week’s post. My paper is due on Sunday. Two reasons I want to include it in the blog – first, for mental health (i.e., stress reduction), and second because it has been used for a variety of illnesses, including autoimmune diseases! Stay tuned.

As for this week, I’ll let you in on my current situation – broken toes. I am having a shitty summer when it comes to health. It really sucks because summer is my favourite time of year. All I want to do is be outside and hike and kayak and sit on a patio. Started off with strep throat over pride weekend, and now with my broken toes I’m limited. Yes, I can sit on a patio (sitting in my cute little back yard while I write this, the bonus of living in a basement suite). I can’t go hiking or kayaking or anything else that’s fun though. At least for the mean time. I also can’t go to work. I know that sounds like a blessing, especially since I often find working in customer service stressful. However, I’m a bit bored at home as I can only study for X amount of time per day. I also could use the money, since I’m down to 70% pay having used all my yearly sick time up months ago and am technically in Short Term Disability every time I call in sick. If the swelling is down so I can get some kind of normal shoe on I’ll be in tomorrow. Health and safety policies specify closed-toed shoes. Just give me a chair at cash and I’ll ring through sales all day.

9751F3D3-AAF2-4497-AFF5-350577E80081My foot!

How did I break my toes you might be wondering. Well, my old sick dog (he has diabetes and possibly a liver condition) was peeing in the living room, something he NEVER does. I went it and cleaned it up. As I was putting the cleaning supplies away, I heard him do it again. As I ran back into the living room, I crashed my foot against the wall. My two little toes are smashed up. The top and bottom of my feet are bruised and swollen. However, I don’t blame my little angel, because he’s my best friend and probably couldn’t help himself. I, however, should’ve paid more attention to the wall.

IMG_2960Backyard patio.

My plan for the end of the month is to visit my friend in Kingston. She’s super active like I am, and part of the plan was hiking and adventuring. Fingers crossed my toes are totally fine by then because I want this fun adventure with her!