Mindfulness is a wonderful tool that can help us to cope with the difficulties of living with chronic illness. Explore more on this page, and then why not book on to one of my courses to find out for yourself!
Modern scientific research is confirming that regular Mindfulness practice has many benefits for both physical and mental health. Many studies show that regular Mindfulness practice can help with depression, anxiety, improve mood, and help us become more mentally resilient. However, what is less well known is that studies also show Mindfulness has a wealth of benefits for our physical health too! For example, studies show that regular practice can lower blood pressure, improve cognitive function, help with fatigue, improve sleep, improve digestion, help with pain, and even boost our immune system.
I teach Mindfulness for Chronic Illness online, combining standard Mindfulness tools with my own knowledge and experience gained over years of study, and a lifetime of pain and illness. But what is Mindfulness? The definition that I teach with is that ‘Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of our present moment experience and welcoming what we find with a kind and open heart.’ It sounds so simple, doesn't it, and yet it can be so hard, especially when we live with pain and difficult physical symptoms. Mindfulness teaches us the tools that enable us to do this. But how can this practice help us live with chronic illness? Below, I will share with you some of the reasons why I trained in Mindfulness and why I use it myself to help me cope with my chronic illness.
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The form of Mindfulness I am trained to teach is short. The tools vary in length from 30 seconds to around 10 minutes, so it is very easy to incorporate it into your daily life, even if you live with energy limiting chronic illness, pain or fatigue. There is no stick to beat yourself with here! The last thing we need when we are ill is yet another thing to try and squeeze into our never-ending ‘to-do’ list, or one more thing to do with our limited daily energy. However, just a few moments of Mindfulness practice each day can have huge benefits for us, and the tools I teach are deliberately designed to be achievable for us, even when we live with illness.
In Mindfulness practice, we are not trying to ‘FORCE’ ourselves to feel relaxed or happy! It can be hard when we are in pain or struggling with symptoms to ‘zen-out’. Many other tools like hypnotherapy or meditation seem to require us to achieve a state of deep relaxation, which can be difficult for us when we are struggling. Mindfulness is not about forcing ourselves to feel a certain way, or trying to achieve any specific state – it is about feeling what we feel in any given moment, and working with whatever is present for us. That’s what makes it such a brilliant tool for helping us navigate difficult experiences. Mindfulness doesn’t ignore suffering, it doesn’t pretend it doesn’t exist – it accepts suffering and helps us to live with it.
Mindfulness teaches us tools that help us to live with our fears for the future. How often do you find yourself worrying about the future, and how you will cope with something because of your illness or pain? How often do you feel fearful of what the future might hold? This is completely normal, everyone who suffers pain or illness has these fears and worries, but it can make living with illness difficult and stressful. Mindfulness teaches us how to remain in the present moment, and that has been shown in scientific studies to reduce anxiety and depression and help us cope with suffering better.
Do you have a good relationship with your body? This can be a tricky question for those of us who live with chronic illness. Do you love your body – even the bits that don’t work very well? That can feel impossible. I know I have struggled over the years with blaming my body for ‘letting me down’, or for stopping me from doing what I want. I hated my body and my illness, and I know many people who feel the same. But Mindfulness shows us another way. Through regular mindfulness practice, we can slowly rebuild our relationships with our bodies and find a healthier and happier way of living with them.
One of the main reasons why I love Mindfulness, is that it teaches us to be kind to ourselves! How difficult is that?! Especially when we live with pain and suffering. So many other ‘self-help’ tools like exercise, meditation etc put expectation and pressure on us, and add to the burden of self doubt and the sense of ‘failure’ that we feel. But the last thing we need is another reason to beat ourselves up! Mindfulness is inherently kind, and teaches us how to practice self-compassion, kindness and forgiveness. So, you aren’t perfect? No problem! Neither am I! Mindfulness says that’s OK.
Mindfulness teaches us lots of tools that can help us manage daily life with pain and illness. Short practices that make a measurable difference to the way we feel and how we cope. Tools that change the way our brain responds to pain and difficulty, and therefore changes how we feel about it. Why not book on a course and see for yourself how Mindfulness could help you to live well with chronic illness!
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Mindfulness cannot diagnose or treat any specific illness, nor do my courses claim to ‘cure’ any chronic illness. Mindfulness is a tool that can be used to help us to live better with chronic illness, and manage the difficult emotions that come with it. It should be used alongside the other holistic and conventional medical support recommended by your health professional.
1 in 4 of us will suffer from a mental health challenge at some point in our lives. Mindfulness is a great tool for looking after our mental health. However, it should never be suggested as a substitute treatment to be used in place of therapy and/or medication. If you're working with a therapist/counsellor/GP to manage your mental health - please discuss with them before undertaking any mindfulness practice. If you’re feeling in a place where it’s uncomfortable to be with your thoughts or difficult to be present in the moment, it might be that Mindfulness is not the right tool for you right now, and another tool for self-care might benefit you more. My courses are not a substitute for medical care, and you should seek appropriate medical care and discuss with your doctor before undertaking any of my courses. If you are in any doubt, get in touch, I am happy to discuss your specific circumstances and advise you honestly whether Mindfulness is the right thing for you.