Mindfulness: Week 1 – Mindful of body and breath

Time to meditate - Mundy Park

Taking time to meditate – Mundy Park

What an insightful first week of my eight-week mindfulness meditation course. I have enjoyed reading the book and following the guided meditations so much!

The material is well suited to someone like myself who is starting out, developing their own mindfulness practice, and already knows intuitively that they will benefit from it.

The author’s writing style is excellent. The meditation guide speaks respectfully and calmly with clarity and eloquence. My guide has become a trusted friend.

Over the week, I felt calmer, less stressed and more able to cope. It would require a long blog to mention all the things that I have experienced and learned over the week. However, I would like to share some of them with you.

My first task was to find times that would work well for my twice daily meditations. The first week’s meditation is only about 8 minutes, but finding two regular times that would work was challenging, but I found them quite quickly.

Morning meditations seem to work well for me and set me up for the day. They work best after I have showered, eaten and finished my morning run. I am awake, well nourished, feeling healthy and calm.

Just before going to bed works well too. I am relaxed and open for meditation at that time and I sleep really well afterwards.

As you might expect, I use ‘earbud’ headphones and my iPhone for all my meditations to improve my focus and to be respectful of others around me.

Surrounded by nature - Mundy Park

Surrounded by nature – Mundy Park

This week’s guided meditation was a short ‘Mindful of Body and Breath’ meditation, designed to ground me in the present moment.

Initially, I needed to ensure that I was sitting in a dignified yet comfortable position, so that my posture supported my intention to be awake and aware. I then closed my eyes and focused my attention on the physical sensations that I felt from my body.

I initially focused my awareness on my breathing and the breath to calm and ground myself.

Then, starting with my feet and working my way up to my head, I acknowledged the physical sensations that I was feeling from different areas of my body.

I finished by acknowledging the physical sensations felt from my entire body, as a whole.

These were amazing physical awareness experiences for me. I took great care not to make things happen – I simply registered what was already happening.

Moving my awareness back to the breath, I acknowledged the sensations of my abdomen rising and falling, breath by breath, moment by moment.  It had been a long time since I had felt such a sense of peace, stillness and calm. It was sublime and I was deeply moved.

During my meditations, my mind would periodically wander off the breath, to thinking, memories, plans, worries or daydreams.

When this happened, I took great care not to judge myself, or to be upset with myself. I simply registered where my mind had wandered off to, and then gently escorted my attention back to the breath.

At the beach - Old Orchard Park

At the beach – Old Orchard Park

In his book “Wherever you go, there you are”, Jon Kabut-Zinn, a long-time mentor of mine, suggests that observing one’s thoughts during meditation is like sitting in a cave behind a waterfall and watching the water flow over the falls.

During my meditations this past week, I have come to appreciate Jon’s analogy. I have also discovered that there’s no need to dwell on thoughts that are emotionally stressful.

My ongoing mindfulness meditation practice will enable me to manage my thoughts and spend more time in the present moment. It’s a place where I will find inner peace, calm and tranquility.

As for the future, I am feeling quite optimistic and hopeful. My plan is to have a mindfulness meditation life-practice, integrated with my running rehabilitation and ‘non-inflammatory’ healthy eating programs that are already in place.

I am hoping that this is the missing piece of my self-managed rehabilitation and chronic pain management puzzle, so to speak.

It has been an exciting week and I am looking forward to the next seven weeks of my eight-week mindfulness course.

My challenge might be to resist the temptation to charge ahead in the book. Of course, I do know that I must stay in the present and savor every moment of this eight-week mindfulness experience.

Among the flowers - Rocky Point

Among the flowers – Rocky Point

Before bringing this blog to a close, I would like to share one more story.

About 15 years ago, I was in my downtown Vancouver apartment reading The Georgia Straight, when I came across a small ad for a Sufi cooking class.

It was at the nearby False Creek Community Centre and the fee was only $10.

Although I knew little about Sufism or their style of cooking, I was intrigued, so I signed up.

About 10 other people turned up on that Saturday morning. After a brief introduction to Sufi philosophy, our instructor asked us to leave our regular lives behind for the morning, be present in the moment, and enjoy the experience.

With that in mind, we were each asked to choose a healthy, nutritious dish of food that we would each prepare and then share for lunch that day. After deciding on a meal and making a shopping list, we walked together along False Creek to Granville Island market where we each bought the fresh produce for our dish.

It was a beautiful sunny day, the aroma from the flowers along the way was gorgeous, and the market was bustling with people. Then, upon our return, we each prepared our dish, sat down, offered a prayer of thanks and then we ate together.

It was an amazing experience and I learned so much from this seemingly insignificant half-day Sufi cooking class. Here are the things that I remember:

– A quiet sense of peace and calm that resonated from our instructor

– The sights, sounds and smells while walking along the creek to the market

– Being thankful for living in a place abundant with fresh fruit and vegetables

– Picking fruit and vegetables and accepting their minor flaws, without judgment

– Preparing the dishes by hand with love and caring for those that would eat it

– As we ate, being consciously aware of the people that helped create the meal

– The farmers, drivers, market workers, our instructor, our group, ourselves

– Giving thanks before our meal for our food and all those people that created it

– A quiet sense of peace and calm that resonated from everyone on departure

Perhaps not so surprisingly, I do not remember learning anything about a Sufi style of cooking or an ethnic dish. Of course, that’s because I was actually attending a mindfulness class!

With that story, I will close for this week. I hope that you are able to return and share more of my mindfulness meditation experiences through my weekly blogs.

Thank you again to Mark Williams and Danny Penman for writing the book that inspired me to start on this exciting eight-week journey towards mindfulness.

You can find out more about their book “Mindfulness: An eight-week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com.

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Advertisements

Mindfulness: Finding peace in a frantic world in eight weeks!

Rock garden with Hydrangeas in bloom

Our rock garden with Hydrangeas in bloom

There’s great joy and peace to be realized if we live our lives mindfully in the present moment, rather than mentally in the past or the future.

Awareness is the key to mindfulness, but it doesn’t come easily for most of us. It requires commitment, discipline, hard work and daily practice.

Meditation is our practice; mindfulness is our reward.

I have certainly been fully committed, disciplined and have worked hard to rehabilitate and self-manage my chronic pain after my accident and head injury.

As a result, I have overcome many setbacks and have managed to resolve many serious symptoms over the past 2½ years. However, I am still dealing with some chronic pain and post-concussion trauma issues that have yet to be resolved.

An ongoing concern for me is that my wife Marjory and I have two young children who need both parents for their ongoing support. Therefore, I am always open to new and innovative ideas to try and get back to full health and a normal family life.

Most recently, I have been wondering whether I am missing a vital piece of my rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management puzzle, so to speak.

Then, out of the blue, I received word about something new for my rehabilitation and chronic pain management that really excited me – Mindfulness Meditation.

Twitter sent me an email to let me know that Danny Penman was now following me @johnalexmurphy. I didn’t know him so I looked at his profile.

Rocky Point - Port Moody

Rocky Point – Port Moody

Danny is an award-winning journalist based in London, UK. Along with Mark Williams, he co-authored a highly acclaimed and hugely successful book called ‘Mindfulness – an eight week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World’.

That’s great, I thought. I decided to follow @DrDannyPenman on Twitter myself!

It’s not so surprising that Danny chose to follow me, considering my work facilitating the University of Victoria’s chronic pain self-management workshops and my running rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management blogs published in The Province.

I have to follow my intuition on this one, I thought. So I quickly made a call to our local Chapters bookstore where I located and reserved a copy of the book. Then a few days later, I drove over to the store and picked up the book.

My intuition was telling me loud and clear that I should follow Danny and Mark’s eight week mindfulness plan and see where it takes me. I had actually decided to do this even before I picked up the book. The stars were aligned.

I should mention that I am no stranger to meditation, although I had never felt the need to adopt it as a life-long practice. My late Father introduced me to meditation when I was about 5 years old. Dad practiced yoga and meditation and was intrigued with Eastern philosophy.

Meditation Grove - Mundy Park

Meditation Grove – Mundy Park

As a young boy growing up fearful of the dark, I remember meditating with a focus on my breath as I lay in bed at night trying to get to sleep. It helped a great deal; much more effective than counting sheep!

I have a vivid memory of an interesting ‘out-of-body’ experience while meditating one night. I ‘left my physical body’ and gently ‘floated’ up to the ceiling. It was fascinating looking down at myself lying on the bed. I was not frightened at all.

Since that time, I have periodically taken up mindfulness meditation as an adult primarily in times of great sadness and loss. It helped a great deal.

When I sat down in my armchair and initially perused Danny and Mark’s book, I was so excited and impressed to see that the book Foreword was written by Jon Kabut-Zinn, the renowned mindfulness practitioner, doctor and author.

Jon has been a mentor of mine for many years. When I first read his book, ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’, it was a revelation for me.

In Danny and Mark’s book Foreword, Jon was highly complementary of the  eight week mindfulness plan and it’s two authors, which reassured me that I was on the right track.

In reading the Contents page of the book, I was thoroughly impressed with the way the book has been structured. It’s logical, clear and easily understood.

The first four chapters of the book explain mindfulness meditation and the purpose of the eight week program in understandable language that’s enjoyable and easy to read. The next eight chapters describe in depth the eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world, week-by-week.

Emphasized throughout the book are the many proven benefits attributed to mindfulness meditation:
• Decreased stress, anxiety, irritability and depression
• Improved memory, faster reaction times
• Increased mental and physical stamina
• Better, more fulfilling relationships
• Reduced chronic stress indicators e.g. hypertension
• Reduced impact of serious conditions e.g. chronic pain, cancer
• Improved immune system for fighting colds, flu and other diseases
• Happier and more content, living a longer and healthier life

They also dispels many myths about mindfulness meditation, such as:
• It’s not a religion, it’s simply a method of mental training
• You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor
• You can meditate anywhere
• It doesn’t take a lot of time, in fact, many find it frees up time
• It’s not complicated, nor is it about success or failure
• You will benefit psychologically by overcoming meditation difficulties
• It will not deaden your mind
• It will not dampen your desire to strive for career or life goals
• It’s certainly not about accepting the unacceptable

John's back sun deck

Our back sun deck

After reading the first four chapters, I was convinced that I would benefit hugely from the eight week program.  However, I know from facilitating UVic’s chronic pain self-management workshops that long-term success with any rehabilitation or self-management tool is most often dependent on hard work, commitment and self-discipline.

Therefore, I know that I must approach this venture with the same dedication and commitment that I applied to my University of Buffalo 12 month running rehabilitation program, and also my 4 months of training prior to running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon this past spring.

Given that my ongoing concussion symptoms and chronic pain are stress and fatigue induced. So a life long practice that includes mindfulness meditation and running is very appealing to me.

My hope is that mindfulness meditation and running rehabilitation working together will dramatically improve my stress-management skills and enable me to get back to good health and a normal family life.

So I invite you all to share my 8-week mindfulness meditation experience through my weekly blogs. I hope that you find them interesting and informative, especially if you or someone close to you is dealing with rehabilitation and chronic pain.

Last but not least, I wish to thank Danny Penman and Mark Williams for writing the book and Danny for following me on Twitter @johnalexmurphy and inspiring me to start on this exciting eight week journey towards mindfulness.

You can connect with Danny on Twitter @DrDannyPenman and through the book’s website at http://www.franticworld.com.

Peace in a frantic world – wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Week 7 – Chronic pain self-management: Pulling it all together!

Just finished my Port Moody Inlet 6K

Just finished my Port Moody Inlet 6K

As this is the final blog in my weekly chronic pain self-management series, I would first like to say ‘thank you’ for visiting my blogs.

It is always a pleasure and, indeed, an honour for me to serve others living with chronic pain.

My hope is that by sharing my chronic pain self-management story along with my knowledge and workshop facilitator experiences, I will further increase chronic pain knowledge and awareness across BC and globally.

Additionally, I hope that my blogs will provide people living with chronic pain some additional information, support and a real opportunity to improve their ‘quality of life’ by taking a UVic workshop.

Let me quickly recap what you will learn when you attend a free of charge, 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) from the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging:

Action planning and goal setting
Acute versus chronic pain
Pain and symptom cycle:
– Pain
– Tense muscles
– Ineffective breathing
– Stress & anxiety
– Restricted movement
– Difficult emotions
– Depression
– Fatigue
– Pain etc.
Self-management tools:
– Problem-solving
– Pacing and planning
– Managing fatigue
– Physical activity & exercise
– Relaxing & better breathing
– Understanding medications
– Working with health professionals
– Using your mind
– Communications
– Understanding emotions
– Finding resources

Pitt River dyke trail 9K

Pitt River dyke trail 9K

Following the completion of our workshop, our participants soon discover that chronic pain self-management for the long term is difficult. It requires a great deal of discipline, determination and hard work.

Most of all, I know from experience that we all want and need to be inspired and to inspire others.

Some incredible sources of inspiration for me are to be found while performing my volunteer work facilitating chronic pain self-management workshops with UVic.

I am constantly inspired by the courage, honesty, strength of character, openness and generosity shown by my workshop participants as they work together in becoming strong, capable self-managers.

Then there’s my amazing UVic coordinator Carol Sicoli, who continually inspires me with her dedication, hard work and commitment to helping people in need. Thank you so much Carol for your leadership, expertise, kindness, encouragement and friendship.

Port Moody Inlet 9K

Port Moody Inlet 9K

I have often been told by my UVic colleagues and our workshop participants that I inspire them and others, which is heartwarming, gratifying and much appreciated.

In addition to feeling valued and fulfilled, my UVic volunteering is having a positive impact on my own rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management programs.

Consequently, if you are living with chronic pain, I thoroughly recommend you consider volunteering as a part of your rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management program.

As mentioned in my first blog, there are an incredibly large number of people out there living with chronic pain. Many have exhausted the traditional sources for help and are resigned to quietly living a life of suffering, often feeling helpless and desperately alone.

My hope is that my chronic pain self-management blogs reaches as many of these people as possible.

If you are an adult living in BC with chronic pain, you should seriously consider taking our free of charge self-management workshop.

It may result in a new beginning for you and your loved ones. It certainly was for me!

My two 'pace bunnies' - Pitt River dyke trail 9K

My two ‘pace bunnies’ – Pitt River dyke trail 9K

As for me, I am going to take a short break, We leave for our annual family camping trip for two weeks after school finishes on Thursday.

Camping under canvas while being surrounded by nature enables us to regroup and reconnect as a family. Rain or shine, we always have a great time!

While I am away camping, I will find some quiet time to contemplate life. Then when I return with fresh energy, I will continue with my chronic pain work and blog some more too.

As for my blogging, I am not sure exactly what’s next, but I suspect that I will be inspired while I  am away.

In closing, I will remind you as always, that if you or someone close to you is living with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I would encourage you follow the link below and sign up for a chronic pain self-management workshop soon.

Namaste.

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Week 6 – Chronic pain self-management: Communications skills are vital!

Off for a run

Ready to go for a run – always!

I know from personal experience that the ‘body & mind’ tools that we offer in our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, such as physical exercise and mental relaxation, are essential for ongoing, long-term chronic pain self-management.

However, we also offer several other ‘communications’ related tools that are vital for maintaining solid, healthy relationships with the many people that are supporting us while we are living with chronic pain.

As a facilitator of the University of Victoria’s Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, offered free of charge to adults across BC, I have been involved in many brainstorming sessions with people living with chronic pain.

Brainstorming affords our participants an opportunity to share their chronic pain experiences. Although challenging, many participants feel that managing the chronic pain itself is not always the most difficult thing they face in their daily lives.

Perimeter trail - Mundy Park 4K

Perimeter trail – Mundy Park 4K

Many say that there are times when maintaining an open, honest and respectful relationship with their partner, family members, friends, and health care professionals is the most challenging thing for them.

When these relationships break down, they often feel misunderstood by people that are trying to help them. In some cases, some participants are not always sure that they are fully believed when they talk about their chronic pain.

Personally I have had incredible support from my wife Marjory and my entire support group. However, there have been times when I have felt misunderstood and quite alone living with my chronic pain.

The good news is that, in our workshop, we have 4 specific tools within our Self-Management Tool Kit that will help us self-manage our relationships while living with chronic pain.

Waterfall - Coquitlam River 9K

Waterfall – Coquitlam River 9K

Here’s a brief description of each:

1. How to communicate effectively

Communications skills are vital for people who are self-managing a condition like chronic pain, so that they can let others know how they are feeling and what they need.

In our workshops, we discuss a variety of different communications skills with our participants, and then we use role-playing to practice them.

Some examples of these skills are:

• Using ‘I’ messages rather than ‘’you’ messages

• How to be clear to others when we are stating our wants and needs

• When and how to say ‘yes please’ and ‘no thank you’ when people offer help

Learning through role-playing is very effective and lots of fun!

Perimeter trail - Mundy Park 4K

Perimeter trail – Mundy Park 4K

2. Dealing with difficult emotions

It’s important to understand that emotional ‘ups and downs’ and feelings of anger, fear, worry and frustration are normal for people living with chronic pain.

Additionally, finding a supportive, non-judgmental group where they can talk about their emotions and feelings and feel they have been heard and understood can be an empowering experience.

Our workshop participants often feel that they are among a supportive group and are comfortable enough to discuss their personal emotions and feelings and then do some brainstorming and problem-solving with the group.

As the facilitator, these discussions are always fulfilling and heartwarming.

Foxgloves - Coquitlam River 9K

Foxgloves – Coquitlam River 9K

3. Making informed treatment decisions

Reports about new treatments, new drugs, nutritional supplements, and other complementary or alternative treatments claiming to be the answer to chronic pain are plentiful.

This is especially true for people who desperately looking for something or someone to take the pain away.

Unfortunately, there is rarely a ‘complete solution’ to be found for chronic pain. However, there are medications, rehabilitation programs and therapies that can help.

So it’s important to know how to evaluate these prospective treatments in order to make an informed decision about whether to try them or not. This applies to both mainstream and alternative treatment options.

During the workshop, we give our participants a list of questions and criteria to be used when evaluating and considering a new treatment option for chronic pain.

We especially advise them about information offered on the Internet and how to recognize more reliable web sites.

Last but not least, we emphasize the need to inform our health care professional when we are contemplating any new treatment and then keeping those health care professionals up to date with our progress.

Meditation Grove - Mundy Park 4K

Meditation Grove – Mundy Park 4K

4. Working with the healthcare system and health care professionals

Most people have experienced difficulties in getting the health care they need. There are really two types of problems.

Problems associated with the health care system itself, like getting a timely appointment. Then there are problems that arise when working directly with our health care professionals.

In our workshops, we identify situations, problems and potential solutions using our newly acquired brainstorming and problem solving skills.

It’s important to mention that at no time do we bring up the names of any specific organization or health care professionals. We ask that participants keep this information strictly confidential in our first workshop.

We also advise our participants how to communicate effectively with their healthcare professionals, including how to prepare a pain profile, how to best describe pain, and how to express pain intensity.

Ferns - Coquitlam River 9K

Ferns – Coquitlam River 9K

In conclusion, learning and using these ‘relationship’ tools and other ‘physical and mental’ tools from our Self-Management Tool Kit will enable us, indeed empower us, in becoming a highly informed, capable and confident self-manager of our chronic pain.

Given my personal experience over the past 2½ years while self-managing my own chronic pain and rehabilitation following my accident and injury in 2010, I have found that sustained self-management requires some additional qualities and skills.

From my experience, successful chronic pain self-management over the long-term specifically requires a great deal of self-discipline, determination and hard work. Additionally, I have found that ongoing planning and goal-setting has been critical for my ongoing self-management. Additionally, I remain an eternal optimist with a good sense of humour, which helps.

Ritt River Dyke trail

Pitt River dyke trail

While on the subject of goal-setting, as promised in last weeks blog, I have set myself another running rehabilitation goal for the fall. I will run a local half-marathon called the Trail River Run along Hyde Creek and the Pitt River dyke in Port Coquitlam, BC.

It follows a beautiful trail run that I first discovered during my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon training this past spring. The Trail River Run is scheduled for September 22nd and it’s on a Sunday. I am now looking forward to signing up, creating a training plan and getting started!

Next week, I will write my final blog in this Chronic Pain Self-Management series. I am planning to summarize what we have discussed over the past 5 weeks and what our UVic workshops offer for chronic pain self-management along with my own personal perspectives.

Additionally, I will talk to you about the qualities and skills that I have needed for successful long-term chronic pain self-management.

In closing, I wish to remind you all that, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop.

Please use the link below to find out more information.

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Week 5 – Chronic pain self-management: The incredible power of the mind

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

My late father, Alex Murphy, who was practitioner of yoga and meditation long before it became fashionable, often told me about the incredible power of the mind.

Upon reflection, my Dad was ahead of his time in so many ways. Although I did not have the maturity and life experience required to appreciate his guidance at the time, I did intuitively know that his intentions were good and that I should retain his words of wisdom for a future time. My intuition was good!

As a facilitator of Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, offered free of charge through the University of Victoria, one of my key objectives is to fully equip the participants with proven and effective chronic pain self-management tools.

Learning to use the ‘cognitive’ self-management tools, such as better breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery for relaxation, and visualization for positive thinking, is initially quite challenging for most workshop groups.

Participants are generally less familiar with these types of tools compared with the more ‘physical’ tools like healthy eating and physical activity and exercise.

Piper Spit trail 5K

Piper Spit trail 5K

Consequently, we take great care to introduce our cognitive tools slowly and respectfully, paying close attention to our participant’s comfort level. Here are some examples:

– During our 2nd week workshop, we learn our deep breathing exercise and a modified version of the Jacobson’s muscle
relaxation technique.

– In the 3rd week session, we take a calm and relaxing ‘walk in the country’ together, using guided imagery.

– Our 5th week session includes taking a journey forward in time for a positive look at our future, using visualization.

Typically, once a group has experienced the first ‘cognitive’ tool together, they are quite keen to try the others.

Later in the workshop, when participants begin to realize the potential self-management benefits from using a combination of cognitive and physical tools together, they really get excited!

I have personally had many moments of realization over the last 18 months when following the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic’s running rehabilitation program, and while training for and running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

Brunette River

Brunette River

I now know that it’s critical for me to have at least one major near term goal and a corresponding action plan in place that will enable me to reach that goal.

Setting a running race goal and then following a detailed training Action Plan works well for me. It involves many of the physical and cognitive self-management tools that I most enjoy, such as well-managed running, controlled breathing, music therapy, positive thinking, visualization and time in nature.

I have learned incredible lessons both from my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon experience, and from my blogging about those experiences.

Consequently, I am looking for a fall race to run. I will tell you what I find out in next week’s blog.

In my role as a facilitator, I see many profound moments of realization by my participant groups on a regular basis. They are powerful, moving and fulfilling moments for everyone. It’s always an honour and a privilege for me to be there.

Butterfly garden - Piper Slit 5K

Butterfly garden – Piper Spit 5K

As I bid you all farewell for this week, I would first like to give thanks for all that is good in my life right now.

Additionally, I wish to remind you all that, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop.

Please use the link below to find out more information.

 

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:
– Arthritis Fibromyalgia
– Chronic Disease
– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Week 4 – Chronic pain self-management: the importance of physical activity and exercise!

Facilitating at the Dogwood

Facilitating at the Dogwood

Last week, I finished facilitating a 6-week chronic pain self-management workshop at the Dogwood Pavillion in Coquitlam. It’s a beautiful seniors facility where the people are warm and hospitable.

It was a highly successful workshop given that our participants are now well on their way to becoming excellent self-manangers of their chronic pain.

My co-facilitator Ursula and I were very pleased with what the group had accomplished together.

One of my primary objectives when facilitating a workshop is to equip our participants with a variety of different tools and techniques they need to become good self-managers of their own chronic pain.

One of the most effective tools for chronic pain self-management is physical activity and exercise.

As facilitators, we believe that all of our participants are able to enjoy the benefits and pleasures associated with regular activity and exercise. In fact, this may be the single most important thing a participant can do to help reduce their chronic pain.

This was certainly the case with me.

1983 Toronto Marathon

1983 Toronto Marathon

Prior to my 2010 accident, brain injury and concussion, I was an avid runner for over 30 years, having completed 9 marathons and numerous half-marathons, 10K’s, triathlons, and relay races.

After my injury, I could not run for more than 5 minutes or even walk for more that half an hour without experiencing major headaches and tinnitus.

Intuitively, I  knew that I needed to find a way to exercise. I could not run so I took up gardening. I really enjoyed puttering around in the garden. It was mental therapy as well as a good way to stay active.

After about a year, knowing my passion for running, my neuropsychologist and physiotherapist at the Coquitlam Concussion Clinic recommended a rehabilitation program developed by the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic specifically for athletes. Needless to say, I was keen to try it.

After 6 months on the U of B program, I could run for up to 30 minutes without major symptom increases. I was absolutely thrilled with my progress.

Then, after another 9 months of well-managed running followed by 4 months of race training, I successfully ran the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon last May. It was an amazing experience!

Of course, I do appreciate that there are very few people that come to our chronic pain workshops who are former marathon runners and able to take on a running rehabilitation program like myself. However, I believe that everyone can enjoy and benefit from regular activity and exercise.

It’s a matter of trying different activities and exercises until you find one or two that you can do and enjoy.  Some examples might be walking, gardening, swimming and yoga. You could then put together a weekly Action Plan that included these activities and exercises.

At our workshops, we provide our participants with a 12-minute guided exercise program on a CD called the Moving Easy Program (MEP). It’s an excellent, head-to-toe stretching program that’s simple and easy to do.

Notre Dame de Lourdes - Maillardville 5K run

Notre Dame de Lourdes – Maillardville 5K run

In addition to the verbal guidance from the CD, the participants can follow along as the facilitators demonstrate the MEP for them. There are also diagrams in the workbooks given to every participant.

In my experience, everyone in the workshops seems to love the program. Many of them adopt the program as their regular exercise program at home.

For those that struggle with maintaining a regular exercise program, I like to remind them that all they need to do is find a spare 12 minutes in their day and then put on the CD. The rest will take care of itself.

Regular exercise can be that easy!

Personally, I have always enjoyed the Moving Easy Program. I regularly use it to stretch out and relax after my long runs. It always feels so great!

I will close, as always, by saying that if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking the chronic pain self-management workshop. Please use the link below to find out more information.

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:
– Arthritis Fibromyalgia
– Chronic Disease
– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Week 3 – Chronic pain self-management: breaking the pain and symptom cycle

Me - heading out for my 5K neighbourhood run

Heading out for a 5K neighbourhood run

Well, it’s about 11:30pm right now. My wife Marjory and our two children are sound asleep, so it’s all quiet around the house.

I’m sitting here in my comfy red leather chair writing my blog with my earphones on, listening to some exquisite choral harmonies from musica intima. For me, their music is pleasure and therapy personified, and the perfect companion for my late night writing.

As a volunteer Chronic Pain Self-Management Program workshop facilitator with the University of Victoria’s Centre for Aging, one of the great joys for me is simply getting to know and help the courageous men and women that come to our workshops.

I learn so much as they share their stories and we work together within a warm, caring, non-judgmental and confidential workshop environment.

The source of chronic pain for participants that attend our workshops varies a great deal. Many of them are dealing with musculoskeletal pain such as chronic neck, shoulder and back pain.

Others are experiencing chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, whiplash injuries, chronic regional pain syndromes, repetitive strain injuries, chronic pelvic pain, post-surgical pain that lasts beyond 6 months, neuropathic pain that’s often caused by trauma, neuralgias such as post-herpetic pain and trigeminal neuralgia, post stroke or central pain, persistent headaches, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes-related neuropathy, and severe muscular pain due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

A rainy morning - Fraser River 5K

Rainy morning – Fraser River 5K

Early in the workshop, our participants are introduced to some fundamental tools and techniques that they will need to become good chronic pain self-managers.

Brainstorming and Problem-Solving for example, are introduced in the first week’s session and used extensively during the next 5 weekly sessions. I will share more on these tools and techniques in a later blog.

Similarly, our participants develop their first weekly Action Plan for the upcoming week at the end of their first week’s workshop session. Each participant’s plan must identify something specific that they want, rather than have, to do during the upcoming week. It must be something that’s beneficial from a self-management perspective, and something that’s achievable, action-specific and measurable.

It’s also essential that participants have a high level of confidence that their entire action plan will be completed during the upcoming week.

Using a ‘buddy system’, participants check in with their buddy during the week to discuss their action plans and to offer each other support and assistance.

Mundy Park 5K

Lush forest – Mundy Park 5K

We then discuss how we all did at the beginning of the next workshop, offering feedback as required.

Action planning, brainstorming and problem solving are some of the cornerstone self-management tools and techniques that we learn early, and then gain experience with, throughout the 6-week workshop.

Most participants continue to use these tools after the workshop finishes, since the tools are now an essential part of their own self-management discipline.

During the workshop, our participants typically get to know each other quickly and quite well. They soon realize that the more they put into the workshop, the more they will get out of the workshop.

Most participants are soon comfortable enough to participate and give freely of themselves during every activity.

For many, our workshop is the first time they have been among a group of people that really understands their chronic pain and believes them. It’s a relief for many participants because they no longer feel alone!

Wild roses - Fraser River 5K

Wild roses – Fraser River 5K

Prior to attending our workshop, many participants think that chronic pain is the sole reason for their symptoms.

They are often surprised to learn that their symptoms can themselves contribute to or even cause other symptoms.

This pain and symptom cycle soon becomes a viscous circle that keeps going around and around, until a way is found to break the cycle.

We refer to this interaction as the Pain and Symptom Cycle.

Here’s a brief overview of the cycle:

– Pain
– Tense muscles
– Restricted movement
– Ineffective breathing
– Stress and anxiety
– Difficult emotions
– Depression
– Fatigue
– Pain

One of the primary goals of our chronic pain workshop is to give the participants the ability to recognize this pain and symptom cycle.

Ferns - Mundy Park 5K

Ferns – Mundy Park 5K

Additionally, we want to provide people with a set of tools that will help them break the cycle. We refer to this set of tools as our Self-Management Tool Box.

Here is a list of those tools:

– Physical activity and exercise
– Managing fatigue
– Pacing and planning
– Medications
– Working with health care professionals
– Problem-solving
– Using your mind
– Healthy eating
– Communications
– Understanding emotions
– Finding resources

Patience is a virtue - Fraser River 5K

Patience is a virtue – Fraser River 5K

Over the weeks that follow, I will share with you my knowledge and experience with the chronic pain and symptom cycle and how these self-management tools can help you break the cycle.

Perhaps the most gratifying and fulfilling experience as a workshop facilitator is to watch a group of individuals undergo such an amazing change in perspective over the course of a 6-weeks workshop.

They are seemingly transformed into a group of strong, positive, self-disciplined, and determined people who are now fully committed to their own chronic pain self-management; and also to helping other people in need. It’s a wonderful thing and truly a joy to behold!

I will close, as always, by saying that if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking the chronic pain self-management workshop. Please use the link below to find out more information.

Have a great week!

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:
– Arthritis Fibromyalgia
– Chronic Disease
– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER