Keeping strong in mind and body

So here we are. Our lives have been completed disrupted by Coronavirus.  We are experiencing unprecedented times and having to adjust to a new way of living where we work from home (if we can), we can’t physically see or hug our family when we want to and, if we can go outside,  we must try to avoid people, and if we encounter them we swiftly move into an appropriate ‘social distance’.  On top of this, we have no way of knowing how long this will continue.

Our need for information can overwhelm our minds in a constant and ever-changing dialogue about pandemic, disaster, isolation and risk.  We respond in various ways, from denial, to panic, anxiety and helplessness with these feelings changing throughout the day.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t easy for me.  I lost my mum, sister, dad, aunt and granddad to pneumonia. My mum was 50 and healthy, my sister was 49 and had MS.  My husband has a pre-existing health condition – so to put it frankly Covid-19 scares the …. out of me and I recognise the feelings of anxiety and panic.

However, I wind back. This time 2 years ago, I was just about to find out that the symptoms I had been experiencing for months were due to spinal cord damage –  basically I had a huge calcified prolapse disc sticking in my spinal cord, which would eventually, if not treated, leave me paralysed from the waist down.  However, the surgery I had to urgently undergo was risky, carried a 2% chance of paralysis and only a 30% chance of improvement. It also carried a risk of pneumonia as they had to deflate one lung.  The bottom dropped out of my world.  All my plans and dreams were put on hold.  I was so scared!

But this is not about me and then. It’s about what I learnt that helped me get through the fear and anxiety in, what turned out to be, a 2 month wait for surgery.  It’s about what I learnt that can help us now.  During that time, I went through similar feelings of denial, of lack of control, a need for more information, and then wishing I hadn’t found out the things I had.  At some point I realised there was nothing I could do to change things; I could only learn to accept how things were and enjoy what I had right then.  I had to put my trust in other people, especially my surgeon.

That’s when I really discovered mindfulness and the power of using my breath to calm me.  I practised this every day to get through. Also, every day I made myself get on my indoor bike – I’ve always been active, but I could barely walk a mile – this allowed me to have an outlet for my energy. I found songs that inspired me on the bike and that helped me feel strong.

I was lucky! My surgery was successful and last year I slowly regained strength and got back to walking and even some running.  But I will never be the same as I was before.  Some of that’s physical but mostly it’s about my attitude and how I feel and notice things differently. I’d reassessed what was important to me.   I went out and saw the butterflies and watched the birds – they had always been there – I had just been too busy rushing around at 100 miles an hour to see them before.  I actually LIVE my life now.  I’m don’t worry about what’s gone before- what’s the point?  We all like to have plans but now I know that plans can and do change – and what seemed so important before, may be less so after this.

Good things came out of my experience.  I now know how to cope better with fear.

I’m sharing this because I just want to offer hope and some inspiration at the end of what seems like a long dark tunnel.

At the moment I’ve been thinking about how I can help you to keep strong while my clinic is closed.

Some of my clients have already experienced Be Activated Techniques during my treatments. I may have taken you through the complete sequence, or I may have just used breathing, if I thought that would help. Underlyingly though, I use the principle of this in most of my work.  Our minds and bodies are intrinsically linked and if we are stressed, our body is stuck in a ‘flight or fight’ response and cannot function optimally.  But we can change that. We may not be in control of what is happening in the world but we can choose where to focus our minds. This will help us build resilience and reduce our vulnerability.

There are a few things I think will help.

Find time to breathe! 

I know you must be doing this already are if you’re reading this!  But I mean, really breathe!  Do it now – 10 breaths.

  • In through your nose
  • Out through your mouth
  • All in your belly (hand on your belly button and feel it expand)
  • Nothing in your chest

Then find yourself space to practice this at least once a day especially if you are feeling stressed or anxious.

Mindfulness and mediation.

There are plenty of apps and videos out there. Find something that works for you. These also have breathing practices.

Positive thoughts will make you stronger.

Rather than thinking about what you might be missing, focus on what you can you do with this time you have.  Write down the things you are you grateful for.  Play music you love and dance or sing.  Start a new exercise and think about being fitter at the end of this. Read a book, learn a language – whatever it is you’ve been wanting to do but never find time. Go for a run, walk or get on a bike if you can (practising social distancing) but keep it positive.

When we are inspired and grateful, we are stronger and more energetic; when we are feel anxious, we are weaker and more vulnerable.

 

Keep away from social media and the news.

If you can’t do this entirely then perhaps allow yourself to check in once or twice a day, but look for sources you feel you can trust.  The news will increase your fear and anxiety and really there is not a lot you can do to control this situation.

Enjoy the sunshine!

If it’s safe for you to go outside, then enjoy it while you can, while of course observing social distance.  I am getting up very early to go out and really love that early morning walk.  It’s hard to get out of bed but I know it’s the best part of the day. I feel safer because there are less people around and it’s incredibly calming!  If you can’t go outside, then open the windows and feel it the air on your face and breath it in.

Connect

With your friends and family. We need connections – this is going to be the most difficult part for many of us.  When I think too much about this is makes me sad.  So find the best way to keep connected while staying safe. Use Facetime or the phone – just do it often. If you know of someone who may be lonely or isolated then try and check in to find out how they are managing.  Be kind!

Keep safe.  Stay strong.  Let’s get through this!

 

 

Camino de Santiago – yes!

Camino de Santiago – we did it!

On Sunday 29th September myself and Den reached the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela – having set out 6 days earlier and walked the final 72 miles /117km of the Camino de Santiago to get there.  To get there was not just the culmination of 6 days walking, but also a year of slowly building up strength and endurance, after my spinal operation.

Over the course of 6 days we walked 78 miles (which included some detours to visit monuments), with a cumulative ascent of 7,871 ft (2399 m) and 8,201 ft (2499m) descent.  We clocked up 193,099 steps!

So we got there but how did it go?

Day 1: We set out from Sarria on 24th September with an early start in the dark and wet, which made it a bit slippery in places. Slowly it dried up and the sun came out. There was an ‘evil’ staircase at the end to take us up to the ‘Chapel in the Clouds’ at Portomarin.  We walked 14.6 miles / 23.5km and it was hard going in places and our feet were sighing with relief by the end.

Day 2: 18.2 miles / 29.3 km today, which included a little 4.6km detour we added on to visit a 13th century monastery! Getting the hang of this today. Good pace plus made sure we took on enough but not too much fuel and ‘listened’ when our feet told us to take a break. Arrived feeling better than yesterday even though there was much more elevation climb (over 2000 ft!). Said ‘Hola’ and ‘Buen Camino’ to most people we passed! Loved it! Read More »

The sun has got its hat on! Taking care in the hot weather

With the particularly hot weather we’ve had this week it’s a good idea to be cautious about what activity we do and take care.

The heat can affect anyone but certain people are more vulnerable and you may not know until its too late.

Groups that are vulnerable include:

Older people, especially over 75, babies and young children, people with serious long-term conditions, particularly dementia, heart, breathing or mobility problems,  people on certain medicines, including those that affect sweating and temperature control, people with serious mental health problems, people who misuse alcohol or drugs  AND people who are physically active – for example, labourers or those doing sports, including hiking.

Advice for coping in the heat.

The best way to prevent problems is to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol and make sure you carry water with you if you are travelling, walking or doing sport.
  • Stay out of the heat, particularly between 11am and 3pm, cool yourself down, keep your environment cool or find somewhere else that is cool.
  • Look out for neighbours, family or friends who may be isolated and unable to care for themselves; make sure they are able to keep cool during a heatwave.
  • Get medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.
  • Avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day.
  • Wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes.

Public Health England have a handy advice leaflet

What about running?

Runners, particularly those training for a particular race – even if in the autumn, often don’t want to miss training and it can be quite frustrating, particularly if you don’t have access to a gym where you can train in a cooler environment.

Read More »