Reprinted with the kind permission of Melissa Swanson and Fibro Warriors ~ Living Life.
The day that I started to write this article, it was an amazing coincidence. I was watching 60 Minutes with an interview with an expert on mindfulness. I reached down into the basket I keep next to my living room chair and pulled out his CD. I had purchased it well over a year ago when I had been told probably for the third time by my friend that I should try it.
As we watched the report on 60 Minutes I told my family that this is what I am supposed to be doing. I have tried it and had not been successful at it.
I can not count how many speakers or friends have told me to try mindfulness. Try asking a Type A person with ADD to lie down, shut your mind off and concentrate on your breathing while releasing each part of your body.
I was getting stressed out just trying relax. My mind would wander to the noises being made in our living room, the things I needed to do, then “STOP IT – CONCENTRATE. Relax, breathe, shoulders, arms, need to email the Volleyball parents.” Ugh!!!
Each and every time I would try to relax, I would get so stressed because I couldn’t focus on only my breathing and relaxing my body.
While attending the NFMCPA LAPAN advocacy training seminar, Dr. Michael Olpin was one of the speakers.
Dr. Michael Olpin is a professor of Health Promotion at Weber State University and is the director of WSU’s Health Promotion Program. He is also director of the WSU Stress Relief Center. He earned his Ph.D. in Health Education from SIU and his Master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Health Promotion and Psychology from BYU.
We were told his focus is stress management, mind/body wellness, mental and emotional wellness, and wellness coaching.
He said “a nice quiet room is best” and to forget using relaxation tapes like sounds from the rainforest.
He sat in his chair, closed his eyes, exhaled and let his body relax. “Silently focus and repeat a specific word for 10-20 minutes. This word you choose is called your mantra. Choose a single calming word like peace, serene, silence. He chose the word 'one.' Allow your mind to whisper your mantra over and over at a pace of about one repetition every three to four seconds.”
He softly said the word 'one,' took a slight pause and then repeated the process one…one…one…
He was in the middle of counting and started talking the thoughts that had popped into his head. “I need to remember to call so and so and I need to do…. Then when he realized he had loss focus he stopped and began again, one..one..one…
What he said next was the turning point for me. “It is okay for your mind to wander. The important thing is to not get upset if you lose focus.”
Once you realize that you have lost your focus, just start again, one..one..one…
It was ok if I my mind wandered? Someone just told me I didn’t have to be perfect.
Then it was our turn… Softly he said, “Close your eyes, let your breath out; feel your body go limp and start counting, one..one..one…”
Okay for the next five minutes we are going to try it.
Sitting in this uncomfortable chair in a conference room with all these people, my body actually began to relax.
Yes, it did wander but as soon as I caught myself, I started again.
“Slowly return to normal waking consciousness. Take at least two minutes to return.”
I had finally discovered something that worked for me. I needed to have someone tell me it was ok to get off track without stressing about it. Also, like every other treatment, medication, diet we have to keep trying new things until we find the right one that fits us. I now have success with the CD that I had stressed out about every time I had tried.
It seems that everywhere I turn someone is talking, tweeting or blogging about the benefits of mindfulness. I don’t know about everyone else but my life is so busy, once I trained myself on how to do it, finding the time was the next hurdle. I found the time. I chose to practice mindfulness during the time that I am waiting in my car for my teenager after practices and games, in my office at school during my lunch, and even as I soak in the bathtub. It is a cold winter and I do need to find ways to help my body get through until Spring. Mindfulness is one of those ways.
Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author. Through her Facebook page, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 10,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition to her own blog, Melissa has been published in "Living Well with Fibromyalgia" and the NFMCPA "Advocate Voice."
She is a graduate of the 2014 Class of Leaders Against Pain Scholarship Training sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association and is a member of the Leaders Against Pain Action Network.