How many of us listen to music or watch TV when we are exercising? The answer: most of us. We are thinking about what we are hearing or seeing – an external stimulus – and not about the movement and feel of our bodies. The mind and body are disconnected.
Many of us exercise out of fear, rather than love. When we exercise from a place of fear we are exercising to: lose weight, stay in our current dress size, look like the ‘perfect’ being we’ve just seen on Instagram, beat our previous time or distance, keep up with up our perceived competition, brag to our friends or burn off the extra calories we feel guilty about. It may seem to come from a positive place, but it is borne of fear: fear of feeling inadequate and less than those we are comparing ourselves to, or of being rejected by our parents, friends or society.
When we exercise from a place of love, we exercise to: take care of ourselves and boost our mood through ‘happy hormones’ (dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin). When we exercise out of love for ourselves, we lose the fear that keeps us stuck where we are and can ultimately make us sick. Love and fear cannot coexist. When we exercise out of love for ourselves and our bodies, our mind and body are connected. There is no conflict between what the mind is thinking and the body is doing. We are whole and can truly appreciate what our bodies can do for us.
So, the next time you are exercising, try to lose the fear and just ‘be‘ in your body and appreciate what an incredible vessel it is. Exercise out of love for yourself and try to just enjoy it for how it makes you feel and the amazing health benefits it offers you.
And if you are suffering from chronic pain, know that:
the endorphins you are producing are your body’s natural pain reliever
the dopamine you produce helps with your motor system function
the serotonin you produce helps you to sleep better
and the oxytocin you produce helps promote trust and bonding in your relationships
Above all, don’t forget: Your body is not broken. It is strong, and so are you.
When we give everything of ourselves to others, we neglect our own needs and values. We lose who we are in the pursuit of other people’s happiness. We forget ourselves and our own needs, putting others first – to the point that we lose sight or ourselves, our own needs and values.
Why? Because it seems selfish to act on our own needs and because we worry that spending time on ourselves means we are neglecting someone else. We are being neglectful – but only of ourselves. Why is neglecting ourselves OK, when we go out of our way to protect others from experiencing this?
Acting out of self-love is not selfish. In fact, until you truly love yourself, you cannot truly love another. When you love yourself you attract people who love, respect and appreciate your energy. It’s OK to give yourself the same love and kindness you give to others. You are worthy of love and kindness too.
Two of my neighbours died this week, on the street where I spent my childhood. Both deaths were unrelated to coronavirus. I used to babysit their lovely children, and I only have happy memories of both men. I feel so very sorry for their families. It is, as the Guardian newspaper termed, ‘grief upon grief‘, where people around the world are being denied the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones, and friends and neighbours are unable to show their support by physically coming together to support a family.
It got me thinking: life can be short. Nothing can prepare you for the death of a loved one. You never know when your time is up. I speak from experience. I lost my dad when I was 14, and my mum the day after my 37th birthday. I lost my sister when I was 41. None of these people were what you would call ‘old’ when they died.
So, no matter what you have lost during this Covid-19 pandemic, you have not lost life. You have not lost love and you are still breathing the same air – only right now it’s cleaner.
I’m sorry if you have lost: – Your gym classes – Your weekly coffee morning – Your monthly visit to the hairdressers – Your holiday
But that’s all temporary, and it’s not a really a ‘loss’ in the real sense of the word.
I’m really sorry if you have lost: – The date of a scheduled operation – Your chance to sit exams you have worked damned hard studying for – Your job – Your marriage
However, chances are you still have a roof over your head, and you’re going to be OK – even if it may take time to get back on track financially.
What do you still have is LIFE! Life is precious. Appreciate every day that you wake, and everyone you love and who loves you back. Tell them. Make sure they know you love them. You lose that opportunity when they are gone. Heal old wounds, get back in touch with those who hold a special place in your heart, even though they did X,Y,Z to you X years ago. Let it go.
You will get through this, and if you live life consciously I’d go so far as to say that you’ll come out of this stronger and with so much more gratitude for the things you took for granted before this started. And we are all guilty of taking things for granted; assuming he/she will be there the next time we wake or come home from work, assuming our children will stay healthy just because they are young, assuming everything will be fine if we keep working, paying the bills and putting food on the table.
So be thankful for your life and the life of those you love. Appreciate them and use this time to support them and let them know you are always there for them, even though you are physically separated – for now. Life will return when it’s ready, and then we’ll be complaining about the next thing! Don’t bother – it’s a waste of your time and energy. Focus on what really matters.
Take care of yourself and those around you.Make this time count, for you’ll be back to that commute you always hated before you know it.
Ah, other people’s opinions! How I wish I hadn’t spent so much time listening to them and acting on them. But, it’s only when we start to become self aware and more confident in our own strengths and abilities that we realise why we have valued these opinions so much – because essentially we were looking for someone else to fill our cup. We were looking for someone else to give us self-esteem.
First of all, let’s define what an opinion actually is:
Opinion: a judgment, viewpoint, or statement about matters commonly considered to be subjective.
Subjective: a subject’s personal perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery, as opposed to those made from an independent, objective, point of view.
Since when was someone else’s perspective on life more important than your own?! Perspective is so individual that it can only ever truly belong to one person. How you see life is unique – seeing it through the eyes of someone else can never make you truly happy.
When you value other people’s opinions over your own, you end up becoming a slave to what other people want. Running around trying to please everyone with everything you do. Never really tuning into what you need.
In time, you start molding yourself to fit the idea of what other people think you ‘should’ be and dismiss your own needs and desire. You stop showing your whole personality. You stop feeling like you can be yourself. And you stop trusting your own judgment because you assume that other people know better!
When you do this you start to live life on other people’s terms and not a life truly authentic to who you are. You can only offer people a shell of who you are, and you deny your partners, friends and family the opportunity to truly know you and how amazing you are. You also deny yourself true happiness.
And then, when they, and their opinions of you, are dead and gone, you will be left wondering why you gave them so much power over you, and why you believed all their stories about you and elevated their perspective on life above your own innate views of the world.
You’ll have lived a life that’s NOT what you wanted or needed or truly desired.
So, how do you tune into your desires, your voice and your truth?
Recognise Judgement for what it is
Let go of the fears about what other people think. Realize that 9 times out of 10, when you’re worried about what other people think – it’s a projection. You’re projecting your own fears and your own internalized self-judgment onto other people. So when we take responsibility for letting go of other people’s judgments we empower ourselves to stop being harsh and judgmental with ourselves too.
Stop feeling embarrassed
We all cock up sometimes! What’s the worst that can happen? You might just make someone smile when you make an idiot of yourself, and you show yourself to be human. Forget waiting until you’re a size 8 before you hit the beach. Who cares really? Just letting go of the fear of embarrassment is so liberating, and I find it a great tool to use on teenagers when you want to get their attention. Holiday karaoke is so empowering, and SO great as you’ll never see those people again, so why not?!
Stop comparing yourself to others
Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Paddle your own canoe -everyone’s journey is different. No one’s life looks the same, and hurray for that! Why do we so often feel we’ve failed because we’re not doing what someone else is doing and we don’t have what they have?
Set your own goals and don’t be distracted by what other people are doing. They have their own agenda, for their own reasons. Good for them. Their plan is not yours, and it wouldn’t make you happy. In the same way, your plan wouldn’t bring them fulfillment either. That’s how life is and we are richer for it.
Comparing ourselves to others is exhausting and a waste of time. It’s self-imposed torture and like dying in installments when it makes us feel ‘not enough’.
Work on your self-esteem and self-worth
Self-esteem is just that – esteem of the self. No one can give you a ‘bag of self esteem’. It comes from within, once your recognise your own worth and value. You were born enough weren’t you? How did that worth diminish over time? Because you listened to other people’s false beliefs and you accepted them as your own.
One of the best ways to stop caring so much about what other people think is to start feeling really great about yourself outside of what other people think of you. That way you no longer look externally to fill your cup .
What do you do when you have toxic people in your life who sap the joy and energy out of you? You protect yourself and you set some boundaries that’s what! If you have people around you who are making your feel less than them, you politely and firmly exit the conversation, and if necessary cease communication. It may seem hard at first, but you owe it to yourself. If someone can’t treat you as you would treat them, you don’t need them in your life.
Whose Life is it anyway?
At the end of the day, this is about YOUR life, and life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You don’t get to do it all over again. You’re the one who will wake up at the end of it and either feel that you’ve lived a life that was fulfilling and authentic, or a life that you regretted.
One of the biggest regrets of the dying (from the book ‘The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware) is: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Ultimately, the only person’s opinion that really matters is your own. You’re the one who has to be happy and satisfied with how you lived your life, so you’re the one who gets to decide.
Stop fearing failure
We all fail. Don’t let this fear, or the fear of what others may think of your failure, get in your way.
Really, there is no such thing as failure. There is only learning and growing.
Listen to your Intuition
What feels right for you? What is your true path? What type of person do you really want to be? And, more importantly, why are you ignoring this voice?!
Tuning into your intuition is an essential piece of letting go of other people’s opinions.
So often, we follow the pack. We’re another lemming throwing itself off a cliff because everyone else is. We do what other people tell us should work because we crave that approval from other people. Or we crave that validation that we’re doing it “right”.
But listen to that voice that says, ‘Wait. This doesn’t feel right’. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you. Your path is unique and different and special. Just like you! Keep that connection to your truth and live a life you’ll remember.
To quote Lissa, our Inner Pilot Light begins in every baby as the untainted, radiant, buoyant light of God/Goddess but often gets filmed over by trauma, conditioning, and the illusion of separation from the Eternal Flame from which this unique spark arises.
I’m not religious, but I love this idea of us being born pure and untainted, and the understanding, for me, is that it is through trauma and conditioning that our inner pilot light (our true self) can start to fade. If we are not loved or supported as we need when we are young, then our inner pilot light can go ignored as we go through life trying to live up to the expectations and demands of other people, following the limiting self beliefs that others have conditioned us with: ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re useless’, ‘you’ll fail’.
However, that Inner Pilot Light never goes out. It may flicker and fade, but it is always there.
It is through self-awareness that we begin to question the conditioned responses we have acted out for years, mostly to our detriment, and to begin to fan the flame by slowly understanding our true selves, desires and capabilities.
This belief you have of not being good enough. Where did it come from? Who told you this? Were they right? Was it true then or now? Was it possibly a reflection of their own fears? Was it simply their opinion, based on their own conditioning? You don’t have to believe it any more. It’s not true. You are good enough and you always have been.
Now is the time, especially with a third of the world’s population in isolation due to coronavirus, that we find ourselves with more time to look within, to ask ourselves ‘what do I really want to do with my life?’, ‘Where are my strengths and what is my calling?‘ and, most importantly ‘What makes me happy’ (what fans my inner pilot light).
It isn’t selfish to want to be happy or to pursue your dreams. There hasn’t been a better time for change. It’s within you and it always has been.
The world has gone mad over coronavirus! And it’s fascinating to observe the different reactions from different governments and populations. Until recently the French were accused of being too calm. Last night Macron decided to close ALL French schools for two weeks! We live in France. Our children are delighted. I’ve just heard that my son’s tennis training has been cancelled until further notice. Only 8 people attend his training. What’s next? I can’t go for a run in case I bump into someone?! This morning my running friend and I knocked elbows, instead of the usual ‘bise’ on the cheek.
In the UK, people have been advised to wash their hands to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’. I assume this is more about time spent washing hands and won’t ruin anyone’s actual birthday. I suggested that MC Hammer’s ‘You can’t touch this’ might be more appropriate.
I’m not trying to make a joke of the virus. It is highly contagious and has caused the deaths of many elderly people. However these are elderly people, many of whom were already suffering health problems, and who would struggle to fight flu or other viruses. And as a percentage of those who contract the virus it’s small.
Preparation ― not panic ― is key when it comes to the novel coronavirus outbreak. However, this can be easier said than done, right?
It can be hard to keep calm with the barrage of news stories about COVID-19 and worries about vulnerable populations, sick leave and the health care system.
With so much uncertainty, it’s completely normal to feel concerned or even scared right now.
But experts are correct that managing your anxiety can be beneficial. One of the best ways to do that is to get some (measured) perspective about the situation.
Here is some useful information from the Huffington Post:
Symptoms could include “fever over 100.5, cough, malaise, and occasionally nausea, diarrhea. In more severe cases, shortness of breath, chest pain and pneumonia will be apparent,” Dr. Linda Anegawa, an internist with virtual health platform PlushCare, previously told HuffPost.
Doctors recommend treating the symptoms with medicines like Tylenol for fever, drinking lots of water and getting lots of rest.
You likely can’t get it from your food
“We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging,” a spokesperson from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service previously told HuffPost and mentioned in a statement.
The main ways the disease spreads are through people who are in close contact with the disease, respiratory droplets, and touching infected surfaces and then touching your face.
We still don’t know a lot about this virus yet since it’s new ― including a definitive conclusion on when the outbreak might end, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one can say for certain that the spread of the coronavirus will slow down or be less severe once spring or summer arrives. However, some experts have said there’s a good chance it can, based on similar diseases from the past.
Scientists are working on a vaccine
This may not be done or available for the public anytime soon, but it is projected to be ready in the next 12 to 18 months. While this isn’t great news for an immediate fix, there is at least hope that researchers will develop more medicine to fight this off in the future.
One of the absolute best ways to help prevent it is simple
Wash. Your. Hands. End of story.
Doctors recommend rubbing your hands together with warm water and soap for 20 seconds or longer. (Need a song while you scrub? This brilliant app has you covered.) Use common sense when deciding how often to wash. After using the bathroom, before you prepare food, after you’ve been in public places and after you’ve touched potentially dirty surfaces are usually good bets.
Practicing good hygiene (as mentioned above), social distancing when you can, getting your flu shot if you haven’t already, and staying home if you’re sick are all ways you personally can make a difference.
We have a responsibility to each other as humans on this planet. One of the best ways to exercise that is by looking after your own health and habits. If you haven’t been doing that yet, now’s a great time to start.
I almost didn’t write this blog today as I was feeling too sorry for myself. I’ve had a bad flare-up with my back recently and I’ve just about had enough of it! Yesterday I ran 12km, no problem. Then, I was stiff as a board all night and this morning and did my ‘ape to modern man’ walk to the bathroom, angry and thinking ‘why me’?
However, I realise the problem is that I haven’t let myself surrender to it yet. I need to accept it, relax, give myself some love, and not keep driving myself to do things. It’s one thing saying this to clients – it seems it’s another thing doing it for myself! It’s time to be my own best friend and just ‘let it go‘. Breathe, accept what is, and move forward in a mindful and loving way, ignoring my inner critic who is shouting at me for not being able to manage all the movements I could easily do a year ago.
The science is there in black and white. It honestly isn’t all ‘woo woo’. All pain comes from the brain. Here is an excellent explanation of why the brain continues to send pain signals, even after a prior injury has healed.
By the way, the ‘Curable’ app could be worthwhile investing in. It includes exercises on writing/journaling, meditation, education and brain training. Its founder and CEO, John Gribbin, fought lower back pain for fifteen years himself before overcoming it with this technique.
Pain comes from the brain, and the brain can be retrained. If you are suffering from chronic pain (pain that has persisted for more than 12 weeks), have a look at this short, 5-minute video which gives you a good overview of why and what you can do to help yourself.
Back to me and my distraction! I may run and exercise almost daily but I still have a saggy bottom! So, I did a punishing 10-minute glutes workout on YouTube. Yes, I know it was only 10 minutes but it’s a killer when you have glutes that don’t ‘fire up’ like mine! Talking of ‘fire’ they were on fire by the end of it 😉 The idea was if I could feel fire in my glutes, I wouldn’t be able to feel any pain in my back! So far, it has been a pretty good distraction.
If you are suffering from chronic pain and need further support, please get in touch. You can email me at email@example.com or find me on Facebook (Unbottle Life) or Instagram (@unbottlelife).
..is that it can be a (bleep!!****) to shift! Here’s what got me thinking:
I just got back from a 12k run and now I’m scared to bend down and take my shoes off….what the hell?! I had to have a word with myself: “You have just comfortably run 12k on dirt tracks, grass and road. You can certainly bend down to take your shoes without experiencing pain”.
So, what did I do? I bent down in the most relaxed way I possibly could, (it still twinged a little) took off my shoes, then bent down 5 more times more confidently just to tell my brain it was OK! And it was.
I cannot possibly do justice to the work of physician and TMS rock star Dr John Sarno without quoting him directly. I hate to stumble over my words when there are important messages to share:
..psychological stress occurs from a negative perception of events. when we think we want some specific thing – but in our judgement – we got something else, or nothing at all, we become stressed.
Tension is the body’s physical response to that stress. Stress is perceived within the mind, and tension is real within the body. TMS is a real physical mindbody effect that begins as a perception within, and permeates the corporeal body as crippling pain, illness and fatigue (from the book ‘Dr John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries’ by Steve Ozanich).
Dr. Sarno contended that you don’t always have to eliminate the tension to heal, but it certainly helps if you can. The idea in tension reduction is to change the perception of the need to fight or flee to one of surrendering, and the body will not react as strongly (from the same book).
We hold fear, anger, sorrow and resentment in our bodies to protect ourselves from the pain of really experiencing the full brunt of the pain those emotions cause us, and to maintain the persona – to show that, outwardly, everything is going well in our lives. The problem is that those feelings are held in the body as unpleasant physical sensations unless we deal with them. Many of these thoughts threaten our ego and we’re too concerned with how others perceive us, so we push those feelings downwards and inwards.
Most people see TMS as a weakness, but it isn’t. Strong, kind, generous, thoughtful and selfless people are classic TMS sufferers. They hide their emotions for the sake of others, constantly putting their own needs on the back burner. They don’t want to accept or recognise that these perpetual acts of pleasing others and not themselves is building resentment within them – “No, I’m not a mean and angry person! I’m perfectly happy to serve others……..my needs are unimportant…….it’s all fine”. The TMS protective mechanism acts as a ‘crutch that keeps the person walking, but crippled’ (Steve Ozanich).
Pain is the mind’s way of telling us we have unmet needs and unresolved emotions. Fear of facing these is the great motivator for the cycle to continue. Running from it feeds it, keeping it alive, allowing it to manifests in various physical and psychological forms.
The only thing that satisfies the hunger of fear is surrender – to who you are, to what already is, to Truth (Steve Ozanich).
This is my lesson to you, and to me. Love, accept and forgive yourself, and the rest will follow xx
…physically that is. It’s a huge relief that hasn’t quite sunk in. But it needs to, if I’m to stand a chance of getting rid of this chronic back pain that I have endured for over six months.
This morning I went to see my GP to discuss the results of my X-ray, MRI scan (for my lower back) and the blood test I was advised to have.
The conclusion was that I have a flatter than ‘normal’ back (I don’t have a curve in the lower back where I should have one) and a herniated disc, but nothing pressing on a nerve that would cause any pain down my legs. I’ve had pain down my legs; this just proves that is either emotional or just tight muscles (or a mix of both!). I have pain in my lower back constantly, but there is nothing in those results that accounts for this pain.
“Surgery is not advised” said my doctor, “and you can carry on running”. Not that I had any surgery planned or intended to stop running!
But it just shows, to me at least, the importance we give to the opinions of people in the medical profession. I realised that, although I thought I had fully accepted my diagnosis of TMS (tension myoneural syndrome) I hadn’t really. There was still a thread of doubt that my pain was caused by a structural abnormality.
I realised I have been muddling along for a few months, trying to get better, but still (unconsciously) seeing the pain as the result of something wrong with my body, and not with my mind.
From the insightful book ‘Dr. John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries’ by Steve Ozanich: People who believe their body is broken remain in pain. Those who believe their body is okay, tend to heal.
So, it really is high time I 100% (not 99.9%) believed that my body is NOT broken. I have, what Dr. Sarno would call, ‘normal abnormalities‘ in my spine. The spine starts to degenerate from the age of 20 (yes I was surprised by this fact too!), and many people have herniated discs without any pain, or any knowledge of them. If spinal structure is the problem in back pain, then why does the rate of back pain drop off after the age of 50?
(From page 15 of ‘Dr. John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries’) We are far, far stronger than we think we are. Healing occurs when you no longer fear the pain. It takes confidence – and fear is a lack of confidence. As long as she fears the pain, she will have reoccurence.
As for my blood test, I’m low in iron. Nothing more, nothing less. I have some iron tablets to take and I may as well do – I’ll be needing lots of it for the physical training I plan to do!
Rigorous physical movement teaches the brain to react differently to movement (Steve Ozanich again).
So, I left with my ‘certificat medical’ to prove it’s safe for me to run and with my goals firmly set in my mind: a half marathon in May, a marathon in September and an ultra run in October! (shit I’ve said it now, I suppose I ought to now enter those last two ;))
Have confidence my friends. Work on the fear. Understand where it is coming from, and don’t stop moving.
I realised that I’m a real creature of habit – aren’t we all to a degree? I have the same salad almost every day, I do the same type of run several times a week and I stay with the same yoga classes each week. Essentially, I keep it ‘safe’. The exact same rituals may not apply to you, but we probably share a habit of keeping life boxed up fairly neatly, not straying too far from our comfort zones.
My back pain from TMS has not gone away yet, although I have seen improvements that I’m feeling really positive about. I realised I was avoiding certain movements out of fear – fear that they would hurt if I did them, or that I wouldn’t be able to do them at all.
So, today I decided to switch it up a little! OK, I didn’t suddenly take up rhythmic gymnastics (I much prefer the ‘proper’ stuff without the ribbons and hoops!) BUT I did try bridge pose and wheel posa in yoga! I got my bridge up, and even though it wasn’t beautiful engineering and you couldn’t have got much weight across it, it did go up!
And yesterday I went on a fast (relatively speaking!) 5k run instead of my usual slower 10k run. And, OK, it wasn’t as fast as I used to do it, but it was still better than I HAD been doing it, so I was happy!
And what happened as a result of this ‘switching things up’? I realised that there is nothing I can’t at least try to do, and that trying it is not going to kill me or make anything worse. And, that the only way to really rid myself of the fear is to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. In the words of Dr John Sarno, what I have going on in my back is a ‘normal abnormality’ (mainly disc generation, and a suspect diagnosis of a ‘pinched’ nerve – pinched for as long as it has been I’d have lost sensation to my legs by now!)
I’m also trying visualization techniques, which are proven to help with pain relief. Essentially I visualize a beautiful, strong and healthy spine and moving however I want with ease. I even talk to my spine sometimes (not out loud, I wouldn’t want to draw unwanted attention!).
This from the website Pathways: (https://www.pathways.health/visualization-for-pain-relief-management-the-ultimate-guide/A compelling example of visualizations being used to relieve pain is from the example of psychiatrist turned pain specialist, Dr Michael Moskowitz: Dr Moskowitz suffered a serious accident when water-skiing. The severe injuries left with battling with crippling pain that dominated his life for 13 years. When all conventional methods of treatment had failed, he began researching the discovery that the brain is neuroplastic (it’s always changing & adapting) and seeing how this might relate to him. He realized that many of the areas in the brain that fire in chronic pain also process thoughts, sensations, images, memories, movements, emotions, and beliefs – when they’re not processing pain, that is. He thought that if he could practice visualizing pain relief when pain strikes, that will help him ‘reclaim’ the areas of the brain that get ‘hijacked’. He started noticing a reduction in pain within a few weeks. Within a few months he had his first pain free periods. Within a year he was almost always pain free.
So, please, if you’re suffering from what you feel is chronic pain (pain that you have experienced beyond the body’s normal healing period of 12 weeks) and, like I was feeling before I discovered the work of Dr Sarno, you are pretty fed up – even desperate – just open your mind to the idea that your pain could be a result of your emotions, even if you really don’t think it’s possible. It beats jumping right into surgery and regretting it, doesn’t it?
I’m here to help if you’re at all curious 🙂
On a final note, my sister said I should post a photo of myself as ‘people’ would want to know what I look like. So, people, this is me, in the middle of my first ever ultra run last year. That was one of the best days of my life 🙂
Some of the dos and don’ts from Healing Back Pain by Dr John Sarno, published in 1991: