#178 Raw food...?

This XKCD comic just about sums up my previous knowledge of raw food...

Today is my second day on 100% raw or "living food", and after starting my day with a green smoothie, I have had some yummy raw zucchini pasta marinara and a bunch of good salad. For dessert we made "raw chocolate pudding" consisting of 1 avocado, 10 dates and 6 tbs cocoa powder. Ridiculously simple and insanely tasty! And of course, dark chocolate is very medicinal:)

And as for the anti-pain energy kick? Well.... I am feeling slightly slightly energetic today, but that must be imaginary right? This stuff can't work that fast.

#177 Go raw!

A problem often faced by chronic pain patients is fatigue. When I've had strong pain for a while, it has a way of devouring most of my energy, which leaves me feeling constantly drained and makes it increasingly difficult to do anything to improve my situation. It's a negative spiral that I can still fall into sometimes. Chronic pain patients over time often develop problems with concentration/memory loss and experience general symptoms of burn out - along with everything else they're dealing with. I've definitely had to deal with that too.

So I've realized that anything that may give me an energy boost is highly welcome.

Many people say that eating Raw - so called "Living Foods" provides them with greatly increased energy, so this week I've decided to try it out myself.

Raw Foodists believe that heating food above 118 degrees F. destroys valuable enzymes in food that can assist in digestion and health, and that vital nutrients in vegetables are destroyed when heated. Based on this belief, a whole new way of preparing food has been developed, where the main goal is to increase the nutritional value and help the body stay healthy and heal itself through what we eat.

I've tried a lot of different "healthy diets" before to treat my arthritis, some of them have worked a little, some of them not at all, and one actually caused my RA to go into remission for 15 yrs (wow!!) Armed with a collection of Raw Food cookbooks & recipes, and Austin's amazing Whole Foods Market right around the corner, my sister Lynnea and I are going 100% raw for a three day trial period, starting today.

Our first day featured marinated portobello mushroom fajitas and an awesome spinach-lemon-apple smoothie. But raw food doesn't necessarily mean "health nut" food. For example we had the most amazing chocolate cheesecake I've ever tried the other day at Beets raw food cafe, yum...

My first impression is that eating all raw / live foods give me a buzz, and fill me up without weighing me down. But then... I'll see how I feel tomorrow;)

#176 Keep yourself in the dark

Literally speaking of course, not metaphorically... Metaphorically we should all be reveling in the untamed sunlight of the spirit etc etc... but you know. Maybe just not today.

Still suffering only slightly from jet lag, I am a chronic pain blogger on a mission to spread sleep awareness this week. And as a Scandinavian used to living close to the realm of the midnight sun, I know this piece of advice to be absolutely true:

Keep yourself in the dark.

Light bouncing off your retina affects release of serotonin and melatonin, the most important hormones for regulating sleep. That's why it's important to stay in a dimly lit environment the last couple of hours before you go to bed, and to keep your bedroom dark all through the night. If this for reason of latitude or otherwise (like a partner who likes to keep the light on) may I suggest you get something like this Cat Nap Sleep mask...

#175 Get up

Natalie Dee may hate mornings, and maybe you do too. But when you live with chronic pain and as a natural result of that have trouble sleeping, staying in bed is not a good option. I'm sorry for giving it to you straight but that's how it is.

I often wake up really early, and especially if I'm pain I just want to stay horizontal hoping to get some more rest. But years of experience have shown me that that's just not going to help.

Get up the same time every morning, even if you're tired. That's what every sleep specialist will tell you... apparently its important to set the brain's circadian clock, which regulates hormones for our sleep cycles.

Get moving, do some warm ups to get your circulation going and stay as active as you possibly can through the day. Make up for lost sleep with meditation and a power nap if you can.

#174 Wind down

A five year old on a sugar high may be easier to put to bed at night than a chronic pain patient. It took me a while to figure this out, but it feels like the pain gets stronger when I lay down and rest and stop distracting myself with TV, books, computer, telephone calls, food and what have you.

And because now I've learned to expect that the pain is going to get worse (or at least feel worse) when I lay down, I try to put it off for as long as possible, and keep clinging to all those distractions.

I can try to trick myself into sleeping by watching a boring movie or taking sleep medication, but the sleep that comes from that doesn't seem to be as beneficial as deep sleep without background noise or prescription medicine. But if I don't get a reasonably good night's rest, the pain is gonna get even worse the next day, throwing me into a helluva pain spike that may last for a week.

So I have to force myself to wind down... which can feel sort of like taming that wild five year old who's screaming "Nooooo, I don't want to go to bed!!!"

Turning off computers, phones and TV an hour before bedtime, taking a hot bath, meditating, having a cup of tea, doing something boring, writing a journal... all these things are great for winding down at night.

#173 Take magnesium before bedtime

A few years ago I was advised to take magnesium to relieve muscle cramps at night, and it helped immediately. Now I've learned that magnesium deficiency is often a contributing factor to chronic pain.

Nutritionists say there is evidence that between 50 and 90 per cent of people in North America don't get enough of magnesium. The combo of high-starch diet and high stress lifestyle - a body under stress uses way more magnesium - is placing us at high risk.

Pain and magnesium deficiency
Magnesium relaxes nerve impulses, and is essential for cellular metabolism. One doctor who specializes in treating chronic pain, Dr. Linda Rapson, believes that about 70 per cent of her patients who complain of muscle pain, cramps and fatigue are showing signs of magnesium deficiency. Among patients with fibromyalgia the numbers are even higher. Dr. Rapson has been adding magnesium to the diets of most of her patients over the last two years, and noting significant results.

"Virtually all of them improve when I put them on magnesium," says Rapson, who runs a busy Toronto pain clinic. "It may sound too good to be true, but it's a fact."

Please talk to your doctor about this, and consult with a nutritionist. If you think that you are at risk of magnesium deficiency (and so many of us are) it is definitly worth exploring. Like adding D-vitamin, this is one of those things that can greatly reduce muscular pain in a matter of weeks. The best way to use this as part of your pain reduction plan, is to take magnesium supplements an hour before bedtime. Pumpkin seeds are otherwise and excellent source of natural magnesium, so are nuts and dark leafy greens.

#172 Just wedge it...

Just a couple days ago I was writing about the importance of supporting your spine to reduce pain, and while we´re exploring the topic of pain and sleep, here´s a pain-free tip to test out immediately: This kind of wedge shaped knee pillow is great for improving quality of sleep. By aiding circulation and reducing strain on hips, lower back and knees it helps you sleep deeper without having to move around so much, AND it supports and stabilizes your spine.

There are lots of different models of this knee pillow, but from what I can see you can just as easily use a regular pillow placed between your knees and get the same effect. See what works best for you:)

#171 Take sleepy precautions

As important as it is to sleep soundly when we have a chronic pain condition, it is not easy to do this. From my current state of woozy jet lag I figured I´m in the perfect situation to elaborate on this, so I´m going to write a few more sleep related pain-free tips, the first of them being:

Do an inventory of your sleep situation.

Answer the following questions:

1. How many hours of sleep have you had per night during the last week? (btw this is important info for your pain journal)

2. Is your bedroom a serene and peaceful environment for resting? - If not, what changes are necessary to make it so?

3. What do you do in the hours preceding going to bed? - should you be doing other stuff instead?

4. Are there things/activities/people you know may interfere with your sleep? How can you minimize their influence?

5. How many hours of sleep do you need in order to function well? - compared to what you are getting now.

Talking to your doctor to get the right combination of medication for pain & sleep is essential, but creating the best possible routines around your sleep is equally important, and no-one but you can do this in a way that is right for you. What precautions can you take today to ensure that you get as much good quality sleep as possible?

#170 Support your spine

Yesterdays 22 hour journey from the Swedish forests to the heart of Brooklyn went surprisingly well. This time I learned something new about traveling with chronic pain:

If you support your spine well, it reduces overall pain!

Funny, I never would have guessed that it works that way. Maybe because circulation is so important to keep pain levels in check, and a stressed spine reduces circulation to your whole body? Of course, sitting still for 12-16 hours any day is a bad thing for pain, and pinched nerves can be pretty unbearable after a while. Good back support from all angles definitely increases circulation and reduces nerve pinching.

I had brought some good pillows and a blanket on the flight with me, and had ordered a window seat so I could prop myself securely in the seat with firm support from both sides. That seemed to relieve the pain quite a lot.

I remember a physiotherapist explained this to me once, and he had me buy a special V-shaped back supporting cushion that I could wrap around myself either sitting or laying down to give complete support for my spine.

#169 Travel smart

Apart from being a professional patient, I also happen to be a chronic traveller. Even though I broke my back in a bus accident in South East Asia at age 21, I still want to travel the world. Tomorrow I'm driving from my family's farm in the Swedish forests, getting on a plane from Gothenburg and flying to Amsterdam, where I will have breakfast with my good friend Hilde. After a 6 hour stopover in Holland I'm continuing to New York City, where I'll be staying with my stepbrother and his fiance, yay!!! I'm spending 6 weeks in the States this summer, planning to link up with lots of wonderful people and learn more about recent developments in chronic pain treatment!

Travelling with chronic pain can be very challenging, but with good planning and the right equipment it works fine. I bring a tempurpedic travel mattress, several pain medications and balms, my iPod and noise reducing headphones with relaxation tapes, a yantra mat and a good supply of dark chocolate.

I know I can get up and move around during the flight, I'm starting my day with a cold shower to increase dopamine levels and planning on smiling and laughing a lot to keep endorphins flowing.

Wish me luck :)

#168 Network

The first time I heard about the theory "six degrees of separation" I thought it was fascinating, but unrealistic. Later I learned that it was a key to sucess.

I've found out that if I know someone who knows someone, chances are they know someone too, and by using my contacts I may be able to fix anything from a live moose (Einar's father who works on a moose farm), book a concert with Depeche Mode (Jonte booked them for Arvika last year), get a private consultation with an international judge (my moms neighbour) and anything in between.

When the norwegian doctors and neurosurgeons had given up on me after 2 failed spinal surgeries, it was a young girl in my study group who turned out to be the greatest help. She saw that I had to lie down most of the time through our course and knew that I had a lot of pain. One day she told me that her father was an orthopedic surgeon, and asked if I wanted to meet him. I don't know what made me say yes, cause most of the time I was beyond hope, but ... I did. One thing led to another, and as it turned out, her father knew a neurosurgeon in Sweden who knew of a specialized type of surgery that actually cured my back.

Today I never know who knows who and what might lead me where, but I know that networking will always be a great tool to get anything done. I may meet a person waiting in line at the doctor's office who turns out to be the link to my next book. Or something else.

And I have no way of explaining this, but I've found that when there is a high degree of synchronicity - seemingly random but meaningful events, I'm usually just about to meet someone that turns out to be very important...

#167 Have a contact list

How many different treatments have you tried for your condition? Are there several practitioners in your healing team? When I was a "good patient", I had a General Practitioner, a rheumatologist, an orthopedic surgeon, two neurosurgeons, a neurologist, a specialist in post surgical rehabilitation, two physiotherapists, an ergotherapist, a masseur, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a psychologist, a pharmacist and counsellor all on my immediate contact list. It really was a full time job being a patient.

After I'd been a professional patient for a few years I realized that every time I met a new health practitioner and had to tell them my story, that was a huge investment in time, energy and money. Some of my practitioners I only saw for a few months, some followed me for years and are with me still. But I realized it was important to keep track of everyone that was part of my treatment. So I started writing a contact list. There I wrote down all the health care practitioners who were involved in my treatment.

Today this list is invaluable. Even though I rarely need treatment anymore, these professionals are still active. I know I can go see them if I need help, they know my health story, they've seen my x-rays and test results. I don't have to tell them everything all over, which is a great relief.

Do you have a contact list for your treatment and for your healing team?

#166 Prepare yourself

I have many things to say about Doctor's appointments, of which I've had a few... (insert sarcastic smile here) But today I'm going to be very practical.

Getting what you want always starts with knowing what you want. That's why preparation is so important. Often I am not consciously aware of exactly what I want from a meeting or a conversation, I find myself aimlessly drifting around and letting things happen, and very often end up feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. Of course what I want in a meeting with any doctor is help to resolve my health problems, but what specifically is it I need right now? A diagnosis? A prescription? A referral for seeing a specialist or a new examination?

The I DO ART model is a technique for preparing meetings or important conversations/phone calls, and it works really well for preparing yourself for a doctor's appointment. I don't know where it comes from, but I learnt it at Galaxen Creative. This is how it works: I draw or write the letters I DO ART horizontally on a sheet of paper. Before an important meeting/conversation, I spend 5-10 minutes on filling in the template, jotting down a few words for every letter, filling in these topics:

I - Intention - What is my intention with the conversation?
DO - Desired Outcome - What do I want to happen, what is my specific goal with the conversation?
A - Agenda - What are the topics that I need to talk about, is there a set agenda or can I make one?
R - Rules and Roles - What are the rules for the meeting, are there any set roles, as in who is responsible for what?
T - Time - How many minutes are set aside for the meeting/ appointment?

Taking a little time to do this simple preparation is a good way to prepare myself mentally before any appointment or meeting, I hope it can help you too!

PS: I've seen this model called I DO ARRT too, where Rules & Roles have a separate line each. For me it works fine this way

#165 Choose Action over Reaction

Have you ever heard about "Reaction Man"? Or do you know any "Reaction heroes"?


But we know plenty of action heroes, from popular films and television series. They are people with extraordinary skills, people who make things happen and fight for what's right. They are able to change any situation for the better and save a bunch of lives in the process.

When I'm not making sure that I'm using the "Action Circle", I tend to get caught in the "reaction" circle myself... It goes something like this:

1: Something happens - maybe a doctor saying something like "You look healthy", when I'm feeling like shit
2: I interpret what he says in a hurtful way - "He doesn't understand, he thinks I'm faking"
3: I get hurt and feel I need to protect myself
4: I react by either switching off, acting resentful, or by spending a lot of time trying to explain how awful I feel. Then I go home and ponder what happened, feel hurt, misunderstood and beat myself up about it for a week afterwards

I want to learn how to stay neutral in situation like that, so that I'm able to correctly decipher the situation before I get drawn into that negative spiral. Then choose to ACT instead of just reacting automatically, maybe by asking a question that may clarify the doctors intention and meaning. Like for example "When you say I look healthy, do you mean that you don't believe in my symptoms, or are you giving me a compliment?"

Just doing that right away might spare me from a whole lot of negativity.

#164 Create an anchor

So being able to change your emotional state at will is a pretty awesome superpower, and guess what, we all have it!

We link certain movements, sounds and actions with certain emotional states. They are like triggers.

Rather than letting all of these triggers be unconscious, and just drifting along with whatever mood you happen to be in (and when you're in pain a lot, it's rarely good) you can choose to take control of your emotional state by linking a specific emotional state to a specific movement and sound. In NLP it's called anchoring.

It's done in four easy steps: (adapted from a version I found at this blog)

1. First you bring yourself into the state you wish to feel. For example "joyful". Can you ever remember feeling joyful? What did you look like last time your were really intensely joyful? Say if you had some amazingly good news for example? Adopt the same posture and movements you were using at the time. Stand the way you were standing, breathe the way you were breathing and have the same facial expression you wore when you felt overjoyed. Exaggerate!
Imagine that you can see what you saw, hear what you heard and feel what you felt. Now intensify your state by making your fantasy larger and brighter. Make the sounds that you heard at that time louder and closer and say to yourself what you would say if you were in that situation now. Would you clap your hands? Would you bounce up and down, would you nod your head?

2. At the peak of the state, apply your anchor - that is a movement and a sound that you wish to associate firmly with this feeling. Once you have made the feeling "Joyful" come to life and you sense that you are at the peak of your state, apply your anchor! Use both a movement and a sound, for example clapping your hand or clenching your fist while saying  "YES!"

3. Break the state and repeat step 1 and step 2 several times. Break your state by thinking something else, then repeat the first steps of getting into a joyful state, intensifying it and at the peak, applying your chosen anchor. Keep on doing this over and over again at least 10 times. This is to make sure that the anchor is associated firmly with the feeling. 

4. The final step is to test the anchor. Again, get into a neutral state. After that, apply the anchor that you’ve created just now. You anchor can be clenching your fist and shout “Yes!” So do the state of confident comes to you when trying out your anchor? If yes, then you have successfully installed the anchor.

The best way to test out your anchor is in a real situation when you are feeling down. Next time you're feeling under the weather, fire off your anchor to get you back into your positive state, and notice how it lifts your spirits instantly!

#163 Change your emotional state

This is a tool I learned at NLP practitioner training with Marcus & Stefan at Universe Imagine. They talked about how the body and mind are connected, and how the state of the mind affects the way we use our body and vice versa. YES! Vice versa, that's really interesting!

I mean, we all know what it looks like when someone is feeling bad, or feeling uncertain. After all, body language is said to be 57% of all communication... and I actually think that showing how you feel is really important for promoting health. But it's just as easy to see when someone is feeling great! They're strutting with energy and grinning widely, their eyes are sparkly and they gesticulate a lot.

So what Stefan & Marcus said, is that when you change the way you use your body, your state of mind changes too. Just like the buddhist monks who smile, to feel serene (it releases endorphins)! You can move your body in the same way you would if your were really really happy, and your brain will produce a lot of "feel-good" chemicals, and woah, watch this... what happens is you start feeling better!

It's like acting. You're putting on a show to trick yourself out of a grouchy mood...

I mean, this doesn't actually remove whatever problems you're facing, it just makes it a lot easier to deal with them. And as I wrote about in the post about "sex and pain", endorphins are up to 500 times more potent painkillers than morphine, so whatever increases your endorphin production is gonna help your pain levels.

PS: Yup, I'm back from my involuntary information-hermitage now, and yes, it was really relaxing and very refreshing! :)

#162 Hermitage

Following yesterday's post on information detoxing... I'm staying with Dad and Ros over the weekend and by some chance miracle, their phone and internet connection has been switched off by a befuddled phone engineer. So I had a chance to instantly try out my new idea! I'm offline 24 hours a day for three days!!! Of course the detox hit me pretty bad, and after listening to my whining for 36 hours, Ros was sweet enough to drive me to her friend Linda's house where there is still functioning ADSL...

It's really funny, because last week I read about people paying thousands of dollars to go on an "information fast" for two days. Now I get to do it for free!
It's supposed to be like going to a hermitage...You go to stay in a small hut in the middle of the forest with no electricity, no access to phones, TV, internet or any other information. And apparently you just sit there... detoxing your brain, fasting from information... and it makes you feel all peaceful and serene... :&

Maybe it's a good way to start linking up to your unconscious mind, and enables you to listen to your body...?

I wasn't really planning on TRYING this myself... right now... but apparently that's what I'm doing, whether I like it or not. Two more days of no internet or working phones... woooooow... See you all on tuesday :)

#161 Information detox

Apparently Information Detox is the new trend. In this wonderful Information Age, where we are constantly bombarded with information through a myriad of digital and analog channels of communication many people get overwhelmed by "information overload".

Sometimes when I've been mining in my caves of digitally accessible knowledge and working intensely on several simultaneous projects I can literally feel my mind heat up. While I'm blogging and researching on 10 different international sites, I get so excited with all the new information I'm tapping into... I'm reading and taking notes while people are calling and texting on both of my cell phones AND the landline (why do I still have a landline anyway?). I'm online and active on three social web forums simultaneously and answering an email, while someone is dialling my Skype... Then if the doorbell rings and someone is actually approaching me in real time - real life, it almost feels a bit surreal.

What does this intense flow of information do to my nervous system, I wonder... and how does it affect my pain levels?
Maybe I should try switching off the phones more often, and being offline for extended periods of time each day?

#160 Connect with your unconscious mind

Our mind is a wonderful thing. And imagine... there is so little of it we actually know, so much more to explore! Some theories say that as much as 90% of our mental processes take place beyond or behind our daily consciousness. When you come to think of it, how many things you do in a day are purely automatic? What part of you tells your muscles what to do when you grasp a toothbrush to brush your teeth? What part of you reacts when your pain escalates?

When I began my healing journey, I started exploring my unconscious mind to find answers: Why had I developed a crippling auto-immune disease? Why was my body attacking itself? What message was the disease supposed to tell me? The arthritis seemed to have developed overnight, but when I thought about it, I found that I had seen many signs years earlier. And I couldn't help thinking that somewhere hidden in my unconscious mind, part of me knew why I was sick, and also knew how I could get well...

I chose to think that if my body could develop this disease there must be some way to turn it back the same way. From inside my body, or inside my mind.

This idea led me on a healing quest, a journey that is still developing. And on my way to healing I have picked up many tools, many insights and much knowledge. If these words ring true to you, maybe you have already come a long way of your healing journey. Do you think your unconscious mind may hold answers to your healing process? What can you do to connect with this part of you?

Many people begin the journey with meditation, or start on a search for knowledge. Whatever your path is, I hope you follow it to find a healthier and happier life.

#159 Talk good about yourself

I strongly believe that our words are creative, so I try to watch what I'm saying. On some level, how I describe myself with words is shaping my future identity... so... who do I want to be?

A few years ago, a friend of mine challenged me to listen to how I talked about myself for a few days. The result was quite surprising... I realized I could talk myself up or down, and often used sarcasm or witty comments to make myself smaller.


I should give myself more credit... after all, I am a healing super hero!

So my mission and pain-free tip to share today is to start talking good about yourself. Give yourself compliments on a regular basis. You know you deserve them!

#158 Choose a strategy

Through the years that I've lived with daily pain and physical limitations imposed by chronic disease and injury, the feeling of being powerless has been the most destructive.

Being a "good patient" meant waiting to see what the doctor's would think of next to try to alleviate my suffering, hoping they would take me seriously, hoping they would have an answer, a cure. It took many years before I realized that I had to take matters in my own hands in order to get help.

Then I learned that I whether I was conscious of it or not, every time I met one of life's challenges I was actually choosing a strategy.

The four classic strategies I chose from were:

1. Blame / complain: Trying to make the other person see why they should help me, by telling them what was wrong. Sometimes hiding behind my affliction to justify my actions.
2. Leave / detach: If a situation or relationship was uncomfortable I could choose to leave it, or emotionally detach from the situation that was hurting (thereby also losing touch with other, positive emotions).
3. Accept / focus on what was good: Trying to see things as they were without trying to change them, and choosing to focus on something that was more uplifting.
4. Change / do: A natural fighting instinct sometimes wakes up, urging me to DO something about the situation, however small. I did things like consulting a new specialist, trying a new treatment, learning meditation, starting exercising or changing my diet.

And when I look back, every time I did something it brought me further down the path of healing, and closer to the life I wanted.

Which strategies do you choose from today, and which would you like to choose more often?

#157 Make a happy playlist

Music is medicine. Studies show that listening to music can relieve chronic pain.

For those days when you want to get up and move around, but have a hard time finding the strength to do so, having your very own musical medicine at hand may be a good way to lift your spirits.

That's why a happy-playlist (or mixtape/CD) should be a part of every pain patient's flare kit...

So today's pain-free tip is to collect some songs that cheer you up, collect them in a playlist or burn a CD.

#156 Set SMART goals

This tool is used in marketing and in project management. I think it works great for "project healing" too. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is inspiring, and being able to track your progress towards them may really help you on your healing journey.

A few years ago I had the goal of walking 10 kilometers. At that point I was in a wheelchair or horizontal most of the time. I said "By the 1 of October I want to be able to walk 10 kilometers", and I made an exercise plan that ensured that I could gradually build strength and stamina so that I could reach my goal by the set date. I didn't manage to stick to the plan all the time, and I don't remember exactly when I managed to walk 10 kilometers, but setting the goal made it possible for me to do so.

Today I use SMART goal setting for staying in shape and taking care of my health, as well as for making progress in my personal projects. The technique works by focusing on what you want, and formulating your goal according to these criteria:
  • S = Specific
    • What exactly do you want? 
  • M = Measurable
    •  Set a number on you goal, how much / how many?
  • A = Attractive
    •  Let the goal be something you really want, something that inspires you...
  • R = Realistic
    •  ...but is still realistic
  • T = Timebound
    •  Set a deadline for when you want to have reached the goal
And then get to work using timeboxes, the action circle and the rule of NOW.

(PS there are several similar variants of the acronym, I prefer "attractive" to "attainable")

#155 New rules - NOW rules

I often have a whole mountain of "to do's" stacked up in my mind. When I have bad pain periods I don't get anything done at all, so the mountain just grows and becomes a real stress factor. Living with chronic pain causes me more than enough stress already, and anything that aggravates stress is both a threat to my peace of mind and my physical health.

So here's a great tool I've learned while working with the creative project managers at Galaxen, We call it "The Rule of NOW".

Whatever you can do 
that takes less than ten minutes 
and brings you closer to your goal
do it NOW

So after listing all those little things that are stressing me, I take hold of the first things I see that are simple to fix and take less than ten minutes and just do them. Make that phone call, send that email, order that appointment, schedule that meeting. There. Done. I feel better about myself, and can use more of my focus on taking care of my body, resting and healing.

#154 Use the Action Circle

This is a model for implementing a successful proactive approach that I have learned from Stefan & Marcus at Universe Imagine.

Basically it boils down to four steps:

1: Focus on what you WANT
2: Start DOING stuff that brings you closer to what you want
3: LEARN from the reactions and feedback you encounter as you start doing stuff
4: CHANGE your approach according to the feedback...

... and then you're back at 1 again, but with new insight and experience... so it continues:

1: You focus on what you WANT, (for example being able to make it through a whole day without your pain getting above level 7)
2: You DO stuff that can help you attain your goal, fx moderate movement, setting boundaries, pacing yourself, TENS treatment, meditation etc etc
3: If the pain still gets out of hand you review what you've done and LEARN from your experience and...
4: CHANGE your plans the next day to see if a slightly different approach will help you get closer to your goal.

That way you are working with CANI, constant and never-ending improvement, making gradual progress to meet your goals. It means you take action, learn from what happens, adjust your approach and gradually improving your current situation.

PS: now that my year as manager and coach at the creative project management school in Arvika is over, I've planned a week of project management related healing tips:) I've found this action oriented way of thinking really helpful when it comes to healing, and I want to share it with you!

#153 Be Proactive

yes yes I know.. it's one of those annoying old hype words that we have learned to hate.. but come on, have you ever thought how much power lies behind this clich├ęd catch phrase?

Check it out:
"...proactive behavior (or proactivity) by individuals refers to anticipatory, change-oriented and self-initiated behavior... Proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen." (wiki)

Don't you think this makes for an excellent approach to healing!?

#153 Deal with difficult people

It's a definite part of everyone's life, we all have to deal with difficult people. Sometimes we ARE difficult people, and have a hard time dealing with ourselves:)

Dealing with difficult people takes practice, and often means listening without getting involved, which can be hard even if you have a healthy life. When your days are spent trying to get by with chronic pain you just don't have any excess time & energy to spend on people who make unreasonable demands on you. Learn the tricks, starting today!

I read this great column by Deepak Chopra in San Francisco Chronicle about this, so instead of repeating what he said I am just sharing the link: "How to deal with difficult people"

#152 Make big decisions...

... from the neck down

This is part of learning to listen to your body, which I think is a key element in learning to live with and overcome chronic disease and especially chronic pain.

Dealing with severe health problems we often face a lot of big decisions, decisions our brains (with their limited understanding and complex reasoning) have a tendency to over-complicate.
That's why I say:

Make big decisions from the neck down!

If you're in that sticky situation where you need to make a big decision, you've weighed the pro's and con's, talked to your loved ones and done your research.... why not shut off your mind and listen to what your body has to say about the matter?

You might be surprised at what sensations and feelings course through your body once you start doing this, and trust the answers you find. Test it on small issues first, like whether to go to that dinner or try that new holistic practitioner. How does your body feel when you think "Yes, I'll do it" ? Do you get a happy tingly joyful feeling or a dark pit in your stomach?

Maybe, in some cases, your body knows better than your brain?

#151 Say goodbye

I often spend a lot of time thinking about what I have to do, what I must do and what I should do... It really places a lot of stress on every day when I define my activities that way, that's why I propose saying farewell to should, must and have to and replacing them with:

want to

So instead of saying "I have to sort those papers today" I can say to myself; "I can sort those papers today...""

I promise you, it feels waaaaay better to talk about it that way!

Then "I have to talk to my doctor" becomes "I need to talk to my doctor" or "I want to talk to my doctor". "I must write my cousin" becomes... "I want to write my cousin"

What does this do? Well it's part of an empowerment process... it changes my status from being a victim of circumstance to being an active agent choosing my focus.