Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 3: Diagnostic Problems/Invalidation

MISDIAGNOSIS/NO DIAGNOSIS

 

Autoimmune and other disorders that may present with vague or a diffuse cluster of symptoms, or are difficult to diagnose, seem to be at an all-time high. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association estimates that approximately 50 million Americans live with an Autoimmune disorder. On the other hand, the National Institutes of Health, also a reliable source of information, claims that only 23.5 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disorder. The NIH recognizes less than half of what is reported by the AARDA. Why the discrepancy? NIH funded studies include only 24 diseases/disorders, while recent studies by the AARDA now include upwards of 80 to 100 diseases/disorders. Research is ever-evolving and it is hard to keep up!

You can see why chronic illness may be a confusing subject for so many people when two reputable organizations who lead our understanding of what diseases exist, supply different numbers based on what they consider to be different facts. Currently, conventional Western medicine does not seem to know how to detect or diagnose many of these diseases accurately.

You may have personally been to doctor after doctor, hoping to figure out what is wrong and receive a treatment recommendation. When you are not able to be properly diagnosed or treated, it becomes an invalidating experience. You know that your body is physically off, but a doctor looks at your blood tests only to tell you, “Everything looks fine,” or is puzzled by inconclusive or confusing results. Perhaps your health care professional is able to make a diagnosis but then unsure what treatment to provide. Maybe the doctor recommends a medication to hopefully relieve some symptoms, but this often means coping with side-effects, and you both know this is not solving the problem.

When you do not understand why the problem is happening in the first place, the entire process of trying to get back to your normal, healthy functioning is frustrating. People have a range of experiences with attempting to receive a diagnosis, including being told they are exaggerating their symptoms, given a proverbial pat on the head and told to deal with it, being prescribed medications whose side effects make it difficult to impossible to function, or well-meaning doctors shrugging and looking puzzled because they do not know how to help.

INVALIDATION

Adding this lack of understanding to the stress and exhaustion of having an undiagnosed and/or chronic disease can feel invalidating. This adds additional stress and worry, maybe even worsening how sick you are feeling.

Well-intentioned family and loved ones may also contribute to this feeling of being misunderstood. Have you ever had a cold or flu, or some minor ailment and posted about it on social media? If so, you have probably gotten treatment recommendations from people with whom you didn’t even know you were friends. “Soak your feet in honey,” “Use essential oils – they cure cancer,” “Stop eating red cabbage,” and other off-beat suggestions are almost guaranteed. Often, someone will swear that their best friend’s aunt’s ex-next-door-neighbor, or someone equally as elusive, swears by the cure they are presenting to you.

People typically don’t mean any harm. They want to be helpful and for there to be an easy cure for what ails you. Even so, this can leave you feeling worse than before you reached out for solidarity. What happens is that this advice-giving oversimplifies the chronic problems you are faced with and can make you feel unseen and misunderstood. The suggestions imply that if you just took this one simple action, you would be fine once again.

These feelings of frustration, loneliness, and misunderstanding can also happen in conversations with loved ones. People in your life may not understand your particular limitations or be sensitive to them. Often, when people are in pain, for example, their cognitive abilities and emotional control centers are compromised. Try solving a complicated math problem in the midst of a splitting headache. Even if you can accomplish this task, it is much harder to do than when you feel well and takes putting forth a lot more energy, leaving you feeling depleted afterward.

People in pain or coping with other chronic symptoms may not know or be able to communicate all the ways they are affected. It can take a while to learn that you have brain fog, that your memory is not what it used to be, or that regular physical activities now cause pain and you are unable to finish. Loved ones may be frustrated that you are not trying hard enough when in reality, you can’t think as fast or recall facts you used to be able to, and you also cannot communicate that this problem exists.

If you are struggling with invalidation as the result of the diagnosis or treatment of a chronic illness, or loved ones’ reactions to your experiences, read on for coping strategies.

SELF-VALIDATION

A first and essential step to coping with the unpredictability, chronicity, and difficulty with diagnosis and treatment, is validation! Everyone needs to be validated on a regular basis. Validation does not mean that you need to be complimented or pacified; rather, validation means feeling like you matter and knowing that you make sense. This is a basic human need.

If you are living with chronic illness, you may feel invalidated by the medical community, family, friends, or even yourself. When doctors throw up their hands and don’t know how to help sufficiently, or friends and family have trouble understanding what you are feeling and need, it is easy to feel demoralized and start questioning yourself: Am I exaggerating this? Is it really that bad? Is there something wrong with me that I can’t cope as well as others?

You may have read in my previous installments, or even personally experienced, how the unpredictability and chronicity of a disease increases the difficulty of being able to cope. When you add chronic invalidation, go through each day feeling misunderstood, and then even perhaps blame yourself, this adds to the stress your body is feeling, making you feel worse, emotionally and physically.

SELF-VALIDATION PRACTICE

If you see yourself in this description, it may be time to learn and practice the art of self-validation. Self-validation means learning the skill of saying to yourself, “I make sense. What I am experiencing matters, and I make sense.” This can be difficult when you are not sure what you are feeling, what the reason is you’re feeling this way, or know why you are experiencing what you are. Here is a short practice you can use to help yourself learn self-validation:

Notice what you are feeling in this moment and see if you can label it. Describe what you are feeling in words. Are you noticing physical sensations such as pain, temperature (cold or hot), movement, or comfort? Are you noticing any emotional sensations like tightness in your chest, a relaxed belly, or butterflies in your gut? The point is to take a moment to notice what you are feeling in your body in this moment, without judging it as right or wrong, good or bad. Just notice and describe it as best you can to yourself.

Now, whatever you are feeling, say to yourself, “It makes sense that I am feeling _________.” If you know the reason it makes sense (such as it makes sense that you are tired because you didn’t sleep well last night, or maybe have not for many nights), then tell yourself that. If you do not know why you are feeling how you are feeling, you can still say to yourself, “I make sense. Even if I do not understand why I am feeling this way right now, human experiences, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors all make sense whether I understand them in the moment or not.”

When engaging in this practice, you are grounding yourself in the fact that your experience is real, and it all makes sense whether you know where it comes from or not. See how you feel after practicing this daily for a week. Most people start to notice some relief or burden removed. The illness and symptoms may remain but removing the weight of questioning yourself and your validity leaves you better equipped to cope with your illness. Learning self-validation is one of the most important pieces when it comes to coping with a chronic illness.


February Newsletter

Use Valentine’s Day as a nudge to practice self-caring!

February is here and whether you buy into the commercialized holiday or not, I like to view this as a time to think about and celebrate love. Love is a healing, warming, nourishing emotion. Independent of others, love is an emotion that is available to us whenever we need or want it; It may just require a bit of practice.
Self-love and self-compassion are essential to a healthy, vibrant, thriving life, and this goes for relationships with others as well. Sometimes, the most caring thing I can do for those I love is pay attention to myself in an honorable, compassionate way. This allows me to be present with those I love without expecting them to fix parts of me I haven’t attended to. It allows me to be available for their experiences because I am coming from a place of fullness, instead of lack. Whatever your feelings about Valentine’s Day, I invite you to use this time of year as a nudge to practice self-caring.
In this month’s issue, you will find a bold piece I’ve written on an alternative view to medication for depression and anxiety. I view most, if not all, mood disruptions as a disconnection from self. Read on to understand more and experience a practice in nurturing your Wisdom. Speaking of self-love and respect for your body, there is a book being released this month that could be a lovely act of self-care to purchase. Read on to find out more about “Feeding You Lies” and how to feed your body with the love and care it deserves.
HEALTHY, VIBRANT, THRIVING!
My whole way of thinking, and of helping others, is based around my philosophy of living a Healthy, Vibrant, and Thriving life! One way I love sharing this philosophy is through Instagram. Follow @drbando and receive encouragement to live a Healthy, Vibrant, and Thriving life yourself!

FEATURED ARTICLE…

The Answer Is Not In A Pill, It’s In a Process

It is beyond unfortunate that our culture is so accepting of popping pills for ailments that need a completely different remedy: self-awareness, attention, and honor. All too often, I see people struggling from the side-effects of medications or new disorders they’ve developed as a result of following their doctor’s well-meaning instructions. While medication certainly is useful and has its place, it is over-prescribed in our country and doing so deprives many of us of a deeper connection with ourselves. If you are experiencing mood symptoms such as depression or anxiety, it is your personal choice whether you treat these experiences with medication or other options.

Medication is not bad or wrong; at times, it is life-saving. However, the information we receive seems heavily weighted toward popping a pill to feel better. Here, you will find other options and ways of thinking about depression and anxiety. Please filter this information through your wisdom and do what is best for you and this short, meaningful life of yours.

Continue Reading


DID YOU KNOW?

I have been following food blogger and nutrition-based author, Vani Hari, otherwise known as Food Babe, for years. I am embarrassed to say that it did not occur to me to read food ingredient labels until well into my thirties. I was taught to be aware of carbs, protein, fat, etc., but it did not occur to me to be thoughtful about the quality of my food until over a decade into adulthood! I was never taught that this was important. Enter Vani, whose upbeat style and no-nonsense approach to nutrition, opened my eyes.
Food Babe’s philosophy is to inform and educate people on the “food” they are putting into their bodies and hold manufacturers of food accountable for responsible practices. She presents research on harmful chemicals that are snuck into food, exposes deceitful marketing practices, and suggest alternatives to the individual and larger corporations to help make our available options healthier. Vani is a crusader for nutritious eating, and in her new book “Feeding You Lies”, she exposes the untruths behind or food system from the food industry and our government. She is also uplifting, hopeful, and encouraging, leaving you feeling excited about treating your body well.
In her new book, Vani guides you through a 48-hour Toxin Takedown to rid your pantry, and your body, of harmful chemicals. She will help you live without preservatives, artificial sweeteners, additives, food dyes, or fillers, eating foods that truly nourish you and support your health. Pick up your copy of “Feeding You Lies” and learn what is needed to take control of what you are putting in your body!

WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

My guided meditations and practices are available in audio form – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, click here!


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

The Answer Is Not In A Pill, It’s In a Process

The Answer Is Not In A Pill, It’s In a Process

Listen to this article on YouTube or Soundcloud.It is beyond unfortunate that our culture is so accepting of popping pills for ailments that need a completely different remedy: self-awareness, attention, and honor. All too often, I see people struggling from the side-effects of medications or new disorders they’ve developed as a result of following their doctor’s well-meaning instructions. While medication certainly is useful and has its place, it is over-prescribed in our country and doing so deprives many of us of a deeper connection with ourselves. If you are experiencing mood symptoms such as depression or anxiety, it is your personal choice whether you treat these experiences with medication or other options.

Medication is not bad or wrong; at times, it is life-saving. However, the information we receive seems heavily weighted toward popping a pill to feel better. Here, you will find other options and ways of thinking about depression and anxiety. Please filter this information through your wisdom and do what is best for you and this short, meaningful life of yours.

Why depression and anxiety are not your fault, AND at the same time, your responsibility.

It Is Not Your Fault

Feeling depressed or anxious is not your fault. Emotions make sense. There is a cause-and-effect law of nature that we can apply to emotions. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, there is a reason, even if it is not immediately obvious to you.

Let’s take Sally, a high-achieving, married, mother-of-two.

Growing up, Sally learned that being angry didn’t work. When she expressed anger, her parents cut off affection and withdrew attention. She soon learned that her parents responded similarly to her expressions of fear, hurt, and other emotions that were painful and uncomfortable.

Now, in her thirties, Sally has learned to smile and “brush it off” when things bother her so that she doesn’t “make a big deal” out of things or upset the apple cart. People describe her as easy to get along with and laid-back. It is no surprise to me that Sally suffers from depression. She reports feeling like a shell of her former self and now has trouble experiencing all emotions, even joy, and mostly feels numb. Her doctor recommended she try taking an anti-depressant medication, but something inside her told her that was covering up and not addressing the true problem, so she sought my help.

I soon learned that whenever Sally suspects an emotion may bubble up, she does everything she can to shut it down and go back to feeling “fine.” Sally had so much emotional buildup clogging her every atom, it is no wonder she was bogged down with depression. My work with Sally was helping her feel those painful emotions she had stuffed away for all those years. I taught Sally some of what she already knew, deep in her intuition: how to walk through the hell of her emotions, look at them, feel them, and move through them, until she found herself. Through this process of facing, rather than medicating or numbing her emotions, Sally found bravery, the knowledge that she can do very hard things, and a self-respect she hadn’t previously known.

Another example is Ralph, a 40-something man with a high-powered career.

Ralph was anxious, didn’t know if he would ever find a relationship, and ran away each time he started feeling interested in a woman he was dating. In fact, this was Ralph’s M.O. Whenever he felt anxious, he either worked harder and achieved more to ensure his competence or found another way to run from and avoid facing his fear head-on.

It turns out that Ralph had this response to anxiety starting from a young age. He implicitly learned that once he quieted or escaped the anxiety, he felt relief. He recalled staying home “sick” from school as a young boy to avoid social situations when he felt unsure. This worked for a while. Every time he felt anxious about his work performance, rather than feel the fear run through his body and view it as an opportunity for growth, he worked even harder than his 60-hour-per-week job required and made sure there was no room for doubt. As a result, he quickly advanced in his career.

He also applied this philosophy to dating, and every time Ralph felt anxious (i.e., vulnerable because he really liked the woman he was dating), he figured out an exit strategy and reasoned that it was for the better and she just wasn’t meant for him.

In short, Ralph’s coping style was to run away from anxiety any way he could. Now in his 40’s, Ralph suffers from an anxiety disorder and was prescribed Xanax by his doctor. However, learning more about how anxiety (and emotions, in general) works, Ralph knew that escaping the feelings every time he was anxious, whether through hard work, break-ups, or medication, were contributing to him experiencing more and more anxiety and dissatisfaction as life marched on.

My work with Ralph was to help him turn and stand tall, toe-to-toe with anxiety. Ralph learned to move towards, instead of away from, anxious feelings, and has gained confidence, self-respect, and a loving dating relationship he enjoys as a result. Ralph’s work life also became less stressful and much to his surprise, his performance did not suffer.

What do Sally and Ralph have in common?

They both had mood symptoms they did not understand and were prescribed medication. They both also intuitively knew that for them, medication was hiding, not solving their problems. For both of them, treatment involved facing their emotions, connecting to the physiological sensations coursing through their bodies, and learning to welcome them in.

Last, and certainly not least, both Sally and Ralph learned to feel comfortable in their skin again and live life feeling purpose and meaning. For both Sally and Ralph, mood symptoms were signals that something was wrong. Their emotions were not getting the attention they needed and behaviors geared toward avoiding or pushing them down were moving them farther and farther away from the wisdom their bodies were offering through the experience of emotions.

In both cases, depression and anxiety was not their fault. Mood symptoms were a result of the behavior patterns they had learned to keep themselves feeling safe. They did not purposely engage in coping strategies to make them feel worse in the long run. In fact, they did not even know this was happening. They thought they were being skillful.

Feeling depressed or anxious is not your fault. There is always a cause and effect. This means, there is no need or even logic in harshly blaming, criticizing, or berating yourself: that emotion you feel makes sense. We can trace it back to a certain event or series of events that caused whatever is happening in your life now to happen. The take-home message here is, if you feel it, it makes sense; that does not mean that you need to live in it, dwell in it, swim in it, buy real-estate in it, or act out of that place of emotion.

Personal Responsibility

As a holistic psychologist, I view depression and anxiety as a disconnection from the self. Depression and anxiety are not your fault, AND the only one who can change things is you. Not a doctor who gives you a pill or anyone who offers a remedy. You are the only person who can change your experience.

Emotions are a physiological process, meaning they happen in your body. When an emotion fires, your biology instantaneously changes: your breathing, heart rate, temperature, and even blood pressure may fluctuate with each emotion that passes through your body. When you process your emotions, you are aware of your body. When you make a connection with your body by paying attention to your emotional experiences, you not only get rid of emotional buildup, you gain access to so much more. When emotional buildup isn’t getting in the way, you are able to feel grounded in your experiences and more readily identify what is important to you. In short, you free yourself to live with meaning.

That begs the question, “How?”

Once you begin to understand that your symptoms are signals for you to pay attention to, you can start to evaluate why your body, brain, and mood are trying to get your attention. You can ask yourself questions about how you feed yourself, exercise, rest, and how your daily behaviors are in or out of line with what is truly important to you. Take a look at today. Are you behaving in ways that produce pride? If you do not regularly engage in daily activities that you feel proud of, it is impossible to feel proud of your life. Where are you disconnected from what truly matters to you, and what step can you take today to move closer to living your values?

It’s a Process.

Dealing with depression or anxiety is a process. The answer is not in a pill, it’s in a process. The process is one of truly looking at yourself, without judgment, and listening to what your body and emotions are telling you. Then you can make this information actionable by asking yourself, “Where can I take a step forward today?” Don’t think of it as, “I’m at point A and I want to be at point B, but I don’t know how to get there.” Rather, ask “What is one little tiny step forward that I can take today that will start me down my path and my goal of reaching point B?” It could be something as small as “Today I’m going to drink a cup of bone broth”, or “Today I’m going to take 3 breaths and notice how my body feels before I take that first sip of coffee in the morning.” It could even be, “I’m going to open and read a page of that book that is important and meaningful to me.” Recovering from depression and anxiety is about the process and the relationship you build with yourself. Recovering means engaging in daily behaviors that support your best life.

The process of healing and self-connection is not about harshness, punishment, will power, and a “just do it” mentality. This stance of cracking the whip to get yourself in line is short-lived and impossible to maintain. You may have experienced coming up with a “tough love” remedy time and time again, only to wind up back in the same stuck place. Rather than more discipline, you may need more of a connection to yourself, because if you can relax into yourself, trust your body’s experiences, feel what you are feeling, and connect to what is important to you, you will move in a direction that is in your best interest.

 

CONNECTING TO YOUR WISDOM PRACTICE

Listen to this practice on YouTube or Soundcloud.
Let’s begin with getting grounded in the present moment. Focus now on the bottoms of your feet. Really see if you can feel any sensations present on the bottoms of your feet. Just notice.

Now, bringing your attention to the parts of your body touching the seat that you are in. If you are standing, you can continue noticing the bottoms of your feet or notice the sensation of your clothes on your body. Wherever your focus, bring your attention to your body touching another object.

Now, turning your attention toward your breath. Breathing in and breathing out.

Notice: where in your physical body does your attention go when you are bringing your awareness to your breath? Where do you feel your breath in your body?

Bringing your attention now to the very end of your inhalation. Take a few breaths focusing on the very end of your inhalation, right before the pause leading to your exhalation.

When you are noticing the very end of your inhalation, where, in your physical body, does your attention lie?

Some hypothesize that this is the physical representation of Wisdom in your body. Breathe into this place, notice this place inside of you. Within Wisdom, there is usually an experience of peace. Some describe this as a settling, much like sand gently settling into the bottom of the ocean.

This is a practice you can take with you anywhere to help settle into your body and your body’s wisdom. Three steps:

  1. Ground yourself by feeling the bottoms of your feet.
  2. Bring yourself solidly into the present moment and notice where your body is touching an object – your clothes or a seat you are sitting in.
  3. Notice where you feel your breath in your physical body. Then start to focus on the very end of your inhalation. Focus on this point, wherever in your body it lies.

You can also practice asking this part of your body, also known as the physical place of  Wisdom inside of you, a question. I like to practice with mundane, daily tasks, like how to prioritize what to do next or whether or not to go get a glass of water. Building a relationship with your body and your Wisdom requires time and attention. The more you ask and are present, the stronger your relationship becomes.


Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 2: Chronicity

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 2: Chronicity

Listen to this article on YouTube or Soundcloud. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 45% of Americans live with a chronic illness. That means almost half of us are living with daily symptoms and do not experience complete wellness! Given this number, chances are that you or someone you love suffers from the grips of a prolonged illness.

Whether the symptoms are severe or just plain annoying, chronic illness can take a heavy toll on a person’s mental health, be physically draining, and affect day-to-day life. Know this: There is help for those living with chronic illness and improving quality of life is within reach.

In part 1 of my Chronic Illness and Mental Health series, I discussed the Unpredictability (link) of Chronic Illness and ways to cope. In this installment, my focus will be on Chronicity and how to face the truth in the service of self-care.

CHRONICITY

The chronic nature of certain illnesses makes coping challenging. Everyone has gone through having a cold or flu, and it is miserable! One consoling thought is that you know it will pass, and you will feel better again; you do not always have that comfort with a chronic illness. In addition to the unpredictability of symptoms, you may not know when or if you will fully recover. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and sometimes those months can turn into years of feeling ill, and it can take its toll. Sometimes you think you are getting better, only to find yourself struggling with symptoms once again.

 

Most of us can cope with short-term emotional and physical pain; we have been through break-ups, death and loss, the stress of losing a job or starting a new one, the pain of childbirth or even a stubbed toe. No, I am not comparing childbirth to a stubbed toe! The point is that we have all survived time-limited emotional and physical pain. When pain is short-lived, we are equipped to cope. The same is true for emotional health. If you see a spider and experience fear or feel nervous anxiety anticipating giving a speech at work, you typically feel the emotion flow through you and then feel relief and move on. An anxiety disorder develops when the feelings and behaviors associated with fear (escape, avoidance) are chronic and do not disappear when the stressful event is over.

With chronic illness, such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, SIBO, painful arthritis, and others, the stressful event does not immediately disappear; your body is under prolonged stress, and your emotions follow. You cannot take a break from illness like taking a vacation from a stressful job. The illness lingers, like a guest overstaying their welcome, until you want to scream at the top of your lungs, “Get out!”

FACE IT 

When you are sick and suffer from a disorder everything else you learn about coping depends on your ability to face the fact that you are sick. Often, in my work with others, I hear people report about various long-term symptoms or diagnoses and then sort of brush it off and act like they do not exist. I can certainly understand why. These illnesses are not welcomed. Who wants to be sick? Who wants a diagnosis predicting long-term illness or recovery? Still, I work with my clients to face the fact that their symptoms are a reality because when we can be honest about this, we can then take the steps needed to cope and maybe even heal. 

PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE

Prioritizing self-care may seem obvious. Nevertheless, it is often overlooked.

What do you need when you are sick? I need lots of extra sleep, quiet downtime and restful activities, food prepared and ready-to-go, and a clear calendar with as few obligations as possible. Yet, people often try to power through when sick, adhering to the same schedule and ignoring that their needs are now different. When dealing with a chronic illness, coping is not as simple as “powering through” until you feel better. In fact, often, this approach can work to your disadvantage.

As mentioned, if you have a cold or flu, you know it will pass. However, when a chronic illness takes hold, it can be necessary to accept long-term limitations and changes in your functioning. This is why facing the reality of your illness symptoms is such an essential prerequisite for self-care. To prioritize self-care, you must first be honest with yourself about what your new limitations are and what you need. This means putting aside what you think you “should” be capable of, what others seem to be able to do, and how you wish you were or how you used to be. This means standing naked, and full-frontal accepting and addressing what you need given your life at this moment. And then, of course, being brave enough to give that to yourself.

Self-care when chronically ill may not feel like pampering. In fact, it can mean saying “no” to activities you enjoy, asking for help or modifications, or telling others that you do not feel well and cannot participate as you once did. Facing these truths can feel devastating. Feeling despair is often part of this process. Notice the specification that despair is part of this process, not all. When you face the ways that chronic illness has changed your life, you need to grieve what you have lost. Just as with losing someone or something you love, if you can allow yourself to grieve, you will move through it and be able to move forward. If you are in this stage and feeling emotionally overwhelmed, try listening to my Welcome Emotions Practice to help you move through this stage of loss.

Remember that grief is not forever and does not mean that you are accepting your illness, as it stands today, indefinitely. Rather, you are mourning the changes in your body that you do not want so that you can clear your path and move forward in the wisest, most empowering way. Frequently, when we accept our situation and allow ourselves to grieve, this paves the way to change. You may find a helpful treatment provider you hadn’t previously considered, adopt a new perspective you did not realize was available, or other doors may open to you that you had not noticed were there. Through allowing yourself to face the reality and trusting this process, you can find meaning, fulfillment, and joy in your life.

BE GENTLE

I know facing your illness and prioritizing the reality of self-care needed now can be difficult, so please be gentle with yourself. Chronic illness is a process. For most, it is a long and winding road. Your needs may change periodically, and your symptoms may fluctuate without notice. As a result, how to best care for yourself can take frequent re-evaluation. Practicing gentle, self-compassion may be the kindest thing you can do. Even gently placing a hand on your heart or using soft, gentle tones with yourself can help ease the difficulty. (Listen to the meditation at the end of this article for a quick and simple practice you can use anywhere.) The tasks you are faced with require fierce bravery. Envelop these courageous steps forward in gentle, loving care, and you will see yourself progress faster and with greater ease.

GENTLE TOUCH PRACTICE

(Adapted from Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and Chris Germer, Ph.D., Mindful Self-Compassion Core Skills Training manual)

Listen to this practice on Youtube or Soundcloud.

An easy way to support ourselves when we are going through a difficult time is to offer self-comforting or a soothing touch.

Start by taking 2-3 nourishing breaths.

Gently place a hand over your heart, simply feeling the gentle pressure and warmth of your hand. If you wish, place both hands over your heart.

Feel the natural rising and falling of your chest as you breathe in and as you breathe out.

Linger with this feeling for as long as you like…

Some people find putting a hand over the heart comforting and this type of touch doesn’t resonate with others. Feel free to explore where on your body a gentle touch is soothing. Let’s try some other possibilities:

Cup you hand over a fist over your heart. Take 2-3 breaths and notice how this feels.

Place one hand over your heart and one on your belly. Again, breath and notice.

Now, place two hands on your belly. With each new position, continuing to breathe and notice how this feels.

Place one hand on your cheek.

Cradle your face in your hands.

Gently stroke your arms.

Cross you arms and give yourself a gentle squeeze.

Gently stroke your chest, back and forth or in small circles. See what feels best.

Allow one hand to tenderly hold the other hand.

Gently cup your hands in your lap.

Take a moment now to notice if there was any one position you liked best, or a gentle touch I didn’t mention that you would like to try. Take the opportunity now to place your hands where they feel most gentle, soothing, and compassionate. Allow your breath to nourish your body as you feel your hands comforting and soothing you.

You can practice this any time you are under stress or use this daily as a reminder to treat yourself with care.


January Newsletter

Welcome to my January Newsletter!

Although some people roll their eyes at this, I love the New Year! In fact, I love any new beginning – the start of the school year, change in seasons, my birthday – anything that symbolizes the birth of something new. I like to use these markers as opportunities for a clean slate; a bright, shiny new future full of possibilities. Can you feel the optimism? I promise, I won’t get New Year’s Resolution-y on you. What I will do is encourage you to use this change on the calendar to dream big and create even more of the life that you want.
If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic illness, this issue of my newsletter is specially designed for you. Read (or listen to) my article about the “chronic” part of chronic illness, how it takes its toll, and what to do about it. Also, I’m sharing a fabulous resource – a naturopathic doctor who specializes in chronic, hard-to-treat illnesses, and is accessible and collaborative with her patients. If you or a loved one struggles with chronic illness, you need all the encouragement and support you can get. My hope is you find that here. There is hope for fulfillment, meaning and plain ol’ fun in your future!
Welcome 2019!
Great News!
All of my blogs, articles, practices, and meditations, are now available on YouTube. You can choose one that feels relevant now, or listen on continuous play while you get in today’s cardio. Also, when you subscribe to my YouTube channel you will be notified whenever I post a new video. Click the YouTube link below and visit my channel today.

FEATURED ARTICLE…

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 2: CHRONICITY

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 45% of Americans live with a chronic illness. That means almost half of us are living with daily symptoms and do not experience complete wellness! Given this number, chances are that you or someone you love suffers from the grips of a prolonged illness.

Continue Reading


DID YOU KNOW?

Functional medicine is a form of “alternative” medicine rising in popularity. Different types of practitioners (MD, OD, ND, L.Ac.) follow functional medicine and use this modality to find and treat the root cause of chronic and other illnesses. Many people turn to this method when conventional medicine has failed. Take a look at my featured professional, Dr. Antonella Aguilera-Ruiz of Wild Lemon Health to learn more.
Dr. Aguilera-Ruiz started her career sharing an office with a psychiatrist and psychologist, and has become well-versed on the inextricable interplay between physical and mental health. She also loves treating “complex” cases and her ideal client comes to her after having been through many doctors either not knowing how to treat, or having treatment failed. If you are grappling with physical and emotional symptoms, and maybe aren’t even sure how or if the two are related, an appointment with Dr. Aguilera-Ruiz is a good place to start. She offers a free initial consultation and affordable on-going care with unlimited access to her. What are you waiting for?! Check out her website and contact her today!
Dr. Aguilera-Ruiz’s Anti-Cleanse
Join Dr. Aguilera-Ruiz’s January Group Program, “Wildly Nourished” to reboot the new year with healthy food, connection, and clarity.

WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

My guided meditations and practices are available in audio form – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, click here!


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

December Newsletter

Welcome to my December Newsletter!

The end of the year is upon us! As it seems to feel every year, time has flown by in the blink of an eye. It is true that our life here is short, and I like to use this as motivation to take a big juicy bite out of everything we can! Why wait until after January 1st to take stock and make changes that you know you need to thrive? The time is NOW! As we wrap up 2018, I would like to challenge you to face the path you want to be on and take a BOLD step forward.
What does your path and bold step look like?
Do you need to stop holding back some part of your personality for fear of others’ reactions? Perhaps slowing down and extending more kindness to yourself and others is a next, big step forward? Maybe you would like to get into shape and feel healthy and alive in your physical body?
Do you need to stop holding back some part of your personality for fear of others’ reactions? Perhaps slowing down and extending more kindness to yourself and others is a next, big step forward? Maybe you would like to get into shape and feel healthy and alive in your physical body? The step you choose is unique to you. There is no wrong answer and everyone may choose something different. Mindfulness is where it all begins. Mindfulness is where it all begins; it is the foundation on which any new habit is built. That’s why I have devoted this newsletter to the topic of, you guessed it, Mindfulness!
In this month’s newsletter…
You will find the final installment of my Body Image and Weight Loss series focused on Self-Compassion. While “self-compassion” sounds straightforward, it is a skill that requires practice to build. A strong base of mindfulness helps facilitate your ability to make use of self-compassion. In this spirit, I have also included two other perspectives from individuals with unique, science-based approaches to mindfulness and mindful eating. Read on to understand the effects on your whole-body health. Since mindfulness is best practiced rather than just understood, as always, I have included a practice this month, focused on self-compassion.
I hope you find something here to brighten your life and set you on the path toward THRIVING!
Happy Holidays!

FEATURED ARTICLE…

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 4: Self-Compassion

Body Image and Weight Loss are generally not topics that people enjoy discussing, yet the conversation is taking place in front of our eyes daily. Simply go outside or turn on any electronic device and you are bombarded with ideas about how you are supposed to look, feel, and even think. It probably does not occur to you to offer self-compassion if you don’t fit the perceived societal mold. The problem is that it not only feeds into the trap of Box Thinking, it also ignores that we are all individuals, and there is no template for the way we are supposed to be.

Continue Reading


ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW…

Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac is a globally recognized leader in the fields of ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine. He also has a talent of dissecting research and presenting the summary in a useful and reader-friendly manner. I have included links to some of his informative articles to help you understand Mindfulness, and get started on a daily Mindfulness routine. Chris is particularly passionate about disseminating information about the gut microbiome and how this affects overall health, including mood and mood disorders, so I have also included a link to an article here. Mindfulness involves awareness of our body and health, including what we feed ourselves and how we are impacted by our nutrition.

DID YOU KNOW?

If you have been going through life thinking in terms of, “Hungry – not hungry,”  or even not knowing whether or not you feel hunger, this book is for you. Jan Chozen-Bays, the author of one of my favorite books,Mindful Eating, explains SEVEN different types of hunger!
Reasons to gift yourself with this book today:
  1. Mindful Eating is a lovely, soothing read. I think of it as the book version of a massage.
  2. With the book, you receive access to 14 guided meditations.
  3. Never does this book shame you into what you “should” do. Rather, Chozen-Bays gently guides you down a path of discovering your likes and dislikes, what fits and what doesn’t.
  4. Jump start your mindfulness practice and learn to eat for your unique body.

WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 4: Self-Compassion

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 4: Self-Compassion

Listen to this article on Soundcloud. Body Image and Weight Loss are generally not topics that people enjoy discussing, yet the conversation is taking place in front of our eyes daily. Simply go outside or turn on any electronic device and you are bombarded with ideas about how you are supposed to look, feel, and even think. It probably does not occur to you to offer self-compassion if you don’t fit the perceived societal mold. The problem is that it not only feeds into the trap of Box Thinking, it also ignores that we are all individuals, and there is no template for the way we are supposed to be.

There are four skill sets that will help you achieve your goal of mastery and confidence over your health and body weight:

    • AWARENESS
    • NONJUDGMENT/CURIOSITY
    • REINFORCEMENT
    • SELF-COMPASSION

In part one of this series I discussed

Awareness, in the second part I reviewed Nonjudgment and Curiosity, and in part three I talked about Reinforcement. In this fourth and final installment of my Body Image and Weight Loss series, the focus is on the skill of Self-Compassion and how it can help you take steps forward.

SELF-COMPASSION

The skill of self-compassion is last, and certainly not least. Self-compassion is the final skill discussed in this series because there are some foundational tools needed to practice this profoundly life-changing way of being. Although self-compassion sounds like a straightforward attitude, it can be the most difficult skill to practice and often requires mastery over the previous three skills before you are able to use self-compassion with regularity.

My Self-Compassion Wake-Up Call

A while ago, I participated in a whole food cleanse that a nutritionist friend of mine was hosting. Her philosophy is all about filling up and treating yourself well, not deprivation. In preparation for our cleanse, an assignment was to tell ourselves three things about our body that we are grateful for before getting out of bed in the morning. I thought this would be easy. After all, I am a psychologist, I see myself as reasonably emotionally aware, and I am all for gratitude and self-compassion.

The first morning came, and I laid there, thinking. Moments passed, and I was still thinking, trying to come up with one piece of gratitude I could offer by body. This was a time in my life when I was plagued with an illness, and my body was often in pain. I had gained weight despite my healthy behaviors, and was experiencing many other unpleasant and difficult-to-diagnose symptoms. I laid there and could not come up with one single thing for which I was grateful. In fact, I started to notice angry thoughts about how my body was not functioning as I wanted. My attempted practice at gratitude shifted to a mental “F— YOU!” to my poor body.

Luckily, I had several years under my belt of practicing mindful awareness, nonjudgment, curiosity, and reinforcement. I was able to notice what was happening, and instead of being overwhelmed with shame that I could not complete the assignment, I decided I needed to practice self-compassion. (Don’t get me wrong, Shame made a strong appearance, I just decided that she was not going to make my decisions.) I made a commitment to myself to physically touch some part of my body (hands, arms, legs) every morning and say words of kind, gentle, compassion, whether or not I believed them.

Some days this felt aversive, and unpleasant, and other days it felt neutral or even somewhat soothing. This is often how the practice of self-compassion goes: it starts out awkward or even quite uncomfortable, and requires much practice to feel soothing and comfort. If you have spent years telling your body it sucks, it is going to take a while for your body to become accustomed to receiving soft, nurturing messages. Eventually, with daily practice, you gently learn to talk to yourself in a much nicer and more reinforcing way. Building this skill helps you maintain all of the behaviors you have worked so hard to change.

 

Getting started with Self-Compassion

Whether you are struggling with weight, body image, or anything associated with those concerns, you can start today by taking a step down a path towards the person that you want to be. Here are some suggestions for getting started with a self-compassion practice.

 

  • PHRASES: Find a short phrase you can repeatedly say to yourself, day after day, that shows compassion. Ideally, phrases are short, easy to memorize, and feel important and relevant to you. Some examples are:

“May I receive kindness and love.” 

“May I be happy, healthy, and at ease.”

“May I learn to accept myself as I am.”

Using “May I” ensures not only that the language is gentle, but also that you are able to receive it. For instance, if you struggle with self-acceptance and then state to yourself the affirmation, “I accept myself totally and fully, exactly as I am,” this is inviting resistance.

First of all, it isn’t true, and your body knows that. Don’t lie to yourself. It feels disingenuous, and it is going to be hard to keep up a daily practice saying something that feels inauthentic. Instead, make this an offering, not a demand. Try it both ways – a strong affirmation vs. a gentle offering – and notice how each feels to you. Typically, my clients report the gentle offering feeling softer, less intense, and easier to accept. That’s what we’re going for here.

  • TOUCH: Practice gently placing your hands on your body in a way that is soft and sweet. Some choices are: holding one hand with your other hand, gently stroking your arm, or giving your arm a soft squeeze, placing one or both hands over your heart, cupping your face with your hands, or lovingly placing your hands on your belly. Try out these suggestions and give each a few moments to see how you feel. Choose the one you feel most comforted by to incorporate into your daily practice.
  • WRITING: Write yourself a sweet, compassionate letter.

Think about a situation in which you are struggling; maybe something about yourself you don’t like and are harsh about, some way you feel as though you are failing, or a situation that has you feeling emotional pain. Write a letter to yourself as though you were writing to a dear, sweet friend who was struggling with the exact same situation. If this is difficult, write from the perspective of the loving friend writing you the letter. Offer words of support, compassion, and tenderness. After the letter is complete, read it often.

The key with all of these practices is to PRACTICE. Self-compassion is a gentle process that requires repetition over time. The practice of self-compassion is not one that you can understand intellectually or experience once or twice and expect it to make a daily impact. Rather, by practicing self-compassion, you are changing how you relate to yourself. You are learning to be tender and sweet, and this takes time.

Self-compassion is a place that is ripe for change. In other words, when you have a supportive, loving, nurturing environment, you are then free to honestly look at behaviors that are not working for you (e.g., eating, exercise, the way you are engaging in a particular relationship), and get to work changing them. Instead of having a drill sergeant yelling that you are doing things wrong, you create the feel of a loving grandparent, understanding and wise. Without the harsh judgment, you slowly (and surely) become unafraid to look inside. When we can truly look at ourselves, plainly and without judgment, then we can go about making lasting change.

 

SELF-COMPASSION PRACTICE: GENTLE BREATHING

(Modified from Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and Chris Germer, Ph.D., Mindful Self-Compassion Core Skills Training manual)

Listen to this practice on Soundcloud or Youtube.

Find a posture in which your body is comfortable and will feel supported for the length of the meditation.

Let your eyes gently close. Take a few slow, easy breaths, releasing any unnecessary tension from your body that is able to let go and be released in this moment.

If you like, place a hand over your heart or another soothing place as a reminder that you are bringing not only awareness, but affectionate awareness, to your breathing and to yourself. You can leave your hand where it is or let it rest at any time, whatever is most comfortable.

Beginning to notice your breathing in your body, feeling your body breathe in and feeling your body breathe out.

Just letting your body breathe you. There is nothing you need to do.

Perhaps noticing how your body is nourished on the in-breath and relaxes with the out-breath.

Now noticing the rhythm of your breathing, flowing in and flowing out. Taking some time to feel the natural rhythm of your breathing.

Feeling your whole body subtly moving with the breath, like the movement of the sea.

Your mind will naturally wander like a curious child or a little puppy. When that happens, gently return to the rhythm of your breathing.

Allowing your whole body to be gently rocked and caressed – internally caressed – by your breathing.

If you like, even giving yourself over to your breathing, letting your breathing be all there is. Becoming the breath.

Just breathing. Being breathing.

And now, gently release your attention to the breath, sitting quietly in your own experience, and allowing yourself to feel whatever you are feeling, and to be just as you are.

Slowly, at your own pace and in no rush, gently open your eyes.

 


November Newsletter

Welcome to my November Newsletter!

Happy Thanksgiving! What an exhausting time of year this can be! Even if you love the holidays and enjoy robust health, the drop in temperature, colds and flus, and general busy-ness of the season can make it difficult to motivate. If you suffer from chronic illness, this time of year can also feel depleting. Please don’t despair! In this month’s newsletter, you will find…
  • The first installment in my series on Chronic Illness. Chronic, debilitating, and auto-immune disorders seem to be the norm for many nowadays. Even if you do not suffer, you may have a loved one struggling with illness, and my article can help give you some insight and understanding into their experience. Don’t worry – it is not all doom and gloom! Yes, I want to explain and understand hardships, AND I also want to give you a path forward, so read ahead for coping strategies.
  • Also an antidote to illness and stress, you might enjoy knowing more about the Psychology of Laughter. Not only is laughter powerful medicine, it also burns calories, relaxes the body, boosts your immune system, and promotes heart health! In this spirit, I’ve attached some comedy clips for you to enjoy, and I encourage you to watch some of your favorite comedians.
  • Yet another impactful way to support your body is through Mindful Exercise. Meet Owen Dockham, founder and owner of Live Oak Strength. His unique, science-backed approach to exercise and aging well, supports people at all fitness levels, from yoked-out gym rat to Sedentary Sally.
As always, I hope you find something here to brighten your days. After all, life is too short just to survive, that’s why I help people THRIVE!

FEATURED ARTICLE…

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 1: The Unpredictability of Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. You may deal with varying degrees of disability; from brain fog that affects your ability to concentrate and remember, to intense pain that affects your joints and ability to move freely in your body. You may even have “wandering” symptoms, which means that you experience different symptoms from day-to-day or week-to-week, and are never sure what to expect from your body. Sometimes symptoms might even be vague and hard to describe; even though you know something is off in your body, you are not experiencing the vitality you once did.

Continue Reading


ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW…

My friend and colleague, Owen Dockham is a certified personal trainer, the founder of Live Oak Strength in the East Bay, California, and co-founder of EverStrongSF in San Francisco in the Lower Haight. (A possible sister location may be opening up in your area of California soon. Stay tuned!) I first attended a fitness class run by Owen in 2011 and have followed him as he expanded to open his own studio offering a super-safe, amazingly effective way to build muscle, strengthen joints, and improve bone density. I started this “Super-Slow” weight lifting workout in October 2016 when I was in a lot of joint and muscle pain and my body was not cooperating with other types of exercise. I have been at it once a week ever since. Did I mention this workout is only once, or maximum twice a week for 20 minutes?! Yep, that’s it! A major component of this exercise is that the muscles need to rest so that they can properly repair and strengthen. I believe in this workout so strongly as I have seen it help already buff people get more muscle tone and definition and senior citizens able to use this method to stay mobile, healthy, and minimize body pain. I continue to learn so much from Owen and his workout protocol. Another selling point for me is that this method is science-backed and based in research. (You can read more about it in the book Body by Science, if you’re interested). To learn more about Owen or high-intensity resistance training, check out his websites.

DID YOU KNOW…

You have certainly heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine!” and research shows us this is true. From lowering stress hormones to momentarily distracting you from painful experiences, laughter provides many health and quality-of-life benefits. You don’t have to take my word for it: check out these articles on the medicine of laughter and learn for yourself how powerful this tool can be. And the next time you need a boost, find a way to evoke a big belly laugh! Remember, it’s great for your health.
SPEAKING OF THE MEDICINE OF LAUGHTER…
Speaking of the medicine of laughter, I am a huge comedy fan. My husband and I love seeing comedians perform live and attend comedy shows whenever we can. I encourage you to brainstorm a few ways you can bring more laughter into your life. For inspiration, check out these brief comedy clips and see what tickles you. (Brian Regan is a personal, long-time favorite of mine. I laugh until I cry – the fun kind.) Enjoy!

JOIN ME ON INSTAGRAM…


Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram. I post a few times a week, so follow @drbando for tips, encouragement, and suggestions to help you thrive.


WANT MORE?

My recent articles, guided meditations, and practices are always available with an audio option – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, please visit either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 1: The Unpredictability of Chronic Illness

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 1: The Unpredictability of Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. You may deal with varying degrees of disability; from brain fog that affects your ability to concentrate and remember, to intense pain that affects your joints and ability to move freely in your body. You may even have “wandering” symptoms, which means that you experience different symptoms from day-to-day or week-to-week, and are never sure what to expect from your body. Sometimes symptoms might even be vague and hard to describe; even though you know something is off in your body, you are not experiencing the vitality you once did.

Listen to the audio version of this article on Soundcloud or YouTube.

When your body is in pain or compromised in some way, it can be physically draining. Your immune system may be working hard to try to keep up, and physical exhaustion, or just plain feeling sluggish, is a common experience. After a while, this tends to take an emotional toll.

I don’t know about you, but after a few days of having a bad cold or the flu, I feel emotionally vulnerable and start to wonder if I’m feeling depressed. This is because when we are sick, our bodies adopt the posture and functioning of someone whose mental health is compromised. You may hunch over, need to rest in bed often, find daily tasks more difficult, or find yourself zoning out and unable to focus. When these types of sickness symptoms happen, our brain, which picks up a lot of information from our body, thinks we are depressed, anxious, or in some way emotionally unhappy. It can become a struggle to maintain a balanced mood when your body is working against it.

If this is you, don’t despair; there is help for those living with chronic illness, and improving your quality of life is within reach. First, we will look at reasons chronic illness is difficult to cope with – the more you understand, the better equipped you are to handle the problem. Then, we will jump into coping strategies to increase your sense of well-being and quality of life.

UNPREDICTABILITY

If you suffer from an illness that causes your symptoms to change and rotate, you are no stranger to unpredictability. There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing how you will physically feel when you wake up in the morning: not knowing how this will affect your ability to engage during the day ahead.

For example, some people experience joint or muscle pain that comes and goes in varying intensities. On some days, they are able to walk and hike, but on others, walking from the parking lot to a restaurant is painful, and this affects their ability to make plans with friends and loved ones. Imagine hearing of a concert you would love to attend, and then not knowing whether you will be able to walk to your seat or stand and enjoy the music.

The unpredictability of symptoms makes it nearly impossible to plan ahead. Your social life may suffer, and relationships can take a toll if you repeatedly cancel plans at the last minute because of unforeseen physical symptoms. Even clothing can be a problem for some. Clothes can fit one week, and then become tight and pinching the next, due to swelling and bloating, or they can become loose and hanging because of unwanted weight loss.

You may have to continually ask yourself questions that healthy people do not give a second thought:

  • Will walking or standing be so painful that you must think ahead to make sure you can park close enough wherever you travel?
  • Are you able to fit into and wear comfortable clothes, or will finding something that fits be an added task and stressor?
  • Will you be able to focus at work and engage in a meeting, or forget what you wanted to contribute and not be able to participate articulately?
  • Are you tired and counting the hours until you can rest again?

Being unable to predict how your body will feel or function from day-to-day adds the unwanted burden of thinking through everything you do. When you feel well, you take for granted all the tasks and situations that are automated. It’s like moving to a strange home and having to learn where everything is. Instead of getting up and starting your day, you must think about where the toothbrush and toothpaste are, where you put your morning coffee mug, where to sit and settle in for breakfast instead of already having a favorite seat, etc. Every decision requires thought, and although each decision is not taxing on its own, when you put them all together, it is exhausting! This is similar to what unpredictability of symptoms from a chronic illness can feel like, day after day.

HOW TO COPE

 

SELF-COMPASSION

When loved ones you care about are in pain, your natural desire is to soften. You talk in soothing tones, try to be helpful, maybe put a gentle hand on their shoulder, or offer a hug. You instinctively understand that being caring is what is needed when someone is struggling. However, most of us often don’t apply this same understanding to ourselves.

When you are having a tough time, do you respond by telling yourself to “buck up” and “push through”, not wanting to ask for help, while berating yourself for having a challenging time in the first place? If so, you are not alone. Self-criticism is rampant in our world, and this is unfortunate because not only does this make pain more difficult to tolerate, it also often slows our progress and prevents clear problem solving.

If you’d like to understand this better, try this little exercise: Take out a pen and paper and write down some of the things that you say to yourself when you are not being kind.

My favorites: “You are so stupid!” “Geez, you can’t do anything. What a failure.” “You are so ugly; you should be ashamed. Just look at you.”

Without censoring, write down those phrases you use to tell yourself you are unworthy and undeserving of love and respect.

Now, close your eyes and imagine a chair in front of you. Imagine someone you love dearly just came and sat down in this chair. Try to picture this person vividly, and feel the sense of love and gratitude you have for this person well up inside of you. Now, tell the person the phrases you use to berate yourself but direct the words toward your loved one. If you tell yourself you are a failure, say to your loved one that he or she is a failure. Use the tone and emphasis you use toward yourself and don’t hold back. Imagine your loved one receiving your words and watch their reaction. What happens? How do they feel? How do you feel?

I tried this exercise in a workshop once, and I couldn’t get past the first few words. In my imagination, my loved one started crying, hunched over and horrified by the hurtful words I hurled toward him. I couldn’t even go on. Now, imagine, this is what you have been doing to yourself.

When illness happens, you are compromised. You cannot function at 100% and perform as you do when you are feeling healthy. When you are in this state, you need compassion more than ever: It does not make sense to kick yourself when you are down. That only puts you in more pain, and you feel greater defeat and inability to cope.

Replacing self-criticism with a compassionate gesture or words can soften the blow, allow you to release the pressure valve, and help you gain the strength and confidence to cope.

Imagine not being able to concentrate or perform as well as you would like and rather than saying the words you identified above, instead, you place a soft hand over your heart, or gently hold your other hand, and say something sweet, such as, “Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry you’re suffering in this moment.” Sound awkward? That’s a sign you need some practice!

Dr. Kristen Neff developed Mindful Self Compassion, a set of skills to practice changing your harsh self-stance to one of love, gentleness, understanding, and of course, compassion. On her website, she generously provides guided meditations and suggested practices. If you would like to learn more, check out her offerings and start gently practicing. https://self-compassion.org/ Also, listen to my guided meditation on feeling supported and connected at the end of this article.

CLEAR, UNAPOLOGETIC COMMUNICATION

When you are compromised by illness, it is a common experience to feel shame. Embarrassment that you are not functioning as you previously did, or as you or others expect, can get in the way of asking for help or being clear about your abilities and limits.

I have a friend who, unbeknownst to me, was suffering from a severe autoimmune disorder. For a while, I experienced her as rigid, demanding, and defensive, and did not want to spend much time around her as a result. When she finally (and tearfully) told me she was sick and suffering and was acting differently because she was embarrassed and did not want to ask for help, all of my irritation and intolerance melted and I was filled with compassion for her. Instead of wanting to check out of the relationship, her communication made me want to know more, be more understanding, and offer any help I could.

When my friend clearly and directly communicated with me what was going on with her health, how it was affecting her, and what she needed, I was no longer in the dark. I was now provided with context if she canceled plans last minute or needed to rest instead of going on a hike.

Being candid about what you want and need, without apologizing for yourself, and simply stating how things are, can be empowering. If you can put aside the judgments of how you think you “should” feel or what you “should” be doing, and instead respond to the facts of the situation and what you need and want, everybody is happier, including you.

If you are embarrassed or feel shame because you are sick and you respond by hiding (the action urge for shame and embarrassment), you are reinforcing the message that you should be ashamed of yourself. When you are sick, and you feel embarrassed, but then you ask for help anyway, set limits, or let people know what you are struggling with, you give yourself the message that you deserve to be cared for, acknowledged, and that this sickness is not your fault.

When you are coping with chronic illness, communication can prove difficult, especially if symptoms wax and wane in an unpredictable fashion. Because of this, you may not know how to describe how you feel, what to ask for, or what limits to set. In this case, just stating that you are unsure what is going on with you or what to ask for can be clarifying to your loved ones and validating to yourself. The clearer you can be about your current experience, without judgment, the better able you will be to set appropriate limits and gain support, connection, and understanding.

 

Guided Mindfulness Practice for Finding Connection and Support

Listen to the audio version of this practice on Soundcloud or YouTube.

(Modified from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan.)

An effective way to participate in this meditation is not to get too caught up in thinking about the words. Rather, settle into your breath, your body, and let the words gently float through you, allowing yourself to be just as you are in this moment.

Start by noticing your breath in your body. You do not have to alter or change your breathing. Your breath is perfect as it is. Just notice the feeling of your inhalation and exhalation and how your whole body is involved in this movement of breath.

Focus your attention on your feet touching the ground. Consider the kindness of the ground holding you up, providing a path for you to get to other things, not letting you fall away from everything else.

Focus your attention on your body touching the chair you sit in. Consider how the chair accepts you totally, holds you up, supports your back, and keeps you from falling onto the floor.

Focus your attention on the clothes on your body. Consider the touch of your clothes holding you, surrounding and keeping you warm and comfortable.

If you are indoors, consider the walls in the room. They keep out the wind and the cold and the rain. Think of how the walls are connected to you through the floor and the air in the room. Experience your connection to the walls that provide you with a secure place to do things.

Now, focus your attention on where your body touches an object: floor or ground, air molecules, a chair or armrest, your clothes, you choose. Try to see all the ways you are connected to and accepted by that object. Consider the function of that object in relation to you. That is, consider what the object does for you. Consider its kindness in doing that. Experience the sensation of touching the object, and focus your entire attention on that kindness and notice if you begin to feel a sense of being connected, loved, or cared for arising in your heart.

Continue to notice objects you are connected to and supported by throughout your day. Whenever you are needing a bit more support and comfort, see if you can identify ways that objects around you are kindly providing their support. Breathe this support in and feel connected to the world around you.


October Newsletter

Welcome to my October Newsletter!

As we approach the end of October, we are now deep into Autumn; falling leaves, hot drinks, and sweaters abound. With the change in environment, and more darkness than light each 24 hours, we can experience fatigue and a sense of turning inwards. At the same time, all of our responsibilities remain, and energy is required to keep up with the typical pace of life, all while being aware that the planning of holiday festivities is just around the corner. While many of us enjoy the Fall, we may also find ourselves depleted, and motivation to maintain healthy behaviors may wane. If you are feeling a dip in your get-up-and-go, don’t despair. Take a breath (or three), let go of self-judgment, and read on for some helpful skills and strategies to keep you moving in a forward direction, even if it is at a slower, more gentle pace than the previous months. Remember, the turtle won the race.

In this issue, you will find a link to follow me on Instagram. “Dr. Bando” is new to Instagram and I am having so much fun posting up encouragement and useful links. You will also find an article related to body image and weight loss plus how to reinforce yourself in a way that supports lasting change. While you’re here, meet my colleague, Jennifer Joffe, health coach extraordinaire. Her story is inspiring and her work may help change your life for the better (think big!). Lastly, if you are interested in nutrition, lifestyle, and aging well and you’ve not yet heard of Dr. Rhonda Patrick, do yourself a favor and check out her summary of the research on sugar. You’re welcome.

Thank you so much for reading. I put out this monthly newsletter for no charge and develop all of the pieces on my own time. I do this with loving care because my hope is that something here nourishes you and adds joy, hope, and vibrancy to your life. Happy exploring!


FEATURED ARTICLE…

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 3: Reinforcement

It is nearly impossible to turn on your TV, go online, or even go out in public without being bombarded by society’s idea of the ideal body. It is not only frustrating, but it can also be extremely discouraging. Experiencing this way of thinking on a regular basis can reinforce a “box thinking” mindset, that there is a particular way that each of us is supposed to look. This also makes it harder to take those steps towards change. Luckily, there is a way to overcome the feelings of stagnation and defeat with reinforcement.

Continue Reading


ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW…

Jennifer Joffe is an Integrative Health Coach who focuses on self-love and compassion to help you realize the weight and lifestyle that best feeds you. She, herself, has lost over 100 pounds and coaches others to achieve a healthy self-image and develop a body in which you can move and feel free. Her style is no-nonsense, down-to-earth and compassionate. She is in the trenches with you. Jennifer has been there and done that and receives her clients’ stories and struggles with nonjudgment, fierce encouragement, and accountability. You can read about Jennifer’s inspiring story here, find out more about her health coaching program, Project Healthy Body here, and if you do some Google searching, can probably find a video of her Today Show appearance. Yep, she is that fierce and inspiring. Of my clients who have opted into her program over the years, they have all reported significant health benefits, more insight into what drives them and who they want to be, and overall feel empowered, healthy and able to enjoy life.

DID YOU KNOW…

If you ask functional medicine doctors and most holistic health practitioners, they will tell you it is no coincidence that flu and cold season exists from October through February. The reason? SUGAR! We end October with Halloween candy and roll right into overstuffed Thanksgiving followed by cookie season, and then ride out the hangover through Valentine’s Day when chocolate is the traditional gift. If you L-O-V-E sugar on the holidays, you have no judgment coming from me. Our environment is not set up for us to sidestep sugar. It takes tons of resolve, pre-planning and careful self-guided reinforcement to avoid this tempting and very addictive trap. Maybe you are toying with the idea of cutting back on sugar and could use a little push? Perhaps you haven’t been thinking about it but would like to know more? Check out this informative video from Dr. Rhonda Patrick, who has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science and is a passionate educator teaching people how to live and age well. I have also provided a link to her website where she lists two pages of articles you can click and read about the effects of sugar on the body. Once you know, you know


JOIN ME ON INSTAGRAM…


I recently started posting to Instagram and I’d love your comments! Follow me here and comment away: What do you like or not like? Do certain images or messages resonate? Do you find there is a piece missing or have a question and would like to know more? Your comments and interests drive my posts and writing. The more I hear from you about what works and what doesn’t, the better able I am to deliver high-quality, useful goodies. So, check out @drbando on Instagram and I’ll see you there!


WANT MORE?

My recent articles and guided meditations and practices are now available with an audio option – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, please visit my Soundcloud page.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

© 2017 Amanda Gale Bando Phd · Designed and Developed by D-Kode Technology

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando