Archive for ‘Stress Transformation’

August 24, 2017

#532 – What to Do at the Beach When You Have RA #4


Put away your phone. Put down your book. Stop chatting.

For the next few minutes get into the zone. Let yourself be transported by the grace of nature into a place that resonates with the beat of your heart.

To do:

  1. Go to your favourite beach.
  2. Get comfy, either on the sand, a chair, the dock or a log.
  3. Pause.
  4. Exhale slowly to the count of 5 or 6.
  5. Inhale slowly to the count of 5 or 6.
  6. Establish a nice smooth rhythm which you will continue for Steps 7 to 10.
  7. Gently shift your attention to your hearing. Notice the symphony of sounds such as the water lapping along the shore, the wind whistling in your ears, the birds singing, etc.
  8. Next, pay attention to what you see. Nature has provided a living landscape for you to enjoy. Notice the colours, the light, the patterns, etc.
  9. Finally, notice your breath. How do you feel? Is there any tightness anywhere? What does the sand feel like under your feet? How does it feel when the sun kisses your skin? Perhaps your feet are being massaged by the water at the shore – what does that feel like? Has your mind quieted down? Do you feel more peaceful?
  10. Repeat often.





March 1, 2017

#518 – ºFloatingº○°○°

I’m always interested in experiencing new things, especially if they can augment my health.flotation pod

Over the last year or so, float tanks have been consistently offered on the Daily Deal sites such as Groupon. After reading about Flotation Tanks in Tools for Titans by Tim Ferris, I decided to take the plunge.☺ After all, I am a water baby.

Here is what Dr. Dan Engle had to say on page 110:

[Floating in an isolation tank] is the first time that we’ve been without sensory experience, sensory environmental stimuli, since we were conceived. There is no sound, no sight, no temperature gradient, and no gravity. So all of the brain’s searching and gating* information from the environment is relaxed. Everything that was in the background – kind of ‘behind the curtain’ – can now be exposed. When done consistently over time, it’s essentially like meditation on steroids. It starts to re-calibrate the entire neuroendocrine system. People who are running in stress mode or sympathetic overdrive start to relax that over time, and you get this bleed-over effect into everyday life. It’s not just what happens in the tanks.It continues outside of the tank. You see heart rate normalize, hypertension normalize, cortisol normalize. Pain start to resolve. Metabolic issues start to resolve.

Anxiety, insomnia, and mental chattering can be significantly improved in [2 to 3 times per week for a total of] anywhere between 3 and 7 sessions. For pain, it’s normally 7 to 10 sessions. I recommend doing a 2-hour float if people are able.

Apparently, it is more beneficial to do a 2-hour session, but for some people, the monkey-mind may rule. In that case a 1-hour session may be a better choice.

*Sensory gating describes neurological processes of filtering out redundant or unnecessary stimuli in the brain from all possible environmental stimuli. Also referred to as gating or filtering, sensory gating prevents an overload of irrelevant information in the higher cortical centers of the brain. ~ Wikipedia

My experience

When I entered the private room and saw the pod, the first thing that came to my mind was the movie Cocoon. Extrapolating from what Dr. Engle said, I suppose a regular float sessions could serve to slow down the aging process. With your mental and physical aches and pains out of the way, you might very well have a spring in your step.

The 98 degree water is 9 inches deep. When you float you can close the pod for complete darkness. You also have the option of coloured lights.

I have difficulty getting down on the floor. If I could change 3 things to make it easier, it would be:

  1. The pod should have a wider “lip”, which would make it easier to rest upon as you transfer into the water. (This is a design issue.)
  2. A low stool which can be put into the pod to augment getting in and out.
  3. A rubber mat, so the anti-slip floor doesn’t dig into your knees, especially since it may take awhile to get in or out, if you have mobility issues.

I was told that some people fall asleep, which I was hoping to do. However, 5 things prevented that from happening:

  1. The novelty of the experience.
  2. I was “busy” thinking about how I would write this up as a blog post.
  3. I had other things to do that day, so I was thinking about them.
  4. As a swimmer, I “felt” like I should be “doing something”.
  5. I started thinking about having to go to the bathroom!

What I noticed:

  • I was quite tired, hungry and thirsty when I finished my session.
  • Later in the day, the pain in my lower back and shoulders had dissipated.

My second experience

With the novelty out of the way, I was able to quiet the chatter in my head and simply float. Ahhhh!


  1. If possible, before you book, check out the facility to see if it suits your level of mobility.
  2. You want an empty bladder before you enter the pod. It’s probably best not to drink too much prior to going.
  3. The edge of the tank is quite slippery. Drape some wash cloths or towels over the edge where you place your hands. This will give you a better grip.
  4. Schedule it later in the day when you don’t have much to do afterwards.
  5. Bring water and a healthy snack to consume on the way home.

How I would design the tank

These pods are not very conducive to people who have mobility issues, which is unfortunate because I think there would be lots to gain from this experience. It was hard enough for me to get in and out, but for someone who is in a wheelchair, it would be next to impossible.

If I were designing  the flotation pod, I would make it with a wide lip for the transfer, with grab bars for safety.  I would also have a reclining bath lift, similar to this, so that the person could transfer easily from the chair, onto the wide lip, then into the water.

I’ve seen another model that looks more like an enclosed shower stall. Perhaps these could be more easily adapted for people with mobility issues.

January 19, 2017

#515 – Lose Yourself (in an Activity)

I’ve found that getting immersed in something other than my disease is a good way to forget, if only for a while, that I haveonceuponpiecepaper a chronic illness. When you focus on the pain, it tends to reinforce that pain.

Researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf used an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and discovered that mental distractions helped to inhibit the response to incoming pain signals. It was found that endogenous (naturally-produced) opoids reduced the amount of pain signals travelling to the higher-order brain regions. Study participants were given memory tests at the same time as heat was applied to their arms. As the participants devoted more attention to the problems they were given, the fMRI detected less activity in the spinal cord, which equated to the perception of less pain.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) helps people develop alternate ways of thinking and behaving in order to reduce their psychological stress. The pain study shows how CBT can play a role in pain management, as well.

There are a number of ways in which you can distract yourself:

  • Learn a language.
  • Take a course.
  • Join a singing group.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Lose yourself in an art activity.

One word of advice: Get good at listening to your body. Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. If you take an outside course, you may wish to let the instructor know that you may have restrictions and/or that you may need more time to complete the activity/lesson.

To get you started, I have an activity that you can do on your own terms. Please see my giveaway on Auntie Stress Café for Once Upon a Piece of Paper – a collage kit that shows you how to play with paper (again). All you need are scissors, glue and your imagination to transport you into the world of creativity (and less pain). The kit comes complete with starter ideas and a packet of 100 printed pages ready for you to use. If you already use coloring books to help you be more mindful (and playful), Once Upon a Piece of Paper is billed as the next step up.

The giveaway, which is open to anyone, anywhere, closes at PT, on Friday, January 20th, 2017. Visit Giveaway: Creativity with Once Upon a Piece of Paper to find out how you can enter.

Related posts:

January 17, 2014

#499 – A dash of this, a pinch of that


A very long time ago!

“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” so goes a politically incorrect reference to opera singers.

As you can see by this image, the fat lady has slimmed down considerably—80 pounds, to be exact—and although this blog is soon coming to a close, you can still read my posts over on Auntie Stress Café (ASC) – no singing, though. At least, not on either of my blogs! As for the weight, yo-yo would be a good word to use. Although, in recent years I’ve either maintained or watched the numbers on the scale decrease. But that’s a story for a whole other blog.

Incidentally, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about a year before that picture was taken. It’s been a long journey, fraught with tears, pain, sadness, contentment, laughter, disappointments, satisfaction, worry, uncertainty, frustration, anger, depression, loneliness, calm, joy, peace, … in other words, life!

We all have a story to tell, secrets to keep, gifts to give and love to share. A Rheumful of Tips (ART) is my gift to you.

So, on my second-to-last post I’d like to share a few final thoughts that didn’t make it into full-blown posts.


Always check your prescription when you get home. Recently, I discovered that although the medication was correct, the dosage was 5 times greater than prescribed!

Delivery Drivers

Admittedly, this one doesn’t have the potential for dire consequences, but it is annoying. The phone rang once, twice, and then stopped before I could get it. It turns out that it was supposed to be a door-to-door delivery; unfortunately, the driver was in too much of a hurry to wait. I promptly emailed the company and got a standard response that might as well have said, “Yeah, we care, but don’t expect us to make any improvements.” I also mentioned it when I picked up the parcel. “We hear the same thing from seniors and many people who have disabilities.” Well, if that is the case, why aren’t the drivers told to wait a little longer? Have you experienced anything similar?

Adjust your attitude

Recently, I came across two blog posts that resonated with me. Both these women have made a decision, one that demonstrates an incredible capacity to live well, in spite of the mercurial nature of rheumatoid arthritis. The sooner you can come to terms with your disease—and it does take time—the better off you will be. I hope you’ll enjoy the posts on  Beating Rheumatoid Arthritis and The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo as much as I did.


Keep track of when you have your flare-ups. Is there a pattern? What is going on in your life. Specifically, how are you responding to the events that are swirling around you? Perhaps you notice that you always flare at holidays? Several things could be at play. You may associate your holidays with past ones like ‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly…Or Is It?

The downtime may signal the crash that is preceded by months of high cortisol levels. Remember that cortisol is cumulative. You may have “held on”, until it was more “convenient” to get sick. How many of you have become ill while on vacation? It’s important to see if there is a pattern. If there is, you can be proactive and make some changes.

Although the stress techniques I teach are not meditative in nature, they do induce mindfulness, which as this one study shows, proves beneficial in the extinguishing of those inflammatory fires that are all to common in a rheumatoid disease flare-up. Call or email if you’d like to find out more about how I can help you help yourself. Programs are only five weeks long – the effects last a lifetime!


One thing I know is that I would never have had the courage to write this blog had it not been for the growth I’ve experienced from my stress transformation. I believe that when you feel better, you do better.

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