Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Quotes of Hope and Inspiration for the New Year

There are millions of quotes about every aspect of life. Too many to list of course, I wanted to share some of the more powerful ones for me; the ones that help me find strength as I cope with the chronic pain from dystonia. I hope you find some that resonate with you that you can embrace and put into practice in your life.

I often like to pick just one quote, affirmation, saying, prayer, etc., put it to memory, and refer to it as I go about my day. I do my best to really feel what the words are saying and apply them when I need perspective and clarity about something. Sometimes I will take one quote (the first one by Helen Keller is a great example) and play with it for a week or more until it becomes part of me and shifts my thinking. Use them how you feel is most appropriate for your life. Please also share your favorite quotes in the comments section below. Thank you and peace and happiness to you in 2017!

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. Helen Keller ~


I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something.Neil Gaiman ~

Life is deep and simple. What our society gives us is shallow and complicated. Be a first rate version of yourself. Not a second rate version of someone else. ~ Unknown ~

Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming. ~ John Wooden ~

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.Robert H. Schuller ~


The successful know that the road to success is always under construction; they understand the roughness of it and never expected it to be smooth.Hernert O Nobleman ~

There comes a time in your life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life. Getting back up is living.Unknown ~


Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, 'It will be happier.'  ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson ~

If we continue to think and act the same way, we will continue to get the same results. We must be willing to think and act differently if we want to change.Unknown ~

In life we don't get do overs. We get do betters. Acknowledge all of your do betters.  ~ Tom Seaman ~


Stay positive and happy. Work hard and don't give up hope. Be open to criticism and keep learning. Surround yourself with happy, warm and genuine people.  ~ Tena Desae ~


You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individual. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.Marie Curie ~

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. ~ John Wooden ~


No matter the number of times you fail you must be determined to succeed. You must not lose hope. Don't stop in your storm. Don't give up so easily.Tony Narams ~

I'm not giving up. I'm just starting over.Unknown ~

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller ~


Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don't. You are in good company... You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope.John Piper ~

Even your past pain can be a blessing to someone. Hopelifters are willing to reach back and pass hope on. Kathe Wunnenberg ~



Visualize something totally funny or crazy! This will instantly change how you feel because you can't visualize two things at the same time.Mark Snyder ~

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.Bil Keane ~

When you pray be careful of how you respond to what you get. If you pray for rain, don't complain about the mud!Hyacinth Mottley ~


Do what you want and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.Dr. Seuss ~

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.  ~ Mark Twain ~

I love you. Thank you. Please forgive me. I'm sorry.ho’oponopono ~ (ancient Hawaiian healing practice)

Happiness isn’t a state, it’s a skill. It’s the skill of knowing how to take what life throws your way and make the most of it.Gary Null ~


The mind is like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive experiences.Rick Hanson ~

Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.Winston Churchill ~

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.Elisabeth Kubler-Ross ~


When you’re good to yourself, you’re being good to everyone around you because when you feel good, you’ll only react well to other people. At the same time, it’s very easy for you to do things for other people when you know that other people are just an extension of yourself.Anita Moorjani ~

Let go of what has happened. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try to figure anything out. Don’t try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest. ~ Unknown ~

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.Lao Tzu ~

What seems nasty, painful, or evil can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.Henry Miller ~

Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.Stephen King ~ (most well known from the movie "Shawshank Redemption")


We are visitors on this planet. We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives. If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet ~

If you want to be sad, no one in the world can make you happy. But if you make up your mind to be happy, no one and nothing on earth can take that happiness from you. Paramhansa Yogananda ~

Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been. ~ Mark Twain ~


Be gentle with yourself. You're doing the best you can.Unknown ~



Tom Seaman is a chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone living with any life challenge. He is also a support group leader for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) and Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness. To learn more about Tom and get a copy of his book, visit www.diagnosisdystonia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1


http://www.diagnosisdystonia.com/


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Stress Management Tips

As we all know, stress and dystonia (or any other health condition) do not mix. It can have a negative impact on our symptoms, such as increased spasms, twisting, pulling, pain, anxiety, headaches, physical weakness, increased tension, sleep interference, and many other problems. Stress can be especially high around the holidays, making it even more important to take care of ourselves.

A dystonic body is under significant stress during normal circumstances, making our response to additional stress potentially catastrophic. Stress can affect us to such an extent that our nervous system is always aroused, keeping us trapped in fight or flight mode because our body is conditioned, particularly if we are in pain, to always be on guard. Walk into a busy store this holiday season and even a person without dystonia is bound to experience symptom overload and be in fight or flight mode.

If stress is prolonged, adrenaline and cortisol maintain tension in the body. Over time, muscle tension can become habitual which pulls the body further away from relaxation. You may reach a point where you are no longer aware how constricted your muscles have become, and relaxing them can be very difficult. In fact, if you try to relax, your muscles may tighten even more because they have forgotten what letting go and relaxing feels like. This is why mind/body relaxation exercises are vital.


Keeping muscles tense drains much more energy than keeping muscles relaxed, which is one reason so many of us with dystonia experience intense pain and fatigue. This is why the tips below are so important because it is only when the body finds relaxation that it can reverse the damaging effects of stress.

Stress management tips:
  • Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Stop what you are doing. Breathe gently, but deeply, from your abdomen. On the out breath say to yourself, “Be calm. Be peaceful.”
  • Allow time to pass. When we stress, everything can feel like an emergency. This is all about anxious arousal, which is temporary. Every feeling of panic comes to an end; every concern wears itself out; and every so-called emergency evaporates
  • When you are rushed say, “There is plenty of time. Stay calm.”
  • Talk to family, friends, therapist, or support group about the situations you find stressful
  • Listen to music
  • Keep a journal
  • Spend time in prayer and meditation
  • Eat a balanced diet of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Avoid caffeine, sugar, and white flour products
  • Exercise if you can; modify activities to accommodate your symptoms
  • Laugh! Watch a funny movie or go to a comedy club. Tell jokes. If you don’t know any, learn some. Spend time around babies and animals. Watch something funny on television or YouTube
  • Avoid isolation. When we lose connection with others it can intensify stress, as well as depression, loneliness, fear, and anger
  • Accept help when it is offered and ask for help when you need it
  • Get outdoors and spend time in nature; it can be very grounding
  • Do not argue about things that are unproductive
  • Avoid people who cause you stress
  • Don’t waste time worrying about what could have been. The past is over. Focus on the present moment
  • Simplify your goals
  • Pace yourself
  • Engage in fun, pleasurable activities as much as possible

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Holiday Book Sale!!

Happy Holidays from my home to yours! Through 12/31/16, please enjoy 20% off the print version of my book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey. For you, family, friends, and doctors, this book has something for everyone. It is also a great gift idea!

Use Coupon Code "HOLIDAY" when you check out at this link www.diagnosisdystonia.com.

Please also enjoy a Kindle Sale on Amazon from 12/14 - 12/18.


http://www.diagnosisdystonia.com/

For those unfamiliar with the book, it covers topics from the diagnosis onward, such as grief, fear, anxiety, depression, isolation, pain and pain management, lifestyle strategies, nutrition, effective doctor visits, talking to others, social stigma, relationships, practical skills for daily living (mental and physical), treatment options, stress and stress management, coping skills, etc. It is applicable to anyone with a chronic health condition or any other life challenge. Please see the reviews on Amazon.


Happy, healthy holidays to all!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Acceptance: The dystonia challenge

“Acceptance doesn't mean resignation. It means understanding that something
is what it is and there's got to be a way through it."
~ Michael J. Fox ~

Dystonia can alter the course of our life from subtle to dramatic ways, but it need not be how we define ourselves. Reaching the point where we can be at peace with this when living with such difficult symptoms is one of the hardest things we will ever do, but dystonia is not the definition of our life. It is not the book of our life. It is just one chapter of our life among many other chapters.

Work hard every day to think about your life right now and not the life you once had. This is the way everyone should live, dystonia or not. The past is over and as much as you may miss your former self, you must let go and live in the present.

Focus on things just as they are; not the way you think they should be. The changes that can come out of this acceptance are incredible. Take each day one at a time and fully embrace even the most seemingly minor accomplishments. Frankly, given our challenges, the things we do now are much greater accomplishments than before dystonia when everything was much easier. Honor yourself for this! With what many have to deal with, sometimes just getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Please acknowledge this!


Saying how much we hate dystonia won’t make it go away. I promise! Instead, find a way to cohabitate with it because no amount of anger will ever take it away. This has been one of the most important things I have learned (still learning) to better manage all of the symptoms that come with my dystonia, physical, mental, and otherwise. I had to learn to live with it rather than fight with it. The more I do this, the less power it has over me. This might sound counterintuitive, but it might be the best way for us to find peace and healing. Stop waging war on your dystonia. You will only get worse.


I had years of ruthless symptoms where I could barely speak sometimes because of the breathtaking pain, to starting a business, becoming a certified life coach, and writing a book. I still deal with some pretty rough symptoms, but my mind is in a better place where I am more at peace with how things are. This leads to greater acceptance and a greater ability to be more productive.

I am not near as productive as I once was and would like to be, but beating myself up over this is a complete waste of time and energy. I would rather focus what energy I have on my abilities, rather than all that is wrong with me. I invite you to do more of the same. Accept what is rather than dwell in the past or on everything you can't do. Focus on your abilities. I know most of you do more than you give yourself credit. Please shift your mindset and celebrate yourself!


We all have periods when we feel overmatched and not up to the challenges, but we always get through the day. If you have a racing mind full of questions and concerns, please reach out to the many forums, support groups in your area, and dystonia organizations to talk with others who can relate. Dystonia can be distressing and exhausting. Share what you are thinking and feeling. Listen to what others are saying. You will find that you are far from alone.

You need not feel any shame. You have done nothing wrong to be in this situation. Take control and do what is best for you in order to better manage today, and just today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.


It is not what happens to us in life that defines us. It is what we do with it that defines us. 

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram
http://www.diagnosisdystonia.com/


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

After the diagnosis/Self harming thoughts

After being diagnosed with dystonia and learning it is not a temporary problem (or if you have lived with it for years and are feeling fed up), experiencing fear, anger, depression, and anxiety is normal. We not only experience the painful physical symptoms and the loss of competency, we have many questions.

How will it affect my life? Is it curable? Will it get worse? Will it get better? How is it treated? What will treatments cost? Do I have to take medication or have surgery? Will the pain ever go away? Will I have it the rest of my life? Is it all in my head? How did it happen? Was it my fault? Will I still be able to work? Will I be able to take care of my family?

The questions are endless and not all of them can be easily answered or answered at all. This can lead to panic and anxiety which will make symptoms worse, so please be careful. Seek answers one at a time so you are not overwhelmed trying to solve everything at once. Prioritize your concerns.


Developing a chronic condition is not like a sprained ankle or a case of the flu, both of which we heal from and return to normal. Chronic conditions are entirely different. They stay with us all day, every day, with no expected recovery time. Both mentally and physically, most of our energy is directed towards reducing symptoms and controlling panic about what it means for our future.

At my worst, my energy was strictly on how I could end the ridiculous pain. Literally, nothing else mattered. It was a very scary and confusing time for me because I felt so lost and alone. I kept telling myself to be patient; that I would find my bearings. Eventually I did, but not before other thoughts crept in.

Suicidal ideations
Dystonia cannot be wished away so a lot of us experience intense fear, anger, and sadness. Where anger and fear exist, anxiety, isolation, and depression often follow. Add physical pain and a sense of helplessness and life can lose all meaning. If these feelings persist, the most perverse thought one can have is suicide.

I thought about suicide. I no longer do, but when my pain was severe and my neck and back muscles would not stop contracting and twisting, it crossed my mind. I would say that I wanted to die, but I never talked about my actual suicidal thoughts with anyone. I was afraid. It seemed taboo.

I wish I did because I really needed some perspective about what I was feeling. There was no shame in feeling the way I did, but in the moment I was confused and afraid. I didn’t know who to talk to or what to say. Looking back, I could have talked to family members, friends, therapists, and others with dystonia. I now know that would have helped a lot!



Thoughts of self harm passed when I learned more about dystonia, treatment options, coping tools, stress management techniques, and finding out that there were others who felt just like me. I wasn't alone!

It also helped when I began to focus on the things I could do versus all I had lost. It took great mental fortitude to find meaning in my life, but I did and it grew as more time passed. There is meaning to your life as well, no matter how much suffering you experience. Please have faith and be patient with yourself!

If you have any thoughts of suicide, please speak to someone. It is not uncommon in the dystonia community to have these thoughts so please have the courage to speak about it, whether it be at your local support group or the many online support groups primarily found on Facebook. You will not only be doing yourself a big favor, but others as well by opening the door for them to feel comfortable talking about it. If you are in the United States, you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

None of us are immune to the challenges of life. At some time or another we all endure tough experiences. When adversity comes, how we respond to it determines what happens next. Life experiences become tragedies if we make the conscious decision to make tragedies out of them. We can either resist or we can accept challenges. If we choose to view all challenges as opportunities for personal growth, they can be a driving force for positive changes.




Tips for dealing with your diagnosis:

  • Research your area and surrounding areas for quality people who treat dystonia.
  • Respect your dystonia and know your limitations. Learn to listen to your body.
  • Educate yourself about dystonia as much as possible and become your own best health advocate.
  • Understand that this journey requires trial and error, and patience.
  • Trust that life will continue for you regardless of this challenge.
  • Trust that you will get better if you are true to yourself and follow the treatment path that works best for you.
  • Don’t make getting better your entire life’s mission to where you feel no other purpose.
  • Stay connected and involved with family, friends, and community.
  • Get involved with support groups. Seek help from others and learn how to help them as well. Helping others is a big part of healing.
  • Stop asking "Why me?" and start asking "Why not me?" Opportunity lies in all good fortune and all misfortune.
  • Spend time in prayer and meditation.
  • Be kind to yourself and others.

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram


Monday, November 14, 2016

Drink up for pain, inflammation, and weight loss!

People often ask what I eat since nutrition is very important to me, especially as it relates to helping control pain and other symptoms of dystonia. I also used to weigh well over 300 pounds so when people learn that I lost around 150 pounds, “how did you do it?” is a common question. Below are pictures with my nephew from 2006 and 2016. I shrunk and he grew! Frankly, I barely recognize the version of me on the left. It's as if that were a different life, one filled with deep emotional and physical pain from a life turned on its axis when dystonia enveloped my entire world.


In an attempt to keep this brief, I don’t want to go into great detail about everything I eat. More about my personal eating habits and nutrition as it relates to pain, dystonia, and weight management is in my book. For now I want to focus on two healthy drinks I have daily that I think will be of help, no matter your situation in life. One is a protein drink and the other is an anti-inflammatory drink. These drinks supplement my regular diet of food.

Every morning for breakfast I have a fruit smoothie protein drink. I want to stress “protein” because many people will have a fruit smoothie and leave out this vital ingredient. Protein is critical for keeping blood sugar stable, among many other functions.

This smoothie is easy to make, easy to drink, and easy to clean. From start to finish, I can be done with all of it in less than 15 minutes. I mention this because for many people who have chronic pain and/or dystonia and other movement disorders, preparing food, eating, and cleaning up can be a major challenge. For most people, this drink is an easy, healthy option. It is the main reason I began making it. The pain in my neck and back was too unbearable to prepare and eat anything else. I also had trouble swallowing food.

To make preparation even easier, you can put all your ingredients for one drink in separate bags and store them in the freezer. Just grab a bag, put the contents in your blender, add liquid, and away you go! See further below under the list of ingredients.


Ingredients
1 banana
10-12 oz. frozen berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries)
20-30 raw almonds (I keep my almonds soaking in fresh water in the refrigerator. Soaking nuts, seeds, beans, and grains helps to release a substance called phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of essential minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium)
Protein powder (I like plant based protein powders so I use pea protein powder. I always use unflavored powders to ensure there is no added sugar or sweetener, but use whatever powder you like)
1-2 tablespoons chia seeds (Check them out! Chia seeds are a major superfood!)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Cinnamon is an awesome anti-inflammatory, loaded with antioxidants, good for heart health, and helps regulate blood sugar, among many other things) 
Water (I use water to keep calories down and because I am not a dairy drinker)
Mix in blender, Nutri-Bullet, Ninja Blender, Vitamix, etc.

Pre-made smoothie bags

I have this drink for breakfast, but it is ideal for any meal or in between meals. It is filled with healthy protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber, and antioxidants. It also has a low glycemic index and is low in calories. You can also make it and take it with you if you are a person on the go.

I call my other drink a “ginger/apple blast”, which I have during the day. I drink it for the anti-inflammatory properties found in ginger rootI add apple because of its health properties and I like the ginger/apple taste, but any fruit will do. I use spinach or kale to add more vitamins, minerals, and fiber to my diet.

Ingredients
Fresh ginger root sliced (about the size of a lime, which for some is a hefty amount, but use as much as you like per your taste)
1 small apple sliced
1 cup fresh spinach or kale
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Water
Mix in blender, Nutri-Bullet, Ninja Blender, Vitamix, etc.


Ginger is most well-known for stomach discomfort, but it is also one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory foods available. Ginger also has an anti-diabetic affect and cholesterol lowering properties, as well as many other health benefits. It also helps crave hunger. Turmeric/curcumin is another fantastic option, but my preference is ginger which is easier to find in most grocery stores.

As an example of the potency of ginger, years ago I had very bad knee pain from playing baseball in college. I was a catcher and developed tendonitis in both knees. I also broke both ankles twice. When I graduated, I had a desk job. Every time I got up I was in too much pain to walk upright until about the 10th step. Less than a month after having this drink every day, I was practically pain free and able to walk without a problem. I was amazed! When pain from dystonia set in a few years later, I knew I had to turn to ginger again and it has done wonders for my neck and back. I am not suggesting you will experience the same satisfaction, but please consider the possibility of this powerful food. It helps if your overall diet and lifestyle are healthy.

These are just 2 ideas among MANY healthy drink options, so choose ingredients you like best. The important thing to keep in mind is to eat healthy sources of protein and carbohydrate, healthy fat, fiber, and foods with a low glycemic index.

Happy drinking! Cheers! Salud! À votre santé! L'chaim! Prost Zum wohl! Na zdravi!

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Our mind: As powerful as any drug

Did you know that we have chemicals in the brain as powerful as drugs for pain, depression, anxiety, and other conditions? Among them are neurotransmitters called endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine, which are often referred to as the "feel good" or "happy" chemicals. Let's play around with endorphins...the body's natural pain killer (our own private narcotic!). Endorphins affect us like codeine and morphine by blocking a cell's transmission of pain signals, but without the addiction. The word endorphin derives from two words - endogenous (from within) and morphine.


In addition to decreased feelings of pain, secretion of endorphins leads to feelings of euphoria, modulation of appetite, enhancement of the immune response, and fewer negative effects of stress. Endorphins are popularly associated with “runner’s high”, but no need to worry if you don’t run. There are numerous ways to increase production of these potent brain chemicals besides strenuous workouts. These include but are not limited to the following:

Massage
Acupuncture
A good movie
Prayer
Positive thinking/affirmations
Physical exercise
Music and dancing
Laughter (even fake laughter does the trick! The brain doesn’t know the difference between real or fake laughter. Even the anticipation of something funny releases endorphins)
Regular sleep/wake cycle
Shopping
Fun hobbies (arts and crafts, photography, beadwork, quilting, cooking, nature walks)
Quality time with family and friends
Sex (including cuddling, kissing, and holding hands with a romantic partner)
Good deeds (the flood of endorphins and serotonin caused by being generous has been called “helper’s high”)
Reading a good book
Meditation and controlled breathing exercises (breathe through your stomach; not your chest)
Being around animals
Sauna/hot tub
Biofeedback
Alcohol (light drinking; heavy drinking negates the effect)
Nutrition (anti-inflammatory foods)
Sunlight

Practically all of these things are at our disposal, so we should try and take advantage of them as much as we can. Not all of them will be of help (or interest) to everyone, but I wanted to share many of the options available to us. I also recognize that when in pain and feeling mentally down (I have been there!!), these things are not always easy to do or yield results the first or first few times doing them. If this is the case for you, maybe start with one thing you enjoy and do your best to make it part of your lifestyle.

Perhaps before starting there, practice the art of appreciation and gratitude. This is a great first step when we are suffering, most of which comes from expectation. Most of us have a blueprint for how life should be and when it isn't how we planned, it can cause depression. If this is the case, focus on something or someone you appreciate, do your best to sit with that feeling, and then move forward with hopefully more peace in your heart. Anything that gets us looking outward and/or releasing pent-up feelings has the potential of helping.


People often ask me the different ways I manage my chronic pain associated with dystonia, and I usually list many of these things. I can't say for sure how much they play a role, but when I did not do these things on a regular basis, pain was more severe. I was also depressed and anxiety ridden, a far cry from the person I was pre-dystonia, and a far cry from the person I am now, thanks to many of these things.

A fun fact to keep in mind is that neutral or positive sensory messages travel through the nervous system faster than painful messages. More specifically, soothing sensations travel up to seven times faster than sharp or burning pain. This means that if soothing sensations and painful sensations reach the “pain gate” to the brain at the same time, the pleasant sensations will prevail, blocking the slower, painful ones.1 In other words, to reverse the course of pain and depression, it helps to do things that consistently provide reliable pleasant body experiences that compete successfully with pain (i.e., activities that produce endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine).

An easy way to remember how to harness the power of the brain's natural drugs is to live by the popular saying, "Sing like no one is listening, dance like nobody's watching, love like you've never been hurt, and live like it's heaven on earth."

In other words, have fun and do your best to not care so much what others think about you. Live your life on your terms. Never give up. Be patient with yourself. Never lose hope. Trust that everything will always work out. All of it is easier said than done, but when we get the "feel good" hormones flowing, nothing and no one can ever take away our peace of mind and body.

1) Phillips, M. (2007) Reversing Chronic Pain. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, CA

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram
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