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How mindfulness helps you recover when you are ill

Just to give you an initial idea of the concept of mindfulness: your moment to moment, nonjudgmental awareness, self-understanding practice.

The last two weeks have given us some hard times and required our life as a family to adapt to mom’s conditions (aka, me). I am having episodes of dizziness and sudden strong headache combined with extreme weakness, a disastrous combo for a mother of young kids!

My husband has done the somersaults to cover as much as he could; some days have been better than others and I have been able to manage most days as well; some friends have been very supportive, even when being in the same expat-life situation.
However, if you are a mother too, you would perfectly know (or realise in difficult situations) that the most important family pillar is probably…YOU.

only40years
Only 33 to go, yeah!

No matter if you are sick, if you work, have a thousand things to take care of, regardless of plans, to-do-lists or unmissable schedules you’ve planned since last year: most of the family life gravitates around mother so it is essential to recover as soon as possible.
Sounds dreadful this way, right?? Another task for mom, another chore to do. Quickly!

Being sick is no fun, even when it’s ‘just’ the flu.
I can only remotely imagine what people laying on a bed for months go through: if you hear me, I really feel for you ❤︎.

Although the urge of getting better is big, you should need time to heal, no matter what.

If you have been into mindfulness for a while, you probably know already some techniques that help you to recover in a more holistic way.
Many of these practices feel still ‘weird’ to me, or simply too advanced, since I’m a relative beginner in mindfulness and meditation, and I honestly still struggle to practice them.

One of these exercises is to repeat phrases to yourself while focusing on your breath and on sensations of parts of your body.
For example: start by taking a few deep breaths, focusing on body sensations (the rise and fall of your tummy, your toes, your legs touching the floor), along with your breathing. Let go of any tension of your body and practice the act of kindness to your body, repeating the phrases:

“May I be happy.” “May I be healthy.” “May I feel safe.” 

While the first part of the practice is already heaven to me and works very well in relaxing and bringing my mind to good places, saying the phrases out loud is still unhelpful.

I know, I probably need to just do it, and some of you, more expert than me, would probably say the same: I will just need to try this. One day soon then.

SO HOW MINDFULNESS HELPS YOU RECOVER WHEN YOU ARE ILL?

What has been truly effective to me is to separate feelings.
When we are ill, we tend to mix together our physical pains with the negative thoughts and emotions that illness usually brings along. This makes us feel anxious about being sick, or miserable, sad.

When we are ill, it happens to concentrate on these inner conditions which end up worsen our situation. For example, I often confuse the pain with a feeling of loneliness and inability to improve circumstances.
The truth is when we are ill, it can be a challenge to stay positive!

Mark Bertin, MD, a doctor specializing in developmental paediatrics, wrote that ‘stress increases while we are sick and when we try to manage our responsibilities while feeling crummy. This all can ultimately slow down our recovery or cause us to get even sicker, as stress weakens the immune system.”
Dr Bertin ultimately suggests to practise mindfulness in order to approach your illness with care, seeing things as they are with acceptance and compassion.

to do or not to do
To do or not to do?

And this is what I try to do:
I pay attention to the present moment. 

It’s difficult, the mind will wander.
When you start meditation they teach you to just focus on your breath and this is what I start to do. Then I pull apart physical sensations from how I feel: my physical pain from my emotions.

Pain is a part of life so I try to divide suffering, which is how I feel about the pain, to how I relate to pain because when we confuse the two, we allow our suffering to affect us a whole more.

I use mindfulness to help me lighten my mood and I practice gratitude which helps me feel more positive (soon a Gratitude Journal will be available here on My Wander Coffee and on Not Only Mama, for my Italian speaking readers!).

If you need a guide for simple beginner practices, I suggest you start with this video of Jon Kabat-Zinn which explains how mindfulness lights up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we’re mindlessly running on autopilot.

Just to give you an initial idea of the concept of mindfulness: your moment to moment, nonjudgmental awareness, self-understanding practice.

Hope you enjoyed reading.
Till next time.
xo, Chiara

About the author
Hi, I’m Chiara, Italian mom living in Zürich and loving it. I like to write about coffee, how it is and how to pair it with, where to drink it and, the most important factor of all, with whom to enjoy it.

2 Comments

  1. Chiara ti auguro una prontissima guarigione!
    Avevo già sentito parlare di Mindfulness qualche tempo fa ma non ho approfondito, ora lo farò di sicuro!

    Un abbraccio
    Veronica

    1. Grazie mille Veronica, che gentile! La parola mindfulness mi e’ arrivata alle orecchie in tarda primavera e mi ha subito rapita: se vuoi iniziare a leggere qualcosa ti consiglio: Wherever you go, there you are. L’ho trovato semplice e con tanti esempi di vita reale (vengono citati anche i figli che a mio parere sono la challenge numero uno per una madre!!). A presto, Chiara

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