Managing Stress with Meditation for Cirrhosis and Hepatitis C
It is hard to think clearly when our minds are overcome over by health problems, the Hepatitis C treatment, cirrhosis, and everyday life. Since I live with end stage cirrhosis, it continues to be a problem for me. Brain Fog and Hepatic Encephalopathy loom over me and sabotage my peace of mind. I have tried many tools throughout the years, and have had to use trial and error to see what works best for me. I want to share some of my ideas with you about managing stress with meditation for Cirrhosis and Hepatitis C.
It has been one of those weeks when peace of mind was something that seemed so hard to achieve. You know the kind of day. Hurry up and go go go. The to-do list seems endless. I dream longingly of a day that has less pressure to accomplish something. I perform a lot of tasks and sometimes seem to take care of everything but myself. The end result of that is too much stress. One thing that helps is to manage stress with meditation. I have refined the process to suit my personal style and am hooked on how it helps settle my mind.
I got a weird impression of meditation when I was a teenager. Transcendental meditation was all the craze. It seemed like something you would do on a Yellow Submarine with Sgt. Pepper. I got invited to join a circle of cross legged friends one night. The leader gave us instructions to remain in absolute silence without moving a muscle. I opened my eyes and watched for a few minutes. I honestly spent the next 20 minutes fighting an urge to scratch my nose. I never went back.
Not many years later, I took Lamaze classes during my pregnancy. I learned to focus on counting my breath and rubbing my swollen belly. It was supposed to help keep oxygen rich blood flowing while I gave birth and also help me to stay relaxed. I practiced faithfully every evening. It was definitely relaxing and actually helped during labor.
I never associated those two experiences until one evening in the emergency room when a mishap in the kitchen required stitches. I was extremely tense and certain that lock jaw was already setting in. When the doctor began to aim needles at my hand, I automatically began to do my “Lamaze” breathing. The entire room melted away and I thought only of the 8 count for my long inhale and the 10 count for a slow exhale. It was over before I knew it.
Throughout the years, when circumstances were beyond my control, I breathed and said a few comforting words from my childhood faith. It became a time for me to stop and listen to my stray or anxious thoughts, and then brush them away one by one. I incorporated it into my quiet time and I also used it whenever I felt stressed. When involved in an annoying situation, I mentally withdrew and counted my breath or silently spoke my faith phrase. When I took the time to focus, it always led me back to a calming place.
Some of you may hesitate to try meditation. In our culture, many think that it is contrary to Biblical beliefs. If that is something you are struggling with, maybe you can think of it this way.
Prayer is talking to God.
Meditation is being still and listening.
There is a difference. When you are going through a prayer list of all the things you desire from God or the universe, you may not always leave your worries with Him. Instead, you might even let your mind think about the problem and ways to solve it. Our minds love to solve puzzles and it is almost automatic. While that is good, it can also lead to more anxiety. Check out my Compulsive Thinking blog to find out how much I know about worry!!
When you meditate, you focus on a central thought or phrase. You can also simply breathe and count slowly.
There are so many benefits to meditation that I thought a list would fit in nicely here. You can expect to gain more:
Scientific Proof – these numbers really excited me. Scientists have looked at the brain of people who have never meditated. Then they had a look at their brain after 11 hours of practicing meditation. I assume it was not 11 continuous hours. Anyway, they showed improvement in the regions of the brain that regulate the areas mentioned above. They were able to ignore distractions, cope with frustrating situations by being more self aware, and focus on what was really important.
Get this though: After 8 weeks of meditation, the brain was actually reshaped.
What the heck? Well, if your muscles get reshaped after exercising, it appears that meditation is like exercise for your brain! It get bigger, and works faster and better after exercising through quiet meditation.
Here is what a typical quiet time with meditation looks like.
FIRST – Find a place where you know that no interruptions will take place. Getting your family to buy into the process is a big part of that. I have always told my family that I’m going to have a quiet time. I set a time limit and let them know what it is. It has been an example for my daughter and grandkids. They now know that taking care of ourselves is important by watching me take personal time to get quiet.
SECOND – Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor or you can sit on a cushion in the floor. No fidgiting is allowed. You may want to lay on the bed in a completely relaxed state. Lying still is important. Keeping yourself from scratchin’ is also a good thing.
THIRD – Your attention is to go to your breath. By focusing on your breathing, you can say inhale and exhale in your mind. I still count because it is what I learned years ago. Sometimes I use a word or phrase instead. With every exhale, I relax my muscles. If there is tension in my jaw, shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs, or feet – I will purposefully relax those muscles.
I might say something like this:
The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
I am taking responsibility for my thoughts.
I am writing to new levels of peace.
My mind and body are at rest.
I am letting go of what I cannot control.
I am content.
Sometimes that I simply repeat those words over and over in my mind slowly, paying attention to every word. Sometimes I say the phrase, and then get silent. On other occasions I simply count my breath as I inhale and exhale.
Your mind will wander. No biggie. If it does, just go back to the breath counting. Following the breath is an easy way to stay focused. It takes your attention away from everything else. It is practically impossible to be counting your breath and worrying at the same time.
Five minutes a day is enough to begin a practice. It will help your mind to know that there is a physical and mental place you can go to for a rest period. Even if it is only 5 minutes, you will feel the difference immediately.
But what if you cannot relax? Consider it like a work out and keep practicing. What if you let go of all thoughts? Empty your mind? That is not the goal. The goal is to focus your mind on something that has no emotion attached to it.
Meditation is somewhat of a personal thing. It is like my faith, and is individual to me. There is no right or wrong way to pray and meditate. I really believe the focus here is just to continue to practice making it a habit to get still and be quiet. Just like when I practiced my Lamaze breathing, it became a habit. It has stayed with me throughout my whole life. I really think that it is a huge part of what has helped me to overcome many situations and circumstances that I have struggled with. That includes my health related problems with Hepatitis C treatment and cirrhosis.
This blog has been sitting on my computer for months now. I hesitated to share it because I did not want to create any controversy. The more I realize what a valuable tool it is for me, the more I realize it needs to be shared in case even one person might get some benefit from it. I hope that you will get something from this, and that you will consider having a daily quiet time also. I would enjoy hearing about your experience and prayer and meditation. I read a lot about prayer requests need for relief from anxiety on the forums. A lot of my Besties use prayer and meditation to comfort themselves in times of illness, stress, anxiety, or just as a way to sit and be thankful during the good times. I think we all know what I am talking about here.
I also think that you will be like me and find that your quiet time is the most calming time of your day. I think it will be a time that you began to look forward to more and more. I hope that this blog will be a reminder to never neglect that time. I think of you constantly and hope that you will engage in more meditation as a tool for Managing Stress with Meditation for Cirrhosis and Hepatitis C in the days to come. Much love, xo Karen:)
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