Viewing entries tagged
positive psychology

How living with chronic illness inspired me to do what I do

tessa-rampersad-335923.jpg

Chronic illness dictated my life and destroyed my dreams for many years…but it also made me who I am today and is the reason I do what I do.

Who am I? I’m a human being, a woman who has suffered in many ways, who has fought the battle with chronic illness and come out the other side stronger, happier and illness free! I am a Psychotherapist & Health Coach and work with people who are also suffering to help them also free themselves from the chains of chronic ill health. Why do I do this? Because I know it is absolutely possible!

From the age of 15 I started to suffer with ill health. By the age of 22, I had been diagnosed with 5 chronic health conditions including Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis and this ruled my life. I had always wanted to be on stage as my love for Performing Arts was my dream! Age 17 whilst at a Performing Arts College, I was told I couldn’t continue any physical activity except swimming as my knees were in a bad way and would eventually require surgery to correct both. I was crushed and believed my performing arts career was over before it had properly begun.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead so after college, I went travelling and spent a few years working in different industries trying to figure this out. Age 19, I had my first operation to remove a benign ovarian tumour. I was living in Guernsey at the time and was heavily involved with the local Drama Groups which kept my love of performing alive.

Having accepted a West End career was no longer an option, and learning that sitting in an office 9to5 was also not for me – a friend and I sat in her kitchen and looked at every possible degree option. Having grown up in a family of Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Surgeons, I had always been fascinated by people’s behaviour and knew I wanted to do something that helped people. I found a Counselling and Psychotherapy degree and decided this was what I wanted to do. I loved being in that environment and learning but it also brought its own challenges. I had to maintain a degree whilst battling various chronic health conditions all the while going on an intense journey of self-awareness and development.

After qualifying, I worked as a therapist for quite some time and really enjoyed it. I had by this stage also discovered Salsa dancing! After seeing a specialist, we agreed that it was ok for me to dance salsa as it was low impact on my knees which was the most amazing news having not danced for 5 years. I eventually started to teach salsa and this became the main focus in my life together with the therapy work. As time went on, I felt I wanted to try and re-pursue a career in Performance (acting) so I went back to Drama School. My health was hugely impacted by all of this but I thought I knew best so pushed through. I didn’t want to accept that I ‘couldn’t’ live the life I wanted. As a woman in my 20’s with ‘so much going for her’, I was angry and in denial about my health. By this point, I had also been diagnosed with Hemiplegic Migraine, M.E., had endured 5 operations and also Pneumonia..twice.

I used to believe I could do it all by myself, and tried to, so I turned down help when I needed it. I didn’t always trust my intuition. I was stuck in a place of isolation, frustration and feeling like there was no way out – after all, the doctors kept telling me there was no cure and I just had to live with it. I tried to maintain a brave face and a positive attitude but inside, I was feeling desperate, scared and defeated – no one seemed to understand.

Whilst I was at Drama School, I accepted I needed help and finally listened to friends and family who offered support. By this time, I had also given up teaching and dancing as I was no longer physically really able to. My dear friend Jo recommended I see a practitioner specifically related to chronic health and my brother was kind enough to pay for the sessions/training as I was not in a financial position to do so at the time due to not being able to work much.

Throughout the process of this training and working with the coach, I came to understand the mind-body connection, had some really honest conversations with myself and stepped out of the victim mentality I was so entrenched in. I realised I already had all the answers and resources I needed, I just didn’t know how to access or utilise them. This was an absolute revelation to me!

Within days, both friends and family couldn’t get over the difference in me and how wonderful it was to have ‘me’ back. I can’t explain how it felt to look in the mirror and finally see who I was again – I really missed her. With my new-found lease of life, I hot footed it to London to chase my Acting dreams! I had a wonderful few years there but also knew deep down I wanted to be helping people again. I took the decision to go and learn as much as I could to be able to provide the best service possible in a way that involved my own experience. I studied NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) to Master Practitioner Level, NLP Coaching, Life Coaching, Youth Coaching, Hypnotherapy and the Neuroscience of Brain Health and Wellness.

I learned a huge amount on this journey and continue to discover new things but most importantly, and however cliché it sounds, I learned how to love myself and to look after myself not just physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

With the knowledge that it is possible to overcome chronic health conditions, together with all the new learnings and the desire to help others overcome their health issues to, I set up my private practice believing that anyone can help themselves and affect positive change in their lives if they want to, when they understand how to. I absolutely believe we are what we think (believe) and that with the right information, intervention and integration, we can all live the happy, healthy and harmonious lives we want to. Of course it isn't just about brain health and mindset - we must also learn to look after our bodies and brains by feeding them good nutrition and keeping them physically active.

If any of this resonates with you or if you would like to know more about how I recovered, I would love to hear from you so please feel free to get in touch! Drop me an email at hello@lisajonescoaching.co.uk or take a look at my website www.lisajonescoaching.co.uk Six years on, I am still fighting fit and will continue to help as many people as I can also find freedom.

Mind-Body Connection

Now this is a concept that seems so obvious to me, but for many, they still treat their brains and bodies as two separate entities.  When I was unwell, I would often feel frustrated with the medical profession for treating me as individual parts rather than a whole.  After overcoming my health challenges, I now absolutely know that our minds, brains and bodies are connected.  Our brains are the driving centre connected to our bodies through our autonomic nervous system.  Thousands of messages and signals are sent between our brains and bodies daily and we have the incredible power of our minds to change how we feel, behave and respond to stress and illness.  I strongly believe in a holistic approach to health looking after our brain health first and foremost so we can improve our emotional, physically and mental health.  This is not just about healthy eating, exercise and nutrition, it’s also about well-being, stress management and having a healthy mind as well.  Science understands that our health is heavily affected by our emotions and thoughts and vice versa. Just as we know that stress has a physical effect on our bodies and can live in our nervous system, we also know that our minds can make us well.  Think about the placebo effect for example. This powerful phenomenon happens when patients think and truly believe that the tablet is a cure (although it’s not) and this results in them feeling better, such is the power of our thoughts and beliefs.  Leading Doctors, Psychologists and Neuroscientists are speaking more about the mind body connection and the amazing things that can be achieved.  Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Mackay says  “Therapies directed toward addressing functional links between mind/brain and body can be effective in treating the range of symptoms associated with many chronic diseases.  In the context of health neuroscience, the brain is both the mediator and the target of mind/body medicine.”  “The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone…Because you can make thought more real than anything else.”  Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One  “Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Choose yours wisely.”  Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter  So, what is my point?  Understanding the mind body connection is one thing but what do we do about creating healthier thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.  Just think new thoughts?  That sounds simple, right?  On the one hand, it really is that simple, but on the other, it requires effort and consistency to change our thoughts and beliefs.  As much as our minds effect our physical health, our physical health also effects our minds.  The good news is that there are many practices we can do that re-train both our minds and our bodies!    This can be done by meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, spontaneous movement and dance, yoga, listening to soothing music, spending time in nature, running, or hiking all of which allow our minds and bodies to connect and releases feel good endorphins.  Or simply receiving a hug from a loved one, which releases oxytocin, a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that promotes bonding and connection.  All of these practices change our physiology and affect our mood promoting healthier relationships between our brains and bodies.  Ultimately, we need to look after our brains first.  What do you do to look after yours?  The answer might be nothing right now, and that’s ok.  I encourage you all to start taking time out to look after yourself whether physically, mentally or emotionally so you can keep moving towards optimum health and well-being.

Now this is a concept that seems so obvious to me, but for many, they still treat their brains and bodies as two separate entities.  When I was unwell, I would often feel frustrated with the medical profession for treating me as individual parts rather than a whole.  After overcoming my health challenges, I now absolutely know that our minds, brains and bodies are connected.  Our brains are the driving centre connected to our bodies through our autonomic nervous system.  Thousands of messages and signals are sent between our brains and bodies daily and we have the incredible power of our minds to change how we feel, behave and respond to stress and illness.

I strongly believe in a holistic approach to health looking after our brain health first and foremost so we can improve our emotional, physically and mental health.  This is not just about healthy eating, exercise and nutrition, it’s also about well-being, stress management and having a healthy mind as well.

Science understands that our health is heavily affected by our emotions and thoughts and vice versa. Just as we know that stress has a physical effect on our bodies and can live in our nervous system, we also know that our minds can make us well.  Think about the placebo effect for example. This powerful phenomenon happens when patients think and truly believe that the tablet is a cure (although it’s not) and this results in them feeling better, such is the power of our thoughts and beliefs.

Leading Doctors, Psychologists and Neuroscientists are speaking more about the mind body connection and the amazing things that can be achieved.  Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Mackay says

“Therapies directed toward addressing functional links between mind/brain and body can be effective in treating the range of symptoms associated with many chronic diseases.  In the context of health neuroscience, the brain is both the mediator and the target of mind/body medicine.”

“The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone…Because you can make thought more real than anything else.”  Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One

“Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Choose yours wisely.”  Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter

So, what is my point?  Understanding the mind body connection is one thing but what do we do about creating healthier thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.  Just think new thoughts?  That sounds simple, right?  On the one hand, it really is that simple, but on the other, it requires effort and consistency to change our thoughts and beliefs.  As much as our minds effect our physical health, our physical health also effects our minds.  The good news is that there are many practices we can do that re-train both our minds and our bodies!  

This can be done by meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, spontaneous movement and dance, yoga, listening to soothing music, spending time in nature, running, or hiking all of which allow our minds and bodies to connect and releases feel good endorphins.  Or simply receiving a hug from a loved one, which releases oxytocin, a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that promotes bonding and connection.  All of these practices change our physiology and affect our mood promoting healthier relationships between our brains and bodies.

Ultimately, we need to look after our brains first.  What do you do to look after yours?  The answer might be nothing right now, and that’s ok.  I encourage you all to start taking time out to look after yourself whether physically, mentally or emotionally so you can keep moving towards optimum health and well-being.

Count your blessings every day...

Gratitude photo.jpg

Count your blessings every day…

This is something I grew up hearing every day and something that (ironically) I am very grateful for.  From a young age, it was instilled in me to always count my blessings; no matter how bad my day had been, no matter how down I might be feeling and no matter what the external circumstances may have been.  I was taught that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.

Equally, it is just as important for us to acknowledge when we don’t feel ok and to be accepting of ALL of our emotions.  I’m not saying we should be grateful all the time and walk around with a false sense of positivity because let’s be honest, it’s not possible (or healthy) to pretend that everything is absolutely ok all the time when it’s not. 

However, there are huge benefits to practising gratitude emotionally, mentally and physically.  The first thing to note is that if we are experiencing gratitude, we cannot feel sad or angry for example.  The act of being grateful alters our state.  By cultivating gratitude regularly, it in turn improves many aspects of lives including:

  • Well-being
  • Optimism
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-control
  • Relationships
  • Physical and mental healt
  • Happiness

For hundreds of years, various cultures have taught the positive effects of gratitude and now science also backs this up.  In a study by McCraty and colleagues (1998), 45 adults were taught to “cultivate appreciation and other positive emotions”[1]. The results of this study showed that there was a mean 23% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol after the intervention period.

So how do you practice gratitude?  The best thing about this is that there are so many ways.  In social situations, you might say a well thought out ‘thank you’ rather than a clipped ‘thanks’.  For example, accepting a compliment in a genuinely grateful way.  There might be a person in your life who feel a great sense of gratitude towards so maybe write them a letter expressing that to them.  If you are late for a meeting, instead of saying ‘sorry I’m late’, say ‘thank you for waiting for me’.

To practice gratitude for yourself you could write a gratitude journal or take some time in the evening before you sleep to reflect on your day.  You can also practice gratitude in the morning before you get up.  Being grateful in the morning sets us up to start looking for the positive in our days, rather than the negative.  It calms us and also excites the reward centre in the brain making us feel good. 

There is a saying that goes ‘the best things in life are free’ and the best thing about gratitude and the amazing benefits it has is that it costs absolutely nothing to practice.  For me, I like to think of practising gratitude as getting my daily dose of Vitamin G which is essential for my overall health and well-being.  Next time you have a free moment, try it. You might just be surprised by the benefits it brings you.

[1] McCraty, R., Barrios-Choplin, B., Rozman, D. , Atkinson, M. & Watkins, A. (1998). The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological & Behavioural Science, 32, 151-70