More Indispensables for Those With Chronic Pain and Illness

My "comfort food" is a cup of decaf coffee with cocoa powder, stevia, and coconut milk in it. (I admit, it’s really a pretend decaf mocha.) Does this sound truly awful to you? That’s why comfort food is a personal indispensable!

10 Indispensables for Those with Chronic Pain and Illness

I know the joy of hearing the actual voice of a loved one. That said, email is the principal way I communicate with people...

Five Common Misconceptions About Trauma

Contrary to popular opinion, experiencing growth after trauma is far more common than PTSD. The new science of post-traumatic growth has found in thousands of studies that up to 90 percent of trauma survivors eventually attest to a renewed zest for life, major empathetic growth, and increased emotional maturity.

Stick to the Facts to Keep Stress and Anxiety at Bay

I’ve learned that I can save myself a lot of needless stress and anxiety if I catch myself before I start spinning stories that go beyond my direct experience. Here’s an example involving my dog, Scout...

20 Tips for Living Well with Chronic Pain and Illness

Herein, a list of 20 tips to help with the health challenges all us face at one time or another in life.

Multitasking + Chronic Pain and Illness = Bad Idea!

I want to share a story about how I recently put my relationship with multitasking to the ultimate test…and failed miserably. As a result, I’ve resolved anew to find ways to cut back on this well-engrained habit.

What is a Life Well-Lived?

Once in a while, I like to take a step back from my daily concerns and ask myself what it means to live a good life. What would I be thinking about each day? What would I be saying and doing?

Top Ten Health Tips That Have Never Worked for Me

Ever since a seemingly acute viral infection in 2001 turned into a chronic illness, I’ve received dozens and dozens of tips on how to regain my health. This piece is intended to be lighthearted, not meanhearted, which is why I’d be thrilled if someone reading one of these tips can honestly say: “That one helped me!”

How to Mindfully Turn an Unpleasant Experience Around

If you make a conscious effort to pay attention to the full range of your present-moment experience, you can almost always transform an unpleasant experience into a pleasant one, or at least into a mix of pleasantness and unpleasantness

4 Tips for Dealing with Unsolicited Health Advice

Despite our attempts to be honest with family and friends about not wanting advice, some may continue to give it. This calls for self-protection in the form of self-compassion. We can gently remind ourselves what a burden it is to add to our ongoing pain and illness the work of having to access how to skillfully deal with what others are telling us to do about our health.

Which Buddhist Teachings Might Be Most Helpful?

Examine the teachings in light of your understanding of what is harmful and leads to suffering, and what is beneficial and leads to peace and well-being. I think of myself as an eclectic Buddhist, meaning that I study, practice, and write about whatever I think is beneficial and alleviates suffering, regardless of which tradition it comes from.

Denial Only Makes Chronic Pain and Illness Worse

It’s better to live within the limits of what I can reasonably do than to pretend things are as I wish they would be.

Give Your Mind a Rest: Practice Not-Thinking

Discursive thinking—the constant stream of one thought following another—is a deeply ingrained habit. It’s so ingrained that we often start thinking just to occupy our minds.

14 Tips from 14 Years Sick

#14: When all else fails, go to bed.

You Can't Fix Everything

I’m much more at peace since I stopped trying to fix everyone’s life, including my own. It’s making it easier to take those unfixable moments in stride and to appreciate happiness and joy when they happen to come my way.

How to Cope with Side-Effects of Medications

Many of us who suffer from chronic pain and illness are on medications with side-effects that, in some cases, can be as difficult to cope with as our initial health problems.

Four Years Out: My Favorite “Turning Straw Into Gold" Pieces

My personal favorites cover a broad range of subjects and are spread evenly across the four years. I invite you to browse through the list and read (or re-read) those that spark your interest.

Adoption Diary Pt. 3: My Daughter in Her Own Words

Before I became a mother, I had thought of my life as having begun when I was adopted. But now my heart swelled with sadness. For the first time in my life I began to wonder who my biological mother was and how she could have ever let me go.

8 Pet Peeves about Doctors

I’ve had some excellent medical care, so I want don’t want to paint with too broad a brush. But the following have happened to me and others multiple times, so I think it’s fair to call them Pet Peeves.

How to Talk to Yourself

When the going gets rough, I often speak to myself silently or softly in a soothing and compassionate voice. If I feel let down by a friend, I might repeat silently, “I feel hurt by her behavior but I mustn’t blame myself.” When I don’t deny that I feel bad, and even acknowledge it in a self-compassionate way, I’m better able to cope with disappointment and sorrow.

Caught Off-Guard by Breast Cancer: First Impressions

Except for what I’ve been told by people who’ve written to me about their experiences with cancer, this was a new medical arena for me. I’ve learned that it’s a world onto its own in many ways. Nothing was familiar to me. It’s been a disorienting experience.

Mental Contrasting: A Smart Alternative to Positive Thinking

Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.

A Before and After Snapshot of Chronic Illness, Part 2

In 2013, I wrote a “before” and “after” snapshot of life with chronic pain and illness. Since posting that piece, I’ve added sufficiently to the list that I thought I’d add Part 2 to “life before” and “life after”...

Christmas Traditions You May (or May Not) Wish to Celebrate

If you’re feeling ho hum about the same old Christmas traditions—Santa looking bored at the Mall, most of the lights from last year not working when you set up the tree—check out these Christmas celebrations. You may find yourself appreciating Old Saint Nick and that half-decorated tree more than ever…

Surviving the Holidays when You’re Chronically Ill

For the chronically ill—which includes those who suffer from chronic pain—the holidays can feel like a no-win situation. If we participate at all, there's likely to be payback later. On the other hand, if we don’t participate, we'll feel isolated and risk other people not understanding why we haven't joined in the festivities.

What to Do When Gratitude Is in Short Supply

if you’re in a thankless mood and gratitude is hard for you to find at the moment, look around and see if you can find just a thing or two that might help you feel good about the life you have. In other words, think small.

I’m Sick But What Is Wrong with Me?

I’m halfway though my fourteenth year of being sick. Recently I’ve found myself saying: “Enough is enough. What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel as if I have the flu all the time?”

Let Autumn Lift Your Spirits

I’m worn out by the end of summer. The oppressive heat of California’s Central Valley takes its toll on plant and animal alike, including humans. That first crisp fall morning when I need to put on a sweater before going outside is one of my favorite moments of the year. It feels like a new beginning.

How Distorted Thinking Increases Stress and Anxiety

"Personalization" is a major trigger for self-blame. It occurs when you erroneously see yourself as the cause of some external negative event, even though you weren’t responsible for it. An example is when you feel responsible for whether people have a good time when you’re with them.

Anything Can Happen at Any Time

“Anything can happen at any time” is a comment made by one of my favorite Buddhist teachers—Joseph Goldstein. A few weeks ago, Joseph’s words were driven home to me. It was early on a Sunday morning and my new puppy Scout had just turned five months old...