Bonnie’s Sleep Improves with Breathing Practices

Bonnie’s Challenges

Bonnie had cancer and suffers with Fibromyalgia.  She is active, but struggles with chronic pain and sleep disturbance.  When I worked with Bonnie, we focused on a variety of breathing practices to help lesson her symptoms and improve her sleep.


What Worked

Bonnie states:

"As someone who has dealt with cancer, I am always looking for ways to minimize my stress level and to try to stay in a more relaxed state of mind. My times with Ellen have been very beneficial for me.  The power of breath is something I knew little about, and through her instruction, I have learned what a valuable tool it is during times of stress.  I have found myself doing the breathing techniques while waiting in a doctor's office. When I used to wake up during the night and couldn't get back to sleep, it meant being exhausted the next day.  Now, I simply do a couple of breathing exercises and am able to go right back to sleep.  Ellen's expertise and soothing manner enabled her to help me find a sense of inner calm that I had been missing in recent years."

What you can learn from Bonnie's Experience

There are simple techniques that sustain you in times of stress and discomfort.  Much of our problems with sleep stem from the busy mind and when you can effectively quite your thoughts, you will enhance your ability to sleep.  Custom Calm techniques work and are accessible to everyone.

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Why Me?

I have heard this question asked when facing painful experiences.  My answer is always, why not? This is the harsh reality and I in no way want to seem heartless.  I think that when we realize that it is not personal, even when it feels that way, we can take a bit of space needed when in the midst of a difficult situation.

After settling into what challenges you have been presented with, then you have a choice on how you want to live life.  In my work I meet many people that are living with cancer and other serious challenges.

I see the difference in those who live an attitude of empowerment and those who live as a victim of their circumstances. 

Viktor Frankl spent 3 years in various concentration camps during World War II.  We can learn from his inspiring words:  Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. 

No matter what we are living through, there is always choice in the attitude we bring to our day.  Embrace each day as best you can and you will be surprised at how life unfolds.

Let me know in the comments below how you view the challenges in your life?

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You Are Not Alone

"We can do what I can’t".  "You are not alone".   These are slogans from Twelve Step Recovery Programs and they are powerful because everyone in the community wants to help one another, which in turn helps themselves.  

Community is vital and provides great healing, especially when the group shares a common ground.

I teach in the Northside Hospital Cancer Support Community and what strikes me most is the care and love of the entire community.  I watch students want to help others and share their experience, strength and hope.  The environment is upbeat and their focus is on enjoying life.  It does not matter if they are a caregiver, in remission or have lost a loved one- they rally around each other.  They do not try to fix, rather they listen and provide support if needed and always welcome a new person.  They understand, because they have lived it.

Whether it is a Twelve Step Program or any kind of Support Community, it works because it is human nature to travel with others and to know we are not alone.

What a gift.

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Mindfulness Practices Improves Stress Symptoms

Article:  Annals of Behavioral Medicine- 2010

Authors:  Branstrom, Kvillemo, Brandberg & Moskowitz

Background:  Increasing recognition of mindfulness and mindfulness training as a way to decrease stress and increase psychological functioning.

Objectives:  Examine the effects of mindfulness stress reduction training on perceived stress and psychological well-being.   

Methods:  Seventy one with previous cancer diagnosis were randomized into a control group and an intervention group that participated in an 8-week mindfulness training course.

Results:  Those who participated in the intervention reported significant positive effects on perceived stress, posttraumatic avoidance symptoms, and positive states of mind.

Conclusions:  Improvements in psychological well-being resulting from mindfulness stress reduction training are measurable, which is important for future research.

Custom Calm employs the same practices as researched in this and other studies.  The ease of implementation into daily life makes the integration of techniques manageable, directly improving daily living.

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Psychological Benefits: Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers

Study:  Psychological benefits for Cancer Patients and their partners of Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).   Authors: Birnie, K.,Garland, S.N. & Carlson, L.E. (2010)

Cancer patients experience many negative psychological symptoms including stress, anxiety and depression.   The patients loved ones also experience these challenges.

Objective:  To measure the impact of and 8-week MBSR program for 21 couples.

Results:  Significant reductions for both patients and partners in mood disturbance and the Calgary Symptoms of Stress Inventory sub-scales of muscle tension, neurological and upper respiratory symptoms were observed after program participation.

Conclusions: Significant increases in mindfulness were reported in both groups.  

Overall, the MBSR program was helpful for improving psychological functioning and mindfulness for both members of the couples.

Custom Calm founder, Ellen Sichel has trained with the originators of Mindful Based Stress Reduction and incorporates many of the techniques used into Custom Calm programs.  The practices are non-invasive and easy to learn, offering lifelong support for both patients and their loved ones. 

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Chronic Pain Costs U.S more than Heart Disease

Washington Institute of Medicine study published in the Philadelphia Enquirer June 30: 

Nearly a third of Americans experience long-lasting pain costing the nation at least $558 billion a year in medical bills, sick days and lost productivity.

“We are viewing this as a critical issue for the U.S.” said Philip Pizzo, Stanford University dean of medicine.

All kinds of ailments can trigger lingering pain, from arthritis to cancer, spine problems to digestive disorders, injuries to surgery. Chronic pain can also be a disease all its own, the report stressed.

Dr. Doris Cope, pain chief at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center states:

“Too many think a pill’s the answer, when there are many ways to address pain.  The population is getting older and less fit, and more survivors of diseases such as cancer live for many years with side effects from treatments.”

The article concludes:  Too few doctors are trained to manage pain as well as insurance might not cover time consuming counseling in pain-management techniques, consultations with specialists, or even nondrug care.

It is clear that other options are needed.  Custom Calm techniques are a cost effective way to lower pain.  Teaching clients how to take charge of reducing their pain gives them the ability to greatly improving their daily living.

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Combating Cancer in the Workplace

This June 2011 article in Sky Magazine sites the intervention of CEOs on the devastating effects of cancer.  The workplace is now included in the battle to reduce cancer’s impact. 

The American Cancer Society highlights a few interesting facts:

  • About 1.5 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year in the US
  • Cancers caused by cigarette smoking and heavy use of alcohol could be prevented completely.
  • The overall cost of cancer per year in the US is approximately $264 billion.

These numbers are staggering.

CEOs are implementing lifesaving health initiatives at work.  Beside the cost of cancer treatment, the cost to businesses is as follows:

  • $18.8 billion in lost productivity due to illness
  • $116.1 billion in lost productivity due to early death

The article sites the good news:  More than half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices.  Many corporations are paying incentives for employees to participate in healthy living programs.  Studies were done on participating employees and the overall health improved dramatically.

Patrick Geraghty, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota states: “We have to make wellness something that businesses are focused on, because we spend so much time in the workplace.”

All Custom Calm techniques improve overall health and well-being and are designed to practice at work.  Everyone who chooses to be proactive about their mental and physical heath can use simple tools that take little time.  The results are powerful.

 With the of illness and stress in our lives, it is encouraging to know Corporate America is placing high value on complimentary health.

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Mindfulness Meditation helps Stem Cell Transplant Stress

A stem cell transplant is emotionally and physically stressful for cancer patients who undergo this procedure. 

A 2008 pilot study of Mindfulness Meditation for those facing the challenges of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation was done by Sullivan, Rosenbaum, Ott, Powell and McLoughlin. 

Mindfulness meditation is used to help people change their relationship with stress and pain.

The findings were intriguing. There was significant decrease in heart and respiratory rates and improvements in symptoms immediately before and after each meditation session.

Findings demonstrate feasibility and preliminary support of a mindfulness meditation intervention with symptomatic, hospitalized cancer patients.

Mindfulness based interventions have been studied in patients with various diagnoses, including cancer to provide coping skills to deal with unpleasant symptoms and uncertain future.

Custom Calm practices include a variety of Mindfulness meditation practices and powerful results have been demonstrated.

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Studies Show Decrease in Menopausal Symptoms

Studies were held in the Department of Anesthesiology and Peri-operative medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.

The Yoga of Awareness program was studied for menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors.  Studies showed significantly greater improvements relative to the control group in hot-flash frequency, severity, and total scores and in levels of joint pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, vigor, negative mood, relaxation and acceptance.  

The program included practices of gentle yoga, meditation, mindfulness, breathing practices,  relaxation and calming techniques. 

Conclusions of Study:  Provides promising support for the beneficial effects of a comprehensive yoga program for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in early –stage breast cancer survivors.

Custom Calm practices include Yoga of Awareness practices along with other minfulness- based techniques. The research of these practices are supporting the powerful results that many students have already reported. 

The practices are very simple and empowering for patients suffering from side effects of cancer.

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Studies find Link between Stress and Illness

Can stress make you sick?

The Stay Healthy section in Parade magazine, October 2009,  Dr. Ranit Mishori connects stress with:

  • Heart,
  • Weight
  • Skin
  • Headaches
  • Wound Healing
  • Risk of depression
  • Common Cold
  • Influenza
  • Increased Symptoms of Chronic Illness

One reason stress is so harmful:  When stressed, our body reacts with the Fight or Flight response, increasing adrenaline, which is needed when you are in danger, but living with increased adrenaline for daily stress will result in increased blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar.

Dr. Elissa Epel notes that ongoing stress will change the protein output of our DNA, affecting our very core.

When you have ongoing stress- the kind you face when you are experiencing marital problems, caring for a sick relative, financial, or work- influences your ability to function, weakening a person’s immune system, increasing susceptibility to illness and certain cancers associated with viruses.

The good news is there are various ways to cope with stress, outside of medications- exercise; calming techniques like meditation are ways to manage stress.

 The article concludes with:  Taking these routes to “chilling out” is well worth the effort.

Custom Calm practices get to the core of stress relief, rather than addressing the symptoms to manage stress.  These practices do more than “chill out”, but rather teaching how to incorporate sustainable tools in your daily living, improving well-being.


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