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Mindfulness and Compassion for health issues

Alison Laycock

Over the past few months, I've experienced some health issues and have been extremely grateful for my mindfulness practice and the self-compassion techniques I know and use. I wish to highlight and share the strategies we can use when we experience health issues as these are general techniques for all health issues and perhaps will help you too.

Consult a doctor: This is an act of self-compassion and something we should all do when we experience conditions we are concerned about. To be honest, it has taken me far too long to make a doctor's appointment and now that it's done I can breathe more easily. Whatever holds you back isn't worth it!

Do I know it for sure?: This is one of my favourite questions for many aspects and it has certainly helped me during the past few months when lots of worries have gone through my mind. Asking the question can stop your mind ruminating on all the things that could be wrong and often the answer is 'no, I don't know it for sure!' which means you can move on.

Is there anything I can do to help myself?: If the answer is 'yes' then do it and if not then reassure yourself that you have done all you possibly can. Added in to this can be whether or not you need support in doing it and if so, do you have that support or do you need to find it?

Take each step at a time: It is often easy to worry and rush ahead of all other steps to worry all the more. Simply taking each step at a time can help reassure yourself that there is a process to follow and you will soon have the answers you need. Also take each day at a time as some days may be easier to manage than others.

Reassure yourself that you've got through so far: It is often easy to panic about tests and symptoms, however reassuring yourself that you have managed so far can help you realise how resilient you are.

Mindful body scan/ Compassionate body scan: Going through all the parts of the body which are still ok/ working can be very helpful and reassuring to remember that it is only one area which needs attention.

Mindful breathing: This can allow time for a break in thoughts by focussing on the breath and notice how it can calm the mind and body.

Mindful movement: Moving the body can be the saving grace during times of difficulty as it encourages us to be present in the body rather than allowing thoughts to take over. There are huge benefits in general to moving the body and mindful movement slows the body down in a way you focus on each part and every muscle involved. It can be very reassuring.

Mindful walking: Going for a mindful walk means we can be lost in the beauty of our surroundings which can lift our mood at the same time as providing us with a different focus. We can also focus on the movement of our body as each part is involved which takes us away from our thoughts.

When I know more I can do more: We are often in a phase where we can't do anything more than we are doing or have done and we need to accept that we will do more when we have more information and more understanding of where to go next. Acknowledging this fact is important as there is often nothing more to do at certain times.

Do what helps you relax/ laugh/ distract yourself: This is a good time to remember that humour and laughter helps.

Focus on others: thinking about and helping others is a great way of taking your focus off yourself and your own problems

Acknowledge your fears/concerns: It is essential to acknowledge your thoughts/ fears and concerns which are completely valid and need to be expressed to yourself, to others or writing them down to get them out of your head.

Be grateful: Gratitude can lift us and there is always something we can be grateful for about our situation either in terms of the situation itself or in comparison with others. I am always grateful I now live in a country where doctor and hospital appointments are so accessible as well as sanitised tests and care as I have lived and worked in countries where this is not the case.

A lot of these strategies are also useful during illnesses or receiving treatment so please try them out if you wish/need to.

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