Mindfulness for People With Porphyria
The symptoms of chronic diseases such as porphyria can present real challenges in your everyday life. One way to help cope is through a practice called mindfulness.
The following will provide more information on how to practice this technique.
What is porphyria?
Porphyria refers to a group of disorders in which porphyrins — molecules the body normally uses to make hemoglobin — accumulate in the body. Hemoglobin is the protein that binds oxygen in red blood cells.
The disease can be either acute or cutaneous, or more long-lasting but less intense. An acute porphyria attack can cause dehydration, breathing problems, seizures, and high blood pressure. Cutaneous porphyria symptoms can include pain-causing sun sensitivity, sudden painful skin redness and swelling, blisters on exposed skin, and fragile, thin skin, and itching. Red or brown urine, and excessive hair growth in affected areas also are symptoms of cutaneous prophyria.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being constantly aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. It means tuning in to what you are sensing at the moment instead of thinking about the past or the future.
According to the stress-reduction program proscribed by the Institute for Mindfulness-Based Approaches, while you can’t always change your circumstances, you can choose your response to them.
How can mindfulness help?
There are no specific studies about mindfulness and porphyria in the literature. However, an investigation involving people with other chronic disorders showed that mindfulness can be beneficial to patients’ mental health.
A systematic review of studies that focused on patients with a variety of chronic illnesses also indicated that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) improves their overall state, and helps them to deal with a broad range of clinical problems.
Examples of structured mindfulness
Examples of structured mindfulness include three key types of meditation: body scan, breathing, and walking.
Body scan meditation
Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, moving from toe to head, or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions, or thoughts associated with each part of your body.
Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and hands in your lap. Breathing through your nose, focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. If physical sensations or thoughts interrupt your meditation, note the experience and then return your focus to your breath.
Taking care to avoid sun exposure if you have cutaneous porphyria, find a quiet place 10-to-20 feet (3-to-6 meters) in length, and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing, and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations.
How can I practice mindfulness?
There also are simpler ways to practice mindfulness. These include:
Try to take the time to experience your environment using all your senses — touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste.
Living in the moment
Attempt to intentionally bring open, accepting, and discerning attention to everything you do.
Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
Focusing on your breathing
When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even a minute can help.
Last updated: Dec. 22, 2020
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