What’s Next: Part 1 of a Series to Get Your Life Back on Track After Cancer Treatments
This 3-part series focuses on what you can do to get your life moving forward to create your Second Act. The three parts include: Avoid getting stuck -- 4 pitfalls that can keep you stuck; Tips for
This 3-part series focuses on what you can do to get your life moving forward to create your Second Act. The three parts include:
Avoid getting stuck — 4 pitfalls that can keep you stuck;
Tips for moving beyond fears and choosing well being; and
Ways to get inspired and excited about your Second Act
Part 1: Avoid Getting Stuck – Four Pitfalls to Avoid
You’ve spent an intense period of time focused on surviving through the surgery, chemotherapy and/or other treatments, and now you just want your life back. You may feel relieved, worn out, eager for the next chapter, scared, any or all of the above. Some survivors get stuck in one or more pitfalls that are perfectly normal responses to the end of this intense experience.
What are some of these pitfalls, and how do we avoid them or get beyond them? There are four big ones that many of us have faced. My take on these four follows.
- It’s Not Just Physical
We are complex creatures with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual lives that need attention during the healing process. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just heal the body and keep moving on? Well, not so fast. What about all those feelings, thoughts and spiritual questions tumbling around during the treatment and survival experience? Ignore this healing and you may find yourself unwittingly stuck in the past unable to move forward. Depending on how you’ve coped and what your experience has been, you may benefit from working with a trained therapist or coach to sort through these other healing needs. [To differentiate between coaching and therapy, see my website blog post, Coaching Is Not Therapy.]
- Fear and the Inner Critic
Fear that the disease will return in some form is perfectly normal given what a survivor has already experienced and doesn’t want to repeat! First we have to acknowledge and address the fears and worries so we can let them go. Then we can focus on what we do want our lives to be, not what we don’t want.
Some of us have very loud, critical and fearful “inner critic” voices. You know that [usually small] voice in your head that says you’re not smart enough, strong enough or any other “not enough,” or it’s “too risky” to venture out in new directions? Some inner critics just keep getting more and more attention, and grow overly vigilant in efforts to keep us safe. This can also lead to increased stress.
Since I’ve had a very well developed inner critic my whole life, helping others with this challenge is now one of my coaching specialties. One of the first steps to moderating that inner, overly protective voice is to recognize and name it. Once you recognize and name it, you can acknowledge it and set it aside when you notice it’s holding you back from what you want to do in your life. Do you want to be controlled and held back by an overly zealous inner critic? Or do you want the freedom to choose what to listen to and what to ignore?
- Habits of Negative Thinking and Emotions that Don’t Serve You
What is a habit? It is generally a behavior that has been repeated so frequently that it becomes automatic and unconscious. So the antidote is to become conscious and intentional in replacing negative thoughts with those that better serve our needs and desires. The typical pattern is that we think our thoughts that generate emotional responses, and those emotional responses lead to action or inaction. I refer to it as the tea model:
T = Thoughts
E = Emotional Response
A = Actions + Outcomes
If you don’t like how you feel emotionally, change your thoughts to better feeling thoughts. Or if you don’t like the outcomes you’re getting, change your thoughts and emotions for a different set of actions and outcomes. We’ll come back to this in Part 2 of this series.
- Unchanged Lifestyle
Many diseases can be prevented and/or overcome through lifestyle changes. These changes include better nutrition/diet, exercise, and managing stress.
When I was going through a year of chemo treatments, I became a kale fanatic to ensure I had plenty of green leafy vegetable to keep my body as strong as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds are full of nutrients that processed food lacks. If you think whole foods are boring, use spices and herbs to perk them up. For some great recipes, check out Epicurious.com, ohsheglows.com for vegan and gluten free recipes, and PamelasProducts.com for gluten free products and recipes.
Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Walking has many benefits, especially if you’re able to walk briskly to get your heart rate up. Yoga provides benefits to balance, strength, flexibility and inner peace. My yoga teacher taught me how to breathe long deep breaths that calm the nervous system and quiet the mind. Swimming has many benefits, with low/no impact on joints. For those who aren’t mobile, there are exercises that can be done seated in a chair, and exercise bands that can be wrapped around door handles and pulled for upper body strength. Do some research to find what exercise suits you best, figure out what you enjoy, and then do it! Find a partner to add a social aspect to your exercise routine.
Managing stress and anxiety can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Neuroscientists have proven that several long, deep breaths can soothe the nervous system, including the brain. This is a simple exercise that can be done unobtrusively anywhere in a minute or less. One of the benefits is that it stops the “fight or flight” syndrome that produces excess amounts of stress hormones like cortisol, which is linked to lowered immunity, higher inflammation, high blood pressure, etc. Other stress management techniques include mindfulness, meditation and yoga. Even 5-10 minutes a day can make a big difference in your overall sense of well being.
I’ve listed 4 pitfalls that can keep you stuck or their remedies that can help you live the life you want. Where will you start? What’s the first small step you will take toward a greater sense of wellbeing and living the life you want?
Photo by Aundre Larrow