The article from Psychology Today identifies some things that you can do to make yourself feel happy. If you’ve had a cancer diagnosis or experience as a friend or a family member, you’ll know how as well as the pain and trauma, there arrives an acute, intense sense of what is really important to you in your life. Its quite a profound experience for most people when we feel those extreme emotions at both ends of the range- acute fear facing our own mortality and profound joy at the connection with those we love It’s easy to forget this over time but can you imagine if you were able to feel and act on this every single day it would be like having a life jacket when you can’t swim. If you were able to appreciate what you have, connect with nature, tell the people you love what they mean to you in simple small ways every day, what a difference that could make to you? A gift of connection to yourself and others and the world around you that you used to take for granted but can now savour. A lifejacket for the mind that you could unwrap every single day at the end of a bad day or at the beginning of a day that you knew was going to be awful that could help you keep going? The thing is that it doesn’t have to be something fancy or expensive that you see as a gift. It could be the beautiful light at the start and end of these Spring days, it could be the silly joke your teenage daughter tells you when you are sat together discussing her day. So a good way to do this is to write down in a notebook every single day at least 3 things that have been a gift to you today. The more you collect the more you train your mind to notice all the other good stuff and there is some good evidence to suggest from Positive Psychology to suggest this gratitude journal can be as effective as prozac in lifting your mood. Writing a gratitude journal doesn’t make life easy but it does make it a bit easier to get through those difficult dark moments when you see written down and remember what there is in your life to be grateful for.
Self belief is a cornerstone of the first of the 3 C’s of Cancer Coaching, connection and David Hamilton has written a blog just this week on this very thing called ‘Find yourself vs reveal yourself’. It’s a struggle to be vulnerable, to show our wobbly bits, to admit we aren’t coping to ourselves and to others. And yet when you do just that; acknowledge where you are today rather than where you’d like to be, that’s a powerful reconnection with yourself, a starting point for self acceptance and compassion which is the basis for any change. When you open up to yourself, you can begin to open up to others and begin to ask for and seek out the right kind of support for you. If you’d like to get in touch for a free, half hour, consultation with no obligation to continue, then we can both decide if I am the best person to help you.
I was sat in a group recently with cancer patients who were at different stages of their journey. Some had only recently finished treatment and some had finished some time ago and one member highlighted the difference between pain and suffering. She explained pain as a natural physical response to any injury or surgery affecting the physical body but suffering is a mental activity that defines our relationship with ourselves. As defined by the International Society for the Study of Pain, ‘pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.’ We all experience pain; it’s a natural protective body response to injury. If we didn’t have it we wouldn’t know when we were injured, we wouldn’t know when we are healed. Pain helps to keep us heathy and well, without it we wouldn’t survive. Pain can be real or imagined. Our body systems can malfunction due to excessive stress when there is no actual problem but there is still pain. Suffering is defined as 1. to endure death, pain, or distress, 2. to sustain loss or damage, 3, to be subject to disability or handicap. Whereas pain is an experience, suffering is a perception. So how do we manage pain and avoid suffering? “The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” — Nathaniel Branden Accepting the pain is important. Your body is responding to something. But don’t let the pain define you. Not all of you is in pain, just part of you and for a good reason. When you begin to accept the pain rather than fight it, you can start to get it in perspective. There is a lot of evidence about the psychology of pain, we have the ability to increase and decrease pain by shifting our perception of it. So how did the woman in the group manage her pain and avoid suffering? She recognised the first step was acknowledging this was possible. She used her pain from her cancer surgery to remind her she was alive every day She chose to focus on the good things in her life that had become even more important to her since her cancer diagnosis. She recognised this wasn’t easy when she woke up in agony from the scarring but like anything, the more she actively practiced a different relationship with the pain, the less she suffered and her energy could be taken up with Enjoying what she had in life rather than getting bogged down by what she’d lost. It’s a skill but when you accept pain, you can create some space to change your relationship to it to minimise your suffering. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is possible. Are you suffering more than you need to. Cancer coaching can help shift your perceptions in radical ways. Do get in touch if you want to discuss anything that strikes a chord in this blog.
A powerful blog by a brave teenager Lottie Wilson about the power of the word cancer. Even though cancer is now described as a chronic condition because more people are living with cancer than used to be the case ( 50% according to Cancer Research UK – and that varies for different cancers) , it still puts the fear of God in anyone who gets a diagnosis. It’s as if our brain can’t update its understanding of this chronic condition and yet many people live well beyond their cancer. The psychological journey through and beyond a cancer diagnosis is profound and can linger long after the treatment has finished. This is where Cancer Coaching can really enable you to come to terms with what’s happened and find a way to live your life again every day.