A human mind is a powerful tool that we can manipulate, but sometimes it can also manipulate us. Our mind can help us master stress or in fact, it can inflame stress, if your thoughts are negative and you worry. If you or your family member has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you will be in very high stress as a result.
If you like most people ‘Google’ ‘cancer diagnosis’ once you receive the news, you are likely to be overwhelmed with very technical, jargon-filled articles that really don’t help much at all.
I’ve done a great deal of individual coaching and the majority of challenges I think people have stem around feeling overwhelmed with life, lack-of-confidence, being negative about aspects of their lives and expecting too much of themselves and others. Many things trigger stress including your health and the new diagnosis, emotions, finances, family, work, friends and social environment, chemicals, decisions, and change.
- Step 1 is to recognise your stress triggers.
- Step 2 is to develop healthy habits to minimise and reduce your stress, as this journey you are on is going to be a challenge.
If you cannot do this you may develop unhealthy habits (e.g. addictions, compulsions) and anxieties, fears, and thoughts that limit your enjoyment of life. Physically if you maintain levels of stress that are too high for extended periods you can end up with a physical or mental breakdown.
If you’re not practicing healthy habits you may need to find some assistance to do so, coaching, counseling and peer-support are proven methods to reduce stress if you can’t do it all by yourself.
Summary of the stages of the downward spiral after a cancer diagnosis
Whereas with help we can reframe where you are to a more positive place
In fact, if you talk to cancer survivors and thrivers (e.g. Olivia Newton-John) you will notice that their language, actions, and behaviours are positive and empowered. You have the ability to take control of how you think, here is some inspiration for you!
The good thing is that research has shown that even the adult brain is very plastic, or in other words, you can change it, and we can actually retrain our thoughts and create new ways of thinking.
The old theory was that we could not change our brain; it was very fixed.
Neuroplasticity research has encouragingly shown that we can ‘teach old dogs new tricks’! There is a well researched ‘App’ known as Lumosity, which has a series of games and puzzles, shown to improve memory and problem-solving among others. In fact, I highly recommend ‘Lumosity’ for you, your family and your children if you have them, as it is never too late to change the way you think. Lumosity is based on research that has been shown to have a range of benefits; even retraining very injured brains (e.g. after surgery etc).
The science of cognitive training seeks to help us understand how the brain can change
In 2013 alone, 30 cognitive training studies were registered on the global government database of clinical trials ClinicalTrials.gov. Lumosity scientists and their collaborators published 7 peer-reviewed studies using Lumosity as a cognitive training tool for cancer survivors, healthy adults, the elderly and children with a genetic disorder.
I have a new mantra for you to put everywhere you can think of, screen saver, mirror in the bathroom, on the shower screen — it has been proven to shift thinking!!
– I AM ENOUGH, try it out for one week and notice a shift in how you feel.
Meditation is a mental focus to realise benefits or as an end in itself.
Deepak Chopra describes meditation as ‘not a way of making your mind quiet but a way of entering into a quiet already there.’
The average person thinks about 50,000 thoughts every day. Meditation has been used for centuries by Eastern cultures and nowadays is a widely accepted relaxation technique. Some sports/exercise use it as part of the program e.g. Yoga, martial arts (e.g. Karate, Taekwondo, Kendo, etc) and some spiritual and relaxation programs use mediation. The goal of all meditation procedures both spiritual/religious or therapeutic is to quieten the mind. Meditation can benefit you as much as you can manage, ideally daily would be best and some people practice at the start and at the end of the day. When you have cancer it can quiten your stressed, busy mind.
There are three types of meditation:
The practice of mindfulness meditation primarily focuses on breathing. I use this practice myself daily or when doing Yoga. My basic recommendation:
- Sit upright with spine straight, either crossed legged or on a firm chair, with both feet on the floor uncrossed. (I sometimes meditate lying down, but usually, fall asleep due to relaxation, so suggest sitting instead), go to bed if you need to sleep.
- With eyes open gently looking a few metres ahead or eyes closed, focus on the exhalation and inhalation of the breath.
- If the mind wanders, acknowledge and return to the ‘out’ breath.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Transcendental Meditation uses a mantra (a word that has a specific chanting sound but no meaning). The person meditating repeats the word silently, or sometimes out loud, letting thoughts come and go. Try ‘I am enough’ as your mantra, it will help your healing.
This method involves heightening awareness of the immediate surrounding environment, the act of which is very like the definition of mindfulness. Choose a routine activity when alone:
- Folding your clothes, focus on the feeling of the fabric on your hands and the weight of the fabric
- Washing the dishes, focus on the feeling of the water on your hands and the weight of the dishes in your hands, etc.
If you have any trouble meditating or getting your mind off your stresses I recommend that you get an App to help you such as CALM, as this can help distract your busy mind until it relaxes.
I have created a guided meditation to you as my gift – this can get you started if you have not meditated before. Just listen to my voice and use this as a gateway to meditation practice.
The benefits of meditation:
There have been multiple studies on the minds of Buddhist monks, who regularly meditate, which have shown that they have increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with happiness, compared to those who do not meditate regularly. Monks meditate for many hours/day, which may not be practical for you, however when you are waiting at appointments or treatment centres even small amounts of meditation are known to have benefits in terms of concentration, reduced stress, and ratings of higher enjoyment of life. Studies have shown that meditation can benefit the heart and can reduce blood pressure, and improve calmness and happiness.
Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present!
Mindfulness has gained more ‘awareness’ and popularity in recent times. The state of mindfulness is being in present time consciousness. Your attitude can point your mind in a direction.
What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Mindfulness allows you to enjoy your experiences of life to the fullest extent. Research has shown practicing mindfulness can improve your general wellbeing. There are some handy Apps you might like to try including Headspace, Smiling Mind, Insight Timer.
Difference between Empathy & Sympathy
When you have been newly diagnosed, your friends and family often don’t know what you say to you. This little video might be one you can share with them to help them feel more comfortable talking to you and to understand it is hard for you and them. Professor Brené Brown in this little video reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities, which may help your friends and family help you.
I have set up a free closed Facebook Support Group, if you would like to join us, please let us know and we will add you into this group, click here register your interest.
Life is short, enjoy your life in the positive!
Yours in good health,