Dear Fellow Traveler,
Sometimes my life feels a bit complicated, like a chess game in which I’m always trying to anticipate and strategize. I guess everyone’s life is like this, but dealing with a chronic health issue adds another layer of complexity. If your health causes you to have less energy at the beginning of your day, if that energy is drained faster because your body is less fit and if you have extra tasks to take care of your health (e.g. doctor’s appointments, medical tests, paperwork for e.g. leave/disability/accommodations), life can become overwhelming. At times it may even feel like you’ve been checkmated!
Most of us try everything we can to control our quantity of life to the degree that quality of life may suffer. For instance, many things we do because we think they’re healthy may turn out to have downsides (e.g. vitamin intake may be associated with lesser survival, calcium pill intake may be associated with heart disease and Zantac may contain a carcinogen). Please note that all of these observations do not imply cause/effect, but reflect associations requiring further investigation.
It can sometimes feel like you can’t win. You take two steps forward and one back, or one step forward and two back. It may help to remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. When you find yourself spinning your wheels without clear purpose, stop and breath. Be kind to yourself. Rest, sleep, watch a movie, anything to allow your brain and body to rest and gain a new perspective. We’re not the only ones who have a hard time making sense of life. Even though we live in the 21st century, the medical community still has a lot to learn about our bodies, this ‘black box’ in which many systems are closely balanced and interrelated.
The internal tension you may feel forcing you to ‘fight for your survival’ after you have faced a traumatizing diagnosis like cancer is (in most cases) a normal and healthy response. You may need to find ways to distract from your own thoughts and feelings and navigate your internal energy outwards into more productive channels. I have listed a few examples to get you inspired! Please note that I intentionally did not list exercise, sleep, and diet, since they can become more a source of stress than relief in cancer survivors. Also, I did not list much about relaxation techniques (e.g. yoga, meditation), because when you have so much inner energy boiled up, it may be quite difficult to relax. First try blowing off some steam by actively doing any of the following:
- Invest time each week in creating a calendar that visually outlines your schedule. This may allow you to recognize conflicts and/or reorganize days that may prove to be rather hectic. Break tasks down into smaller steps and rank them by priority — in terms of what you need as well as what you want! Perhaps ask a loved one to help you plan your calendar so you can identify opportunities for them to support you or join you in social activities that you can both look forward to and enjoy. (Feel free – or better yet – I challenge you to make plans to spend a few hours together doing nothing!)
- Absorb nature (even if you only sit) and allow all your senses to be stimulated. It can be a calming and humbling experience!
- Distract yourself by getting a new hobby. (What were your favorite activities to lose yourself in when you were younger?)
- Express your thoughts and feelings to yourself (e.g. by writing them down or typing them into your phone) or to others. Sometimes it may feel safer to express your worries to people you don’t love (such as a healthcare provider) since you may not want to hurt your loved ones with your worst thoughts/feelings.
Control is an illusion. Please allow yourself to accept the things that you cannot change, since fighting them only makes your life harder. Life is not only about the destination, but also about the journey. Please be kind to you along the way by acknowledging that no matter how hard you try, you cannot always win!
Thank you for visiting me. Below I’ve included a few things to educate and entertain you. Remember, I share ‘extra treats’ if you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest! Plus, you can get notified of a new posting by subscribing to our newsletter!
Learn and Think:
- A review of publicly available apps for cancer survivors.
Live and Feel:
- A fascinating movie (The Biggest Little Farm) tells the true story of a young couple who left Los Angeles to successfully start a farm for a barking rescue dog whom they had promised would never change families again. Enjoy going back to nature while you watch this!
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