Why is wellness so hard? We want to be happier and healthier – to be well. Our intentions are good. “I’m going to lose weight, eat better, reduce stress, work harder, spend more time with loved ones, be a better friend, write a book, and save the world. Starting today.” A few weeks later the push to change everything NOW can become totally demoralizing, full of self-blame and guilt because of not doing what was intended, or not doing it well enough.
Wellness is hard because we make it hard. WE THINK TO MUCH.
We expect wellness to be hard, so we get what we expect. We’ve been culturally conditioned to believe that it will be, mostly from people who want to make money from our pain. Then our human brains take over, telling us what we SHOULD do and then blocking us from doing it. We end up trapped in a cycle of good intentions, guilt, and giving up. It’s no wonder it’s hard to be happier and healthier. If it’s feeling hard to you, it will be easier if you don’t think so much.
Signs of thinking too much?
- You’re SHOULDING yourself to death. If your motivation is based on SHOULD, ask yourself, “Who says I should do this? What about it matters to me?” If you can’t find a way it matters, consider letting it go.
- Your inner critic has taken over. “I don’t have the time, money, energy or whatever, and why bother because I’ll fail anyway, people will laugh, etc.” are all voices of your inner critic, who is trying to protect you by keeping you from doing something new, even if it’s good for you. If it’s dramatic an emotional, your critic may be running the show. Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” If it’s not, what do you gain by believing it?
- You believe it is selfish and wrong to make your own needs a priority. Would you deny the people you love permission to take care of themselves? You must have both giving and receiving to be well. If you feel depressed, tired and run down all the time, your body is telling you it needs some care.
- You don’t celebrate your progress. Every single teeny tiny step you take is success because it is progress. I can’t say this enough. Going from 3 to 3.5 is a success. Trying and failing and trying again is a success. Thinking about changing is a success. Starting and then changing direction is as success. Celebrating each small step will keep you motivated for the long term.
If you SHOULD but you aren’t; you started and then you stopped; you want to but believe you can’t; and you would if you could just find the time, money or energy; it’s time to leave the mind chatter behind. Make your life happier and healthier by not thinking so much. I promise it will be so much easier, and a lot more fun. Need some help? Let’s talk about it. Email me at Paula@WhatsNextForMyLife.com.
My heart jumped when I caught the movement out of the corner of my eye, and my eyes widened in disbelief and shock as I realized something was climbing down the windshield of my moving vehicle. “Holy crap,” was my first thought, followed by “He’s going to die!”, as I subconsciously registered the colors, the ridges, the claws, and size of him. “It’s a friggin’ iguana!” Panic set in as he moved down the windshield onto the hood, sliding as he battened down against the wind; I was sure he was going to become road kill right before my eyes. I whipped into the next parking lot, and drove toward the shrubs on the side as my hitchhiker inched down the hood. “NO no no don’t fall off here” was screaming in my mind as I came to a stop and he disappeared off the hood. “Did I run over him? Is he under the hood? Did he go into the bushes?” My heart was still racing as I jumped out of my truck and ran to the passenger side, just in time to see his tail disappear into the shrubs. As I calmed down, I thought to myself, “He’s safe now, but he’s in unfamiliar territory.” It wasn’t until later that I felt the oxymoron in those words. Equating safety with being in unfamiliar territory doesn’t feel logical. Safety means knowing what to expect and being in control. When life steps in, picks me up, puts me somewhere else, my mind screams danger and fills up with all of the worst case scenarios. Yet when the dust settles, every time, I grow from it, kicking and screaming at the unknown, until familiarity sets in again.
I finally understand that safety comes not from avoiding unfamiliar territory, but from trusting that I can get through it, and live to tell the tale.
The next time life picks you up, takes you for a ride, and drops you into unfamiliar territory, ask yourself what you can learn from how you’re responding. Do you trust yourself to keep going, or does all of your energy go into resisting the change? What’s the dramatic awful outcome you’re imagining? And most important, is the freak out energy helping? These questions can bring safety into the unfamiliar quickly and easily. Try them out, and let me know how it works for you.
Interested in more lessons from iguanas? Read about my October 2008 encounter with an iguana HERE.
PS. For those of you who want to know how the iguana got on the hood of my truck, it climbed up the fence, into a tree, and onto my truck to sun himself. The overhanging branch has now been trimmed back, and I check my roof before I drive away. LOL.
By Paula Holland De Long ACC, CPCC
Asking for What You Want. “It’s been over two years and I almost no one besides my husband knows I was sick,” confessed the striking African woman, arriving at my workshop three hours late. Despite surgery and treatment, Doreen’s day to day life was virtually unchanged. “We have three small kids,” she explained. They need me.” She wept as she whispered, “I can’t go on like this anymore. I’ve got to have some time for myself.” The idea of asking for what she wanted, and for their help, shocked her.
I asked the group to help her role play asking for what she wanted. As she practiced saying “I’ve been feeling tired and want a quiet hour to myself each day. Will you help with household chores so I can do that?” her confidence grew. She committed to talking with her family that same night, and her time to herself began the next morning.
Six months later she founded an organization to make mammograms available to woman in South Africa. Often, asking for what you need is even scarier than cancer. The first time is by far the hardest. Practice makes it easier and more natural. Practicing in front of a mirror, or asking someone you trust to role play can help you see that getting what you need will be easier than you think.
Ask yourself “What if?” “My boyfriend wants to get married right now,” Doretha, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, scoffed. “No way am I risking that. How could he possibly want me with half a chest, knowing I might die? I’m thinking about breaking up with him.” Her miserable face told its own story.
“It feels like you’re making this decision out of fear of what might happen.” I observed. “How does this decision make it easier for you?”
She hesitated. Took a deep breath. “I love him and I want him with me but I just can’t get married now. I just can’t risk it.“ And then admitted her deepest fear. “Even if he does still want me, what if I don’t make it? I can’t do that to him.”
“What if you stay together and just put the whole idea of marriage on hold until you’re done with treatment?” I could see the relief on her face. She smiled. “That would make if so much easier.”
That was over a year ago. I ran into her and her fiancé last week. They’re getting married next month. Doretha’s fear of what might happen in the future almost cost her the love of her life, and valuable support during her treatment.
Sometimes we get so caught up in negatives of what might happen we lose track of what that is might be really good, or what we need now. Consider:
- What is the best thing that could happen? What’s the worst?
- What if I decide/do it now? What if I wait?
Your physical, emotional and intuitive responses to these What If? questions will help you deepen your understanding of what you want and need.
Find out What’s Possible. Torn between financial stability, physical health, and the desires of her heart, Sharon‘s anxiety about returning to her job had taken over her life. Eight years from retirement, she hated the work, and while knowing she could do it, feared the physical demands would weaken her over time. She was filled with a vague new yearning to do more, and dreamed of somehow giving back.
Within a few hours, my professional balance assessment quickly identified what she would be happiest doing, and our brainstorming transformed her vague dream into a plan to create a blog and ezine, sharing her knowledge of how art and music therapy helps patients and survivors.
Together, we created a transition plan that allowed her to keep her job while she creates and launched her new business, which will be in early 2013.
Sharon’s anxiety came from her mistaken belief that it was impossible to be financially secure and do something new at the same time.
If you want something more, but don’t think it’s possible, invest time in finding out. Most likely you’ll find out that it is.
Each of these women is exactly like you and I. We make choices and we live life. It’s choosing making to ask for what you want, consider all the “what if’s”, and find out what’s possible that bring us the feelings of choice and freedom we must have to take back our lives during and after cancer.
Are you ready to take back control of your life? Learn more about my new Living Well After Cancer 8-week telecourse. Past participants have taken back control of their lives by changing careers; breathing new life into their relationships; sustaining lifestyle changes like losing weight; overcoming depression and fear; and report huge improvements in their quality of life.
Learn more HERE.
“After it sunk in that I couldn’t take time for granted, I felt compelled to make spending time with my children my top priority. It was challenging, I kept reminding myself that if I could do cancer, I surely could do this.”– Angelina Provst, age 43, 4-year lung cancer survivor
Change, by definition, requires doing things differently. To have more of what matters most, YOU MUST want it badly enough to step out of your comfort zone and take a new action instead of an old one.
The first step into the gym, ice cream skipped before bed, or salad ordered instead of a burger is the absolute hardest. As much as we wish that we could lose weight and keep it off without exercising or changing our diet, we won’t.
Changing how you do things is like strengthening a muscle. It can take weeks to finally set foot in the gym. The first time you lift the weights, muscles weak, your first repetitions are hesitant and uncertain before you get the feel of it. Next time you feel a groove. Soon, the workout seems easier so you add more weight. Your confidence grows. And then one day see muscle where there was none when you do the muscle-man arm flex. You feel inspired to keep going.
Of course, you won’t go from your first workout to muscle-man arms overnight. Life will get in the way. A rush assignment at work and sick kids will intrude on your routine. One morning you will wake up and decide “I can’t do this right now.” Like we all do, you’ll get stuck, sometimes for weeks, months or more. THIS IS A NORMAL PART OF THE CHANGE PROCESS.
This process of transition comes in uneven spurts: three steps forward, one step back, with a frustrating stuck place, or plateau, where nothing seems to happen. Know that healing is happening in that stuck place. You are processing the growth you have made, and preparing for your next steps. Remember to show yourself compassion when things slow down or aren’t progressing as fast as you’d like. Instead of feeling wrong, celebrate your progress. You’ll reduce stress, gain confidence, and feel more control over your future as you begin to focus your attention on the choices you’ve made.
When you heard “You have cancer,” did you believe you could do what you have now done? By no choice of your own, you’ve faced the thing you thought you couldn’t do. Fighting cancer has created a new muscle, the If I Can Do Cancer I Can Do Anything muscle. Flex this muscle when your normal resistance to change appears.
Sign up HERE for my FREE Three Easy Steps That Build Your Muscles of Choice and Change Telecall on Tuesday May 15, 2012 8-9 pm EST / 7 CST / 5 PST. Can’t make the call? Sign up and get the audio after the call.
Learn more about building the muscle of choice and change in my What’s Next After Treatment Ends? LifeBook. Look Inside HERE.
I’m honored to be a new expert columnist for Beyond the Boobie Trap! My first guest post on the BTBT site is below. Listen to me talk about Beyond the Boobie Trap here, and be sure to check out Beyond the Boobie Trap!
“I’m totally stressed out; I wake up at 2 a.m. terrified my cancer will come back; and I think I’m seriously depressed,” my new client said hesitantly, with tears in her eyes. “I finished chemo over six months ago and every day I tell myself I’ll feel better and I don’t. I should be grateful just to be alive,” she broke into sobs that lasted several minutes, and then raised her head.
I burst into applause. She looked at me like I was crazy.
“It takes a lot of courage to say your deepest fears out loud. It’s a lot easier to bury them or pretend they don’t exist. How long have you been carrying this fear and stress around with you?” I asked. “I’ve felt it since my diagnosis,” she sighed. More applause from me. Louder. Her shoulders go back as she sits up straighter.
“Take a deep breath. How’s your stress now?” “Better,” she said, surprised. Then smiled. “MUCH better. I feel like I’m taking charge of my life instead of just tolerating it.”
“Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and imagine that your stress and fear are standing in front of you. If you had to name them something, what would it be?” Pause. “Rat –On-A-Wheel.” “OK. Client, shake hands and say hello to Mr. Rat –On-A-Wheel.
Her giggle surprised me. “What about Mr. Rat makes you giggle?” He’s a sneaky, ugly little rat, like a cartoon character.”
“Is this cartoon rat running your life? I queried. “Heck no,” she said strongly.
I asked my client to stand up, take a bow, and give herself a round of applause. Mr. Rat and I clapped and cheered.
“Why are we applauding?” she asked.
You are applauding yourself. You just stood up to this Mr. Rat character who was trying to run your life. You’re giggling at him. How cool is that? Whoo hoo to you! Mr. Rat’s applauding because he’s relieved. He’s truly is a rat and he’s tired of you and ready to move on. I’m applauding because you’ve just managed your own fear, and you can do it again.
Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!
Use these simple steps to take your life back when fear, despair, and stress take over.
1. Acknowledge and release your emotions.
- Explore your feelings honestly. What’s your truth?
- Release them: Write them down, have a pretend conversation with them, share with someone else.
- Applaud yourself for your courage when you’re done.
2. Create a persona for the feelings and get curious.
- What does this persona want and need? Does it really want to be doing what it’s doing?
- Applaud yourself for your curiosity.
3. Decide what you want to happen next.
- Take one small step to get started, like asking for help.
- Applaud yourself for making the choice and taking the first step.
Right now, I challenge you to pick one thing, take these steps, and tell me if it works for you.
Now I know that if I can do cancer I can do anything. But on that dark day when “you have cancer” came out of my doctor’s mouth, I felt anything but empowered. I didn’t think I could handle the surgeries and chemo, physically or mentally. Wasn’t sure I even wanted to try. I didn’t feel empowered while I was going through treatment. But when it ended I was amazed by what I had done.
I might have been sick and bald, but as long as I could choose to laugh and refuse to be poked, I didn’t feel like a victim. This little bit of control was enough to keep me sane. It was a valuable lesson that carried forward into my healing and my new normal life.
What about you? How many things have you done because of cancer that you never would have dreamed you could? What are you proud of yourself for accomplishing? What did you do that surprised you? How does it feel?
I believe the essence of empowerment comes from feeling the fear of not knowing how something will turn out, and doing it anyway. You may not realize it, but you’ve become an expert at doing it anyway during cancer.
The experience facing your own mortality may have shaken the foundation of who you are. Pieces of your old life may not fit anymore. Your priorities may be different now. Dreams and goals more urgent.
Your shaken foundation has also created an unexpected opportunity. Now you have the chance to bring more of what matters most to you into your life. If you could wipe the slate clean and have it all; what would you want? Give yourself permission to think about this without worrying about how it could happen. Millions of survivors report that their lives as survivors are more passionate, fulfilling and joyful than before.
Like me, they feel that nothing is scarier than cancer. They’ve learned to use fear as a spring-board to move out of their comfort zone and into that fully alive, I CAN DO IT feeling. You can too.
Leave a comment about what you’ve done that you never believed you could because of cancer below and inspire others with your courage.
Learn more about the empowering aspects of cancer at my If I Can Do Cancer I Can Do Anything FREE Telecall. Join me, award-winning author Paula Holland De Long ACC, CPCC, for this inspiring discussion of how you can use the courage and inspiration cancer creates to get more of what you want from life. All participants receive a free learning guide.
Tues. February 28th from 8-9 pm EST / 7 CST / 5 PST
After my chemotherapy ended, it took me three years to get my life back. I know now that the emotional challenges I experienced are universal. When we increase the number of days cancer survivors live we have an obligation to teach people how they can take actions that promote their well-being. Life coaching teaches people to be proactive about their lives during cancer and as survivors.
Would you or someone you love benefit from a cancer coach? CURE Magazine’s Fall 2011 issue explores the medical and practical aspects of the role of coaching in cancer care. I am honored to be part of the story.
GAME CHANGERS: Cancer patients and survivors turn to life or wellness coaches for guidance.
BY JENNIFER M. GANGLOFF
CURE Magazine Fall 2011 Issue, PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 14, 2011
Hildreth Stafford arrived at an unsettling juncture after treatment for breast cancer. She had endured a double mastectomy, radiation, aggressive chemotherapy, a hysterectomy and reconstructive surgery. She lost her hair, her eyebrows and her eyelashes, and her husband and young children were left reeling. When it was over, she felt like a different person. Once a hard-driving TV producer, she became fearful and stuck, unable to move forward.
“When I finished treatment, I knew my life was going to change dramatically,” recalls Stafford, 47, who received a diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer in 2009. “I knew what I needed to do, but I just couldn’t do it. I decided I wanted a life coach to help me, and she completely changed my life.”
Stafford interviewed several coaches by phone, and one of them directed her to Paula Holland De Long, a life coach, author and motivational speaker—and a fellow breast cancer survivor. For Stafford, that was just the connection she needed. After only two coaching sessions with De Long, Stafford felt equipped to act on her plan that alone she didn’t feel brave enough to carry out: In June 2010, she walked away from the successful television production company she co-owned.
“Once I did it, I never looked back,” Stafford says. “It was so hard to walk away after more than 20 years in television, but Paula gave me the courage, the strength and the guidance to do it.”
A New Kind of Quarterback
Stafford is among a growing number of cancer patients turning to life and wellness coaches for guidance in a variety of areas—nutrition, exercise, work, relationships and stress management, for example. Coaches can help cancer patients across the continuum of care, from receiving a new diagnosis with complicated treatment options to end-of-life decision-making.
….. At Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C., for example, there’s a team approach to care that includes coaching, if desired. “In our program, a physician may be working with a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a nutritionist, a stress management therapist and a health coach,” says Linda Smith, PA, director of professional and public programs at Duke Integrative Medicine’s Integrative Health Coach Professional Training program. “Essentially, the entire team works together with the patient to develop a health plan.
“As a result, the patient walks away with a substantive health plan that addresses every aspect of health and well-being that they can then take into their real-life situations,” she adds.