Many of us at some point proclaim that we prefer to feel in control. If we’re honest about it, most of us have “control issues”. The discomfort of not being in control is only heightened when living with critical illness, particularly at the diagnosis stage.
From the initial shock to far-reaching impacts and managing long-term effects, we learn to adjust. While fear, anxiety and/or depression can come with the critical illness package, we somehow make room for all the ambiguity as we evolve and learn about our new normals.
All of us who have been dealt the hit-behind-the-knees blow of critical illness have certainly earned a little “negative Nancyness” time. But working in a bit of acceptance can lighten the burden. How do we become okay with hanging out in uncertainty when our foundations have been completely shaken?
Acceptance - Let me off this Ride!
Going to discouraging or negative places is natural when coping with an intense life challenge such as critical illness. But how long do you allow yourself to stay there? What kind of thinking impacts health?
Can you think of a time when you were in a hard place and all of a sudden, your mood or outlook spontaneously changed for the better? Without looking at the external event so much, what happened in that moment? What did the inner shift feel like? Lighter, roomier?
Knowing that we can access this lighter space within ourselves at any given moment is encouraging. While we all might not be seasoned meditators, there are tools that we can work with to help us “lighten up”.
Letting Go - Coaxing awareness through thought watching
Try this simple mindfulness exercise that can be done during your day-to-day – at work, on a walk, even during household chores. For the purpose of this sample, we will look at thought watching while walking.
- While out for a walk, focus on the in-and-out of your breath.
- Allow yourself to briefly register the external details. For example: How lovely the tree branches look with new snow or how beautiful the bird song sounds. Then come back to the ease of breath.
- When your attention gets pulled towards something for longer than a brief noticing period, as it typically will, note for how long you have been pulled away from your breathing.
- Observe if you have mentally wandered into fully focusing on the distraction to the point of not having any recollection of your walking…perhaps you’ve brought a narrative to the distraction. What's the story?
- Then, without personal judgment, notice where your mind went off to (watching the thinker) and then gently guide yourself back to breath and being with your walk.
Practising this mindfulness exercise, even just for a block or two, will help you to park your worries for a few moments. With that small break, you’ve created a bit of space to relax and let unhealthy stress slip away.
No need to hop into the movement of “Happy”
Recently, there has been incredible pressure to find your inner Happy. Could Bobby McFerrin’s delightful little tune of the 80s, "Don’t Worry, Be Happy” be a culprit?
Striving for happiness all of the time is counter-intuitive, counter-productive, and unrealistic. Instead, consider looking for ways to find contentment. The ultimate ways of finding contentment will be inside of you.
Finally, a fierce little inspirational quote for your consideration…
“Be the kind of woman who, when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says "Oh, no! She's up.” - Joanne Clancy, Author.
Gentlemen. Consider this quote for yourselves.
You’ve got this!