Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fight Fear with Self-care

Self-care never leads us away from our highest good; it leads us toward it.” 
--Melody Beatty

This is a lesson I have to learn over and over. So I’m sharing Melody Beatty’s quote here for you and maybe to remind me too. 

When cancer’s fear hits my first reaction is Control and then, Get Busy. I understand the dynamic. Fear cannot hit a moving target. So when we get scared we get busy, and when we get busy we get more tired and more stressed. It makes sense and is understandable. But...

in CancerLand there is so much to be afraid of: words we can’t pronounce, side effects that come and go and which can sometimes be terrifying (He stops breathing when he opens the refrigerator door—not even the freezer—just the fridge!). And the lingo of the medical establishment and copays that go up and up and up. Then of course the medical reality: people die of cancer. We know that so even though we experience so many cancers as chronic illnesses now, some are still fast to the finish line.

And for caregivers there is also the secret fear with the more chronic cancers: “Will this be my/our life forever?” “Will quarterly blood tests rule my emotions all year?”

In this Land you will be tempted to do more, move faster, read more and that means less self-care (for both patient and caregiver)—and note: medical appointments are not self-care—they are just business –as-usual in CancerLand.
I know, fighting fear with self-care seems counter-intuitive but believe me, it works.

What’s not easy is learning what true self-care is for you. Start with the standard prescription: manicure, massage, lunch with friends, a new pretty blouse. But then dig deeper. Maybe for you self-care means getting away alone for an overnight. OR maybe it means a movie marathon with someone else who loves Downton Abbey or going for a long run or doing a 5K.

Or –and this is radical—try some volunteering. (But absolutely not cancer related activities) Instead volunteer to hang an art show at a school gallery or tutor young kids or plant bulbs in a city park. Find people who don’t know you as a cancer patient or cancer caregiver (and don’t tell them). Take time to experience yourself apart from cancer.

You will be tempted—very tempted—to say, “I can’t do that, I’m needed, things are not great right now…” But it is life—and living life –that is the best self-care and the best antidote to fear.

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