After a cancer diagnosis, when your life has felt out of control, or even when life just isn’t going your way, how do you take back your power? Most people are great at getting themselves worked up into a state that’s anything but empowering. When things get challenging, you need all of your resources if you’re really going to turn things around.
We all have the power to bring about positive change in our lives even under the most difficult circumstances.
Try these tips to regain some control over your life:
1. Be assertive. Many people are simply too passive to ever accomplish their biggest dreams. Sometimes you have to declare what you want. Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ to others. You don’t have to be selfish, but there’s nothing wrong with making a decision and then making it happen. When dealing with your doctors and their staffs or insurance company people, keep in mind that you are really the customer. You don’t work for them and you have no reason to try to please them. Schedule appointments for your own convenience. If you’re not feeling well, tell the insurance company that you’ll have to talk to them later. First and foremost, take care of yourself.
2. Make a list of your 10 greatest strengths. Now think of ways that you can leverage them to your advantage. If you’re going to take back control of your life quickly, you’ll probably need your strengths to accomplish it. Use these strengths to maximize your road back to wellness.
3. It’s also worthwhile to think about your 10 greatest weaknesses. These are commonly the things that get us into trouble. What can you do to reduce the impact of your weaknesses – both physically and emotionally? Fear of recurrence is a common concern after cancer treatment. Don’t let that fear stop you from taking back control of your life. It’s a waste of time to worry because it won’t change anything. If you do have a recurrence, you will deal with it at that time. Life is too short to let worry ruin your survivorship.
4. Stop making excuses. Know the difference between an excuse and a legitimate limitation. Excuses limit you and prevent you from taking charge of the situation. If you can take responsibility, you can change the situation. Excuses give you a justification for being passive. If you believe that something is outside of your control, you also believe that you can’t do anything to change it. If you are truly limited, especially physically, from accomplishing something that you want to do, find another way or change your goal.
5. Get more sleep. Most people simply don’t sleep enough to be at their best. Studies have shown that most people experience improved mood, clarity of thought, and increased energy if they increase their sleep by one hour per night. Turn off the TV and go to bed an hour earlier. When you are recovering during or after cancer treatment, you need as much rest as you can get. Also, concentrate on eating healthy, fresh, nutritious food. During treatment, it is sometimes difficult to eat healthy food. Certain foods often don’t taste good. After the chemo wears off, your taste buds should start recovering. Explore new flavors and spices on your journey to wellness and healthy eating.
6. Do the most important things first. Spend the first hour or two each morning on the most important tasks you have for the day. Your focus and energy will be at their greatest.
7. Decide which area of your life would have the greatest impact if improved. Focus on the one area of your life that will make the biggest difference. After cancer, most people have increased clarity about what is important in their lives. Act on it. Write a letter to yourself about what you want to accomplish for yourself in the next year. Be compassionate about what you have been through and encouraging about the future. Mail it to yourself.
8. Forget about expectations. The whole world seems to tell us what we should be doing. Many cancer survivors complain that their friends and family expect them to be completely well and active and “back to normal” after treatment. They don’t understand that after cancer, we have to create a new normal-and it takes time. What would you do if you were free of all of those expectations? Choose for yourself for a change.
9. Figure out what’s holding you back. Before the diagnosis, were you living life the way you chose? What prevented you? What were you afraid of? If you have different life goals now, what is holding you back? What can you do to work around these challenges? Develop a plan to get past this resistance.
10. Make the necessary changes. After all of the above steps, you know what you need to do. It’s time to do what needs to be done. Take action.
After a cancer diagnosis, it becomes very apparent that none of us really has complete control over what happens to us. But you can take control over some important aspects of your life and when you take charge of the things that you can control, you will feel stronger and empowered. Get started today by taking the first steps. A few steps each day will grow into major positive changes before you know it.
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