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Develop Resilience and Live a Better Life!

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Have you ever received bad news? Suffered a loss? Had your heart broken? Lost your job or been directed to let an employee go? Every one of us faces adversity at some point in our lives, and the key to moving forward is resilience.

I am writing this blog during National Breast Cancer awareness month, and as a survivor, I want to call attention to the resilience required of survivorship. When we hear bad news that changes our lives forever, there is no greater opportunity to flex our resiliency muscle and become a force to face adversity.

What is resilience? Defined simply, resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change. It is a skill that requires practice - and it could be the most important skill you develop in your life.

Here are 10 tips and best practices to train your resilient brain, and how I applied resiliency to the adversity of breast cancer:

1. Get enough rest. Resiliency begins with having the energy necessary to face adversity and problems. Protect your down time and get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Running yourself ragged will not serve you well and habitually living on little sleep causes physical harm to the body and brain.

Cancer treatments, during and after, can affect a person’s ability to sleep and that affects every aspect of health. If you are unable to get enough sleep, see your doctor. I did, and it saved my life.

2. You are not alone. Adversity does not discriminate. Suffering is part of every human’s experience. While it may feel that some individuals get more than their fair share of bad times, the phrase, “Life isn’t fair”, rings true. If you find yourself thinking “why me?”, instead, try to accept, “why not me”. Everyone experiences loss, heartbreak, health concerns and problems we have not planned for or anticipated. You are not alone.

1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer.

1 in 800 men are too.

I am not alone.

3. Be proactive. Don’t let problems fester. Face them head on and take immediate action to do what you can right now to minimize damage or to move in a direction to fix the issue. Check yourself: Is what I’m doing right now helping me or harming me? Then, take action!

I sought aggressive treatment immediately and continue to be proactive in continuing self-care and advocacy. With early detection, breast cancer is 99% curable, but you can't fight what you don't know.

Check yourself, it saved my life!

4. Focus on the present. No one can change yesterday, or control tomorrow. We can only be in the present. When you feel your thoughts and heartbeat racing, trying box breathing, meditation, yoga or a walk outdoors to reconnect with this moment, now.

Daily journaling, exercise, yoga, meditative breathing, and the mantra “stronger than yesterday, but not as strong as I’ll be tomorrow” works for me.

5. Believe you are a force! Focus on what you can control; identify and accept what you cannot control. These words offer wisdom for us all: Accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; Wisdom to know the difference. When you focus on what is within your control, you will feel more in control of the entire situation and have the courage to take action.

I face challenges and adversity every day. I have a high cancer reoccurrence rate, and genetic predisposition, but I am a force! I believe, “6 times down, 7 times up!” Acceptance of what I cannot change makes the mental load a little lighter.

6. Stay flexible and curious. Adversity and challenges can cause us to change direction in ways we hadn’t considered. It may not be all bad, just different. Stay curious and creative to pivot and evolve.

Hearing a cancer diagnosis is hard, but the knowledge I have gained learning about the disease, treatment options, and how to navigate the changes after treatment, have given me power. I now know more about what I can do to control my overall health, and I share that knowledge freely.

7. Change your mindset. Even the most difficult of situations can be an opportunity to learn about ourselves. Stop thinking about adversity as a problem and embrace it as an opportunity for growth. What can I learn from this?

The loss of my long hair due to chemotherapy treatments was hard. When I gave in to it, and shaved my head, I discovered that being bald was liberating and people were compassionate and kind. I am grateful for having had that experience.

8. Build relationships. No one goes through life alone. Sharing the good times, and the bad times with others is a uniquely human experience that nurtures our well-being and happiness. Honesty, vulnerability, transparency, and trust are the building blocks of the best relationships that can last a lifetime.

Sharing a cancer diagnosis with family, friends and colleagues is hard. Asking for help, for me, was even harder. I’m independent by nature and don’t typically ask for help. This was different. I asked for help during treatment, received help at work, and had so many people rally around me, keeping me strong. What a gift!

9. Be grateful. Negativity is the greatest killer of resilience. While our brains may be hardwired to focus on things that keep us out of danger, you can be intentional to instill gratitude and focus on the positive. Write down 3 things you are grateful for every day and begin to change the lens through which you view your world.

I am grateful for every day. I am grateful for the opportunity to do the work I love. I am grateful for the freedom to use my voice to share my experiences and knowledge with others. Gratitude is a way of life and an attitude!

10. Practice endurance. Athletes train for competition by strengthening their bodies and minds. Think grit, determination and never quitting. Resilience is a skill we only get better at with practice. No one is born resilient. We develop resilience over time with the right mindset, practice, and the right behaviors.

Rarely does a day pass when I don’t think about cancer, but I choose positivity. I control what I can, accept what I can’t, and when I need extra support, I advocate for myself. It seems that every waking hour of most days, we are all faced with adversity. Every adversity is an opportunity to practice resilience!

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