I eat a pound of kale a week! I haven’t had a soda in over 10 years! I don’t drink or smoke. I meditate every day!! Thousands of downward dogs, all of them worthless! Why do I even bother to exercise?
When I heard the words cervical cancer, my mind went wild. As a recovering control freak and perfectionist, I couldn’t grasp this diagnosis. I thought surely there must be some sort of mistake. When I left the medical office, I sat in my car and stared at the dash, unable to drive away. The why me’s flooded my brain and then the panic set in. I was unemployed and uninsured for the first time in my life.
When I got home, I prepared for the world’s largest pity party. Anger, confusion, and fear were ready to join in. Then, it hit me. I had spent years hurrying and worrying. I attempted to control my body, my relationships, my surroundings, and my future. Eventually that way of life wasn’t possible, so I moved to a new state. I left my job, a relationship, my friends, and my comfort zone. I started soul-searching and preaching positivity. I meditated on my fears, failures, relationships, habits, and my obsessive need to control.
In this moment of reflection, I understood that this new challenge was testing me- had I really grown? Could I practice what I preached? Would I fall back into old, habitual patterns of worry and negativity? Would I learn the lesson of letting go once and for all?
I understood that I had a choice: accept my current situation or wallow in self-pity. Later that day, I was looking online for as much inspiration as I could absorb in one sitting. One of the things I came across said “When life puts you in tough situations, don’t say ‘Why me,’ instead say ‘Try me’.” And with that, I made my decision; I would embrace this challenge with all the positivity I could muster. And, I would surrender the need to know, control, and perfect.
The next month was filled with nothing but uncertainty. I listened to my family and friends, some who were worried sick that I wasn’t acquiring insurance or answers from doctors fast enough. With every phone call, I resisted the urge to freak out and give in to the overwhelming fear of the unknown.
If my soul-searching has taught me anything, it is that we are continually greeted by uncertainty and life hands us one challenge after the other. The only thing that we can control is our reaction to these challenges. Some of our greatest struggles are our most marvelous teachers.
When you’re greeted with a big (or small) life obstacle try out a few of these tips, tested by yours truly:
1) Set a timer on your pity party
Give yourself the space to freak out, cry, pout, whine, think too much, eat chocolate. Whatever you’re pity party consists of, go all out! But, set a timer: give yourself however many hours/days that you decide is appropriate for you and then honor that time. Not repressing your emotions is healthy. A life-long pity party is not.
2) Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude
I can’t say it enough. Cultivate gratitude any time you start to feel sorry for yourself. Write a list, say it out loud, paint it on a canvas, sing about it! Each and every day before I get out of bed, I make a little list of things I am grateful for. I am willing to bet there are hundreds of thousands of people that we would not want to trade struggles with.
3) You are NOT your disease, your lost job, your failed relationship, your empty bank account
Do not let your problem become your identity. I am not my cancer. My friend is not her lost job. If we make our problems our own then we carry that horribly low energy vibration and limit our resilience, positivity, and healing ability. Instead of using your energy for fear, blame, or anger, use your energy to cultivate vitality, success, happiness, and bravery.
4) Make a bucket list
Sometimes a big life change or upset allows us the chance to reevaluate our current life path. When I got my diagnosis I started to have thoughts like, Am I really following my dreams? Do I spend time with people who feed or drain me? What do I want to do before my time is up? (and- Why haven’t I done these things?)
5) Stay present
To the best of your ability, stay present for each unpleasant thing thrown your way. The tendency to check out during difficult times is so strong, you may not even recognize you’re doing it. Remind yourself constantly, that all you have is right now. No matter how terrible the present moment may be, it is truly the only thing we can count on.
Of course, my diagnosis isn’t a death sentence. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is a chance for me to continue my path to awakening. It is the opportunity for me to cultivate bravery and to release fear. It is a test from the universe, asking me to demonstrate that I have in fact grown, and that I am ready for bigger and better things.
Also see: How to Release Triggers
Photo: Hali Richardson