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Life After Cancer: Self-Compassion

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

I recently gave a talk on self-compassion, a topic that I'm sharing with you today to spread awareness of its power. As a two-time breast cancer survivor and a certified health and wellness coach, I'm passionate about self-compassion for many reasons. For those that are navigating their recovery and life after cancer, self-compassion can help you find a way to thrive.


Self-compassion:


➡ is an intrinsic resource.

➡ is natural and it can be built upon.

➡ translates to life beyond cancer.

➡ can help you gain a sense of control.


Practicing self-compassion can be simple, plus it can have amazing benefits along your cancer recovery journey. Let's talk about some different methods of practicing it, starting with the question: "What do I need in this moment?" This will lead you down the path of choosing connection, kindness, or mindfulness.


Connection


Positive social connections is one of the 6 Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine and that's for good reason. Connection can help improve your overall health, including sustainable behavior changes and improving your quality of life.


Seeking it out can come in many forms! Support groups, social media, and group chats are great ways to find connection with more than one person at a time. You can also reach out to a family member, loved one, or friend to meet up– for instance, to go for a walk at a local park.


Kindness


If you're seeking this kind of compassion, you should aim to show yourself the same kindness you would show a friend. Try to process and accept your thoughts and feelings in a way that is non judgemental, giving yourself grace, and forgiving yourself for anything you're holding on to.


You can also show yourself kindness by participating in positive lifestyle behaviors that you'll benefit from. This might include eating nutritious food, getting good sleep, positive affirmation, managing your stress levels, and more. You'll also want to remember that when you feel the need for support, you can ask for help! Give yourself the opportunity to reach out when you need it.


Mindfulness


Being mindful creates an awareness that arises from purposefully paying attention to the present moment. This can enhance your ability to manage stress and anxiety levels, enhance your clarity, and overall, bring you a sense of balance. Practicing mindful behaviors includes showing acceptance and being non judgemental with yourself.


If you're interested in participating in a group program based on mindful recovery, you can learn more here.


When you find yourself wanting to practice self-compassion, you can set aside a few moments for the exercise below (source: https://self-compassion.org/exercise-2-self-compassion-break/). This can be used at any time to help you evaluate and meet your needs.


Place your hands over your heart, feeling the warmth, and say:


"This is a moment of ________ ex: stress, pain, suffering." (mindfulness)

"I’m not alone." (connection)

"May I be kind to myself OR May I be strong OR another phrase." (kindness)


You can then choose any of the above methods and activities to help achieve the feeling you're seeking. Remember to ask, "What do I need in this moment?"


The benefits of self-compassion to those on the path to cancer recovery can be seen in a variety of ways, including:


➡ decreased anxiety

➡ decreased symptoms of depression

➡ increased feelings of social connectedness

➡ increased optimism

➡ improved health behaviors

➡ an opportunity to increase immunity


If you'd like to find balance, emotional support, and a sense of control, then self-compassion is a wonderful way to start. This practice can be used at any time in a wide variety of ways. I'd recommend starting with a plan, which can help you feel ready to face any challenges as they come. List some ways that you can provide yourself with connection, kindness, and mindfulness so that you can remember to provide them for yourself.


Self-compassion is always available to you. It is one of the practices that I am passionate about and stand behind as a way to improve your quality of life after cancer. If you're on your recovery journey and you'd like to learn more ways to improve your recovery and heal mindfully, then I'd like to invite you to learn more about the programs I offer (https://www.livebrilliant.coach/challenges).



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