Tag Archives: breast cancer and fear of death

The Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

http://MarnieClark.com/The-Fear-of-Dying-Changing-the-MindsetThe Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

One of the things I hear most frequently, as I work with women dealing with breast cancer and all that it entails, is the fear of dying. We talk about it in hushed tones, as if we are afraid to even utter the words “I might die from this.” I went through exactly the same thing when I was working on healing from breast cancer. It is a common thread among nearly every single person fighting cancer. In this post I will share with you some things that helped me with that fear of dying and what you can do to change your mindset.

“Many people facing life-threatening illness begin by being scared of dying. This is not surprising and often this fear leads to a high motivation to get well. However, if the focus is ‘I don’t want to die’, from the mind’s point of view, what is the target, what is the goal? Obviously, the dying! An important step in getting well is to shift the focus onto living and finding what there is to live for – the passion. In comparison with trying not to die, there is far more healing in focusing on living and living well. We are healed by what we turn towards, far more than what we turn away from. When we affirm life, healing is a much greater possibility.” – Ian Gawler, excerpted from “The Creative Power of Imagery“.

I found these words by Ian Gawler to be immensely comforting. They were kind of like a re-set button for my overworked brain when I was going through breast cancer. Reading those words, I realized that he was absolutely right. Changing your mindset from “I don’t want to die” to “I am living each day with passion, love and healing” may not be easy but it’s SO worth the developing this skill. Here are some tips to help you.

1. LEARN TO LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE – Recognize that your inner voice is your touchstone, your guide as to how you are feeling. It’s also good to help you discover whether or not you are making progress. By listening to what your inner voice has to say, you can learn much about yourself. If you find that your everyday thoughts are filled with negative criticism, stress, self-blame, regrets and fear, get some help. Find a practitioner of EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a healing technique that (in simple terms) relies on tapping on acupuncture meridians, employing the use of neurolinguistic programming and positive thinking to change negative thoughts and beliefs into more positive ones, and it seems to do this on not only the mental level, but also energetically and spiritually. It may seem like a simplistic solution, but it can be quite powerful.

2. MAKE A CHOICE TO TURN NEGATIVE THOUGHTS INTO POSITIVE – We all have down days, but by paying close attention to negative thoughts when they occur, you can make the choice to turn away from negativity and embrace more positive, harmonious thoughts. Why is this important? Because we ARE what we think. Engaging in positive thinking changes you, both energetically and physically, from someone who is full of self-blame, stress, recrimination, and negativity to someone who is open, loving toward themselves and others, motivated, and more healthy. Yes, I said that – more healthy. Research shows that positive thoughts actually change your brain! It’s a whole new area of science called neuroplasticity. By engaging in positive thought and positive activity, you can rewire your brain and strengthen areas of the brain that stimulate positive feelings and emotions. Here’s something you can try. When you find yourself in that cycle of negative thinking, worrying or obsessing, there are three things that can help:
a. When the worry and fear hit, mentally yell “Stop!” (I even envision a big red STOP sign).
b. Remind yourself that the worry is not real – it’s something your brain has conjured up. Tell that worry to sit down and shut up!
c. Reframe your negative thinking by focusing on more positive or distracting thoughts. Mentally switch gears and choose to think about something you love. Redirect your actions – go do something uplifting or fun. This might take the shape of helping a neighbor, calling someone you love, taking a walk, making a healthy smoothie. Make a list of things you love to do – and I suggest this because sometimes when you are down and depressed, you have difficulty even thinking of something uplifting to do that will make you feel better. Get the list out! Start doing more of those things!
After awhile, you will notice things changing and improvements in your way of thinking. The key is to do these 3 things EVERY SINGLE TIME you begin to worry or obsess. This breaks the pattern and helps you to rewire your brain.

3. TRY MEDITATION – Another amazing thing to rewire your brain is meditation. One American study on loving-kindness meditation, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2015 [1], found that one hour of loving-kindness meditation PER WEEK (and certainly we can find one hour per week) “enhanced a wide range of positive emotions in a wide range of situations” for those taking the time to do the meditation. Interestingly, even after three months post-experiment, the people who practiced meditation daily continued to enjoy increased mindfulness, better social support, purpose in life, and (most importantly) decreased illness symptoms. The reasons for taking up meditation are many. You only have to Google the words “benefits of meditation” to be rewarded with hundreds of studies and articles touting meditation. If you need help with meditation, see my page where I talk about it.

The Bottom Line

What I came to realize is that by living with the fear of dying ever present in my mind, I was closing myself off to living NOW. I was projecting myself to some far-off day in the future when things might not be too good. By learning to live in the here and now, I lost that fear of dying. I came to understand that living in the present moment was one of the most powerful gifts a person can give to themselves. Because what do we really have other than the present moment? If we are truly alive in the here and now, we are quiet observers. We can really taste what we are eating and enjoy every mouthful. We notice the color of the sky. We hear that bird singing its heart out. We see the spark of love in our husband’s eyes. We see our children changing and growing. And really – what is more important than these things? Focus on the things you love and that fear will melt away. And you just may find that the energy you have freed up helps you to heal as well.

Please be aware that someone with a serious mood disorder or depression may require the help of a trained counselor. If you are suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please see a trained professional to help you get to the root of the problem.

References:
[1] Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156028/

The Creative Power of Imagery by Dr Ian Gawler, ISBN 0855722819

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Dealing With the “What-If’s”

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com and photostock
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com and photostock

Dealing With the What-If’s

Every cancer patient will tell you that there comes a point on a sleepless night when the “what-if’s” come to haunt and harass.

No matter how strong the patient, how resolute, how focused in their healing… there’s always a dark night when the following questions come home to roost:

What if I can’t get well?

What if it comes back?

What if I die?  How will my family cope?

I didn’t expect to have these feelings, but I did, and usually when I was ultra-tired.

Some Wise Words

I’m a frequent visitor on the American Cancer Society’s “What Next” forum and a nice man from England named Steve Darke had a great answer to this question recently:

“We go through so many emotions when faced with our own mortality but these emotions are shared by many of us… we must put weight to the positive emotions such as hope. If we choose to live our lives in fear then we are mourning away our future happiness, a happiness which is ours by right.  I may die from this illness but I won’t let this illness take away my dreams for I believe without our hopes and dreams we are painting ourselves a very bleak future where all the colours find their way to darker shades of black from the tears that we cry.

“At least we have knowledge of the fate that may belie us, there have been many who say goodbye whilst parting and are never seen again; at least knowing the things we now know, we are able to speak the words that are unsaid, and right the things that are wrong.  Here is something called ‘Wasted Moments’ taken from my book Reaching For A Rainbow – A Practical Guide to Living Alongside Cancer (written by Steve Darke):

I am neither a spring flower nor a mighty oak, I am just a man with frailty of life, it’s not the time I have but the journey that counts, regrets for the future of what might have been are what the reaper leaves behind as unfinished business, cast aside regrets and trivial things, say the things you have to say, share the things you have to share and live your journey to the end.

Beautiful words, thank you Steve.  Steve has started his own blog and here is a link to it.

Some Help For Those Feelings

In order to help you keep the anxiety at bay, I’ll share a couple of things that really helped me.

  • EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – I found a practitioner that helped me work through those feelings early on.  Here’s an 11-minute video outlining the technique and you can try it now.  Definitely honor where you are now but don’t let fear and anxiety take you over.
  • A quote from Louise Hay in “You Can Heal Your Life”:  “Invite your fears in, then tell them to sit down and shut up!”
  • I just looked Death square in the eye and said I’M NOT AFRAID OF YOU.  I’M ALSO NOT READY FOR YOU, SO YOU CAN JUST GO AWAY.
  • Get a massage or some form of bodywork – it has such a calming effect and can be so healing.

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