Escape Cancer Worry Brain? Try This

July 19, 2016

Before cancer, two-time survivor Barbara Tako writes that she was in more of a hurry.

Cancer changed my focus. Do you hurry time along? I don’t anymore. I suggest a simple exercise for you to check your own pace. It sounds corny, but if you try it, you may be surprised by the results: Ask a friend or family member to time you with a watch, or use a stopwatch or kitchen timer by yourself. Begin by sitting quietly and closing your eyes. Do nothing but sit and relax. See if you can set your internal clock for three minutes (no fair counting). Open your eyes and check the time when you think three minutes has elapsed. How did you do? How did your friend do when you switched places?

For many of us, before cancer, three minutes sitting quietly with our eyes closed would seem like an eternity. We will speed things up and feel that three minutes elapsed well before three minutes of real time passed. Maybe we are used to living lives that are too "sped up."

How can you deal with a cancer worry brain? Slow down! Regularly do more activities that you "lose yourself" in. These are the activities in which time flies and worry goes away for a while. These are activities so engrossing to you personally that you get pulled into the flow and you don’t realize how much time has passed. You will know what these things are if you take a few moments to think about it. Some people like to read or garden. Others like to sew or work on a favorite project or hobby. Still others might exercise or bike. It could be anything. Everyone is unique.

Time won't slow down when you do these things. In fact, favorites often make time fly for people. But, it flies by in an enjoyable way that leaves you calmer, centered and refreshed. When you allow yourself to do your personal favorites, you find yourself thinking afterwards, "Wow, I really liked that. I forgot how much I enjoy doing that. I could do that more often. It helped." Give yourself permission to do the things you love. Especially as a cancer survivor, give permission more often.

Each of us also has activities that stretch time. For many, quiet nature walks or sitting and looking at a lake can slow things down and stretch out time. Getting out to enjoy nature also provides balance in stressed cancer survivor lives. Spending time outside can literally help us spend time outside of ourselves and our worries and problems. Time outside of ourselves can give us perspective in our lives.

Consider trying meditation for a change of pace. Meditation isn't just for the professionals. There are many simple forms of meditation. A classic book that provides several easy ways to begin to meditate is "How to Meditate" by Lawrence LeShan. You can take as little as ten minutes to meditate if you want. Meditation can be a tool to slow down and refocus. It isn't as hard to do as you may think it is!

Focus on living in the moment. Right now, nothing horrible is happening. Focus totally on doing one thing at a time. I know we are all supposed to multitask, and sometimes we must. Unfortunately, multitasking often leaves us stressed and unfocused. We feel fragmented and splintered.

Focusing on one thing at a time helps us to be really present instead of preoccupied with worries and fears. I am not the same as I was before cancer. If I can't get it all done today anyway, I can sometimes ease up to be a little kinder to myself. I know that when I slow down, I suffer less. I think I am easier on the people around me, and I am probably more fun to be around.


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