#101 A Free and Powerful Practice That Will Change Your Recovery

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Processing emotions is not an easy thing. But when it comes to recovering from trauma, it’s a necessary thing. 

In this week’s episode, I'll tell you about a simple, free, powerful tool to support you in your recovery. 

I’ll even share some studies that validate the importance of this practice when it comes to improving your quality of life and feeling better about yourself overall. 


Journaling for Mental Health

Mayo Mindfulness: Overcoming negative self-talk

Expressive writing in early breast cancer survivors


Read Full Transcript Below: 


This is Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm a healthy lifestyle coach, a clinical Ayurveda specialist, a personal trainer, and I'm also a breast cancer survivor. In this podcast, we talk about healthy thinking and mindfulness practices, eating well, moving your body for health and longevity. And we'll also hear from other breast cancer survivors who have really engaged with life and have incredible stories to share. This podcast is your go-to resource for getting back to life after breast cancer.



Well hello, and welcome to Episode 101 of the breast cancer recovery coach Podcast. I am your host, Laura Lummer. And I want to start off the show by saying thank you so much to all of you who sent such amazing emails left comments, left ratings and reviews last week, and just let me know, and celebrated with me on the 100th episode of the breast cancer recovery coach podcast.



Honestly, it means the world to me, my heart is so full. It's just It feels great. And I'm so happy that I have such an incredibly supportive community that's just out there. Like you guys are amazing and wonderful. And I appreciate you so, so, so much. Thank you!



So, I just want to make sure I get that out there and you know that you're a part of my world, and I love it and I'm grateful.



So, I was thinking that since this is Episode 101, it might be a good time for a little breast cancer recovery refresher. So today, I want to talk about one thing you can do to support yourself in recovery from breast cancer treatment, but that you probably underestimate the power of, so let me share a story with you first.



When I went through my yoga teacher training and yoga philosophy study. So, it's all part of one program, but that program required a lot of internal examination. So, one of the areas of yoga studies, it's called Yama and it's called svadhyaya, and it means self-study. And we were often given homework during that training to do this self-study. Now, I will admit that sometimes I didn't do my homework the way I was supposed to, because it required writing a lot of things. And I was already working, raising littles doing teacher training in Ayurveda college and already had a lot of homework for Ayurveda college.



So, I decided that it was good enough to just think about the things that were assigned to me, and I did. I would give those things a lot of very serious consideration, and then I'd go to my next class and my teacher would always know that I didn't do the work. And it wasn't just me. He could pick the people out of the group who he knew had not done the assignment. And I thought at first that it was uncanny. Right? How does he know like, this guy is magical, this is amazing. But then I actually cracked down, I got serious about the work. And that's when I realized that when I did the work, I felt differently.



And he was seeing that, right, he could tell those of us that actually did the work, which meant writing stuff down and working through it. And those of us that just thought about it because the ones who did the work, were changing. The self-exploration and the self-awareness, it changed me when I took the time to write things down and look at my thoughts and work through what I needed to do. Whereas the thinking about doing the work, it just gave me more things to think about.



So fast forward to when I started coaching people and that gave me more clarity around the importance of doing work on yourself. Because I started to see the difference between people when they did the work, meaning the writing work. When they got their thoughts out of their head and on paper, so they could work through them, work through those sticking points, and it was completely different than from those people who just thought about what they had agreed to work on. I didn't do the work. So yes, yes, I am talking about journaling as a part of self-examination, healing, and growing, and changing your life.



So please don't shut off the podcast and think I don't need to hear that. Let me, give me a chance. Let me let me convince you how important this is to your healing.



Okay, so first of all, what does journaling have to do with breast cancer recovery 101, as I said in the beginning, we're coming back to 101, this is the basics. Well, one thing I know for certain is that when you go through treatment, you are focused on surviving, and all along the way, unless you were intentionally doing something to circumvent this, you're building up trauma inside of you. You're accruing physical trauma and emotional trauma, spiritual trauma.



So, when you begin the recovery phase of treatment, all that stuff is in you, and it needs to get out. And if you don't work through it, it can really, really mess you up. But it does not have to.



One of my favorite quotes by the Dalai Lama, Haruki Murakami is that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.



And I'm telling you that taking this action, the action of writing your thoughts on a regular basis, will change your thinking and reduce your suffering.



So, after I finished my treatment, and I was going through training to be a breast cancer mentor, I heard about this website called CaringBridge. You may have heard of it, it's a website where people going through a health crisis can blog about what's happening to them. Or they can keep their loved ones updated without having to deal with a dozen different phone calls and emails as they're going through treatment.



Now another one of the mentors who I went through training with told me she had used this platform throughout her treatment. And since then, I've met many, many women who've used CaringBridge and I have recommended it to others because at first, I thought it was just a cool way of handling a lot of communication in one shot. But then I realized that the process of writing about their experience was very, very cathartic for these women.



The University of Rochester Medical Center in an article on journaling for mental health, says that journaling helps to manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression and that it can help to control symptoms and improve your mood by helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns. And this is such an important point that I want to take a minute to talk about it.



So, another story the other day, I read this post on Facebook, it was in a group on Facebook and it was from a woman who said that her days were consumed with thinking about a cancer recurrence. Now, unfortunately, it would have been very inappropriate for me to coach or advise her in that forum, where she was posting. And the first rule of thumb about coaching is you don't coach people who haven't asked for it. But I literally felt sick to my stomach reading that I wanted so bad to help her see she didn't have to live like that like she could choose. She was making a decision to invest that much energy into this. And by doing so she was making her misery the priority in her life.



This goes back to previous shows where I've talked about how easy is to focus so intently on the problem that you don't realize you are no longer looking for a solution. You are stuck my friend. I wanted to help her so badly understand that she could change the way she was thinking about cancer. And then that would lighten her heart and that would lay in her life. And maybe, fingers crossed, she's out there, and she'll hear this podcast. 



But when you get things out of your head, and you write them down and you get them on paper, you have to look at them and you have to see them, capital S- E-E, you see them. And when you see them, you will have moments of clarity, things shift. Trust me on this, it works. And it may not work the first time or even the second time, because that's rarely how life works. It works with consistent practice and things begin to shift.



Okay, another thing that journaling helps with, according to this article, and according to me, and anyone who I know who has journaled about these things, tracking any symptoms day to day, so that you can recognize triggers and learn better ways to control them.



So, when you have pain, hot flashes, and fatigue, you need to look at what's going on around that. You can track the times when they're more severe. And you can see, did I exercise on that day? What did I eat that day? Did I have caffeine, sugar, flour, alcohol? So, it gives you have a really nice picture of what was going on. Were you going through a stressful event...? And then once you have that data, you get to make a choice on whether or not you want to change your behavior or your circumstances, whatever the setting was that triggered that problem. So journaling is super useful when it comes to that.



Another thing that journaling is great for is that it provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors. Okay, I cannot, words cannot say how powerful and truthful that point is. Time after time, I have survivors say to me that they didn't realize the terrible things they say to themselves until they start consciously paying attention by doing some of the writing exercises that I give them in my coaching programs.



And again, just saying to yourself, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I call myself names, or I put myself down sometimes, but does it really mean anything? No, no. It means something. And when you write it down, when you write down what you say to yourself and you look at it, you will realize how powerful that is. And sometimes you may not even realize what falls under "negative self-talk." (I'm doing air quotes even though you can't see me.)



So, let me read four things to you from an article by Dana sparks. It was published by the Mayo Clinic on overcoming negative self-talk. These are different forms of self-talk.



One is called filtering. And filtering is when you magnify the negative aspect of the situation. And you filter out all the positive ones. So, I'll give you an example of something that happened with my husband just the other day. So, he had to do a blood panel for a minor medical procedure that he was having done. And his results came through on his app on his phone. And he immediately came in and he shared this one negative result that his blood panel showed. So, I started to ask him about some of the other results and things that would correlate with this one negative result and he goes, I don't know. I didn't look at all that I only looked at the one in red.



Well, okay, this is how our brains are wired or lizard-like brains, they want to protect us. They look for signs of danger, and we have to train them consciously to train them to see things differently. The rest of his blood panel was perfect. But he didn't even bother to look at it. Or celebrate how a 63-year-old man on no medications had such a great blood panel.



So, this is like that woman who said the majority of her days are consumed with thinking about cancer. I can promise you, there are other positive and uplifting aspects in her life. I know this because there are in all of our lives, but she chooses to focus on the one thing that A- isn't happening because she's worried about a future event that hasn't occurred. And B- it's causing her to suffer. It kills me, this one just kills me ugh!



All right, so another form of negative self-talk, personalizing. So, when something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. Ladies, can I just say that we are the worst at blaming ourselves. We tell ourselves we're stupid, we should have, we're supposed to, on and on... Sometimes sh*t just happens. And it isn't your fault. And it has nothing to do with you. And you can't change it. It just is. And you just have to say, Okay, all right, this is the circumstances. So now how am I going to deal with this and move forward? And when you write that out, you write it down and you look at your circumstances. And you very truthfully ask yourself, if this is your fault, with an open mind being willing to see the truth, you ask yourself that question, you might see things differently.



So, let me give you a couple of examples. So, here's one. It's kind of a silly example. But anyway, if I could stop eating 14 bags of nacho cheese Doritos and washing them down with seven cans of soda a day, I might not be overweight. Okay. The truth, right, you can own that. You can own that, and you can decide if you want to change that. When you write it down, you look at your behavior. And you have to own that it's probably a little excessive, and then you get to make a decision. Okay.



Example B. I got cancer, and I went through chemotherapy, I need a lot of emotional support. My libido dropped to nothing. My vagina is dry, so I don't want to have sex because it's super painful. And now my partner left me because I'm not good enough. I'm not enough of a woman anymore. That is not true!



The circumstances that happen to you are not responsible for the choices someone else makes. Now, I'd like to say that that's an extreme example, but it isn't. It happens and women blame themselves all the time. But in any situation where you don't like the circumstances, it's important for you to write about it and see it on paper and look at the truth. My own coach Brooke Castillo, she teaches that circumstances are emotionless sets of facts. And it's only the way we think about them, that determines how they impact our life. I think that's very, very powerful.



All right, another form of negative self-talk is called catastrophizing. So catastrophizing is when one thing goes wrong and then you say, well, that just ruined my day. So please refer back to my previous statement. How are you choosing to think about what went wrong? You waited in line for 20 minutes for a $7.50 cup of Starbucks. And then you got out of the car, and you picked it up from the top and the lid came off and it spilled everywhere, including your car and your pants, as you're walking into your destination.



And you say to yourself, that is it. I am in a bad mood that ruined my day. Really? What else happened in your day? Who else did you encounter what other things were said to you? What went well? Did 30 seconds of circumstances destroy a day? And if absolutely nothing went well, and you write it all down, and perhaps you'll see that other things in the day didn't go well, because you reacted poorly to every situation that life threw at you. Because you decided, your day was ruined.



Okay, hehe, another husband story, real-life story. Good thing he doesn't listen to my podcast. So, the other night, we're sitting there on the couch, and his youngest daughter calls and she's having trouble sleeping. She'd been having trouble sleeping for a couple of days. So, he's talking to her and consoling her and trying to give her advice on different things she can do to get better sleep. And it's about midnight, her time. And I hear him say, Look, just chalk up tonight to being ruined. Alright, so just chalk up tonight to the fact that you're not going to get any sleep and you can start again tomorrow. And I'm thinking its midnight, really, we're going to throw the whole night out the window and it's only midnight. That's catastrophizing people.



All right. So, moving on. The fourth type of negative self-talk is polarizing. Polarizing is that you see things as good or bad, there is no gray area, there is no middle ground. If you are not primped and perfectly quiffed, you're hideous. If you're five pounds overweight, you can't be seen in public because you are obese. If your life is not going according to the plan, you decided on, you're doomed. If you're a few years into recovery, and you're doing great, but your implant slips, and you got to go have it put back in. Well, here you are back to square one again.



So, these thought patterns are harmful, and they cause suffering just as much as the ones where you tell yourself you're not good enough. It's too hard. You can't do it alone, nothing works. You deserve all this sh*t, you made mistakes at some point in your life, so you deserve to suffer. Now, you're too fat... you're too ugly... you're too neurotic... on and on. You have to get this stuff out of your head and onto paper so you can see what you're doing to yourself. So, you can decide to change it.



Alright, if you're still listening, and you're thinking like this is a bunch of woo woo silliness. Well, I don't think you would be listening if that's what you thought about it, but here we are. And I asked you just to try it. Make a commitment to a 30-day journaling practice and see what happens. You don't have to have a fancy journal, just grab any piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Set a timer for five or 10 or 15 minutes, whatever you have decided on in your calendar works for you. And then don't worry about writing the next New York Times bestseller, just brain dump until that timer goes off, right? Anything and everything that comes to mind. No spelling, no grammar, check nothing, just dump it out of your brain and onto paper. You'll say, I don't have anything to write about. Right, whatever is on your mind.



Let me give you an example. Here's a dump. A lawyer told me, if I write every day for 10 minutes, it'll change my life. But I think this is silly because there's nothing on my mind except all the bills that are piling up because I got this stupid cancer and I don't have anyone to support me and I feel alone. Not sure who I can turn to. I mean, yeah, there are people I could ask for help. But I don't want to feel vulnerable by asking for help.



dot dot dot...



Okay, brain dump all the thoughts. Just let them pour out. Let your brain take the driver's wheel. And don't question it, just go with it.



In a 2013 article in the Journal of advanced nursing, there was a group of 120 breast cancer survivors who were asked to write about the Breast Cancer experience for 20 minutes, four times a week. Their quality of life was measured when they started this study and then at one month in and then again at six months in, and they use a tool that was called the functional assessment of cancer therapy for breast cancer survivors breast cancer version.



The results showed that 97 participants who completed the study had a significantly improved quality of life. And the authors concluded that expressive writing about their breast cancer experience should be recommended as a treatment to improve quality of life for all early breast cancer survivors.



And I'm going to add on to that. No, I had nothing to do with this study. But I would say if you are not an early survivor, if you're 7 years out, 10 years out, 20 years out, but you've never processed it, then you still need to work through this stuff. I have survivors I work with who are years out of treatment, and for the first time, they're dealing with the trauma and the negative thought patterns that they have around cancer and their life because of cancer.



So, I know they said early breast cancer survivors, but I'm saying everybody who hasn't already done the work. So, if your brain puts up a fight at the idea of journaling, I get it. You're not alone. I resisted, resisted, resisted because I didn't see the value. I was being very arrogant, like, God, I don't need that. You know, that's for other people. That's not for me. But in truth, that's just your brain avoiding dealing with emotional pain, and that's a natural reaction. So, you have to consciously override that fight your brain puts up, and then you just make a commitment and you just do it. This is free and it's powerful, so why not try it? I hope that you do.



And I hope that you come and find me on Facebook and let me know how it goes for you. You can find me as Laura Lummer on Facebook and thebreastcancerrecoverycoach on Instagram. You can join my free Facebook group, the breast cancer recovery group, just search for it on Facebook. And if you're ready to really dig in and start doing some structured self-examination around recovery, you can join the breast cancer recovery course it is available now and you can find all the details on my website, thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/BCRC. Also, this is new and wonderful, if you want to work on changing your mindset around food, especially sweet and sugary foods to support your health and recovery. You can now get the five-day sugar challenge at any time. You can start it whenever it works for you. You can find all the details of that at thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/sugar, it's an awesome program. I tested it out with my breast cancer recovery group, got some great feedback. They loved it, it's all beautiful and ready for you. And you can start changing your relationship with sugary foods which we know is so beneficial for our health right now. And again, you can find that thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/sugar.



All right, my friend. I really hope that when you shut off this podcast unless you're driving, you pick up a piece of paper and a pencil and you start writing, write about your day today. Write about what happened. And then a week from now or two weeks from now or a month from now look back, you're going to see the change. And I will talk to you again next week. Until then, be good to yourself.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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