If you’ve ever felt out of place, disconnected, or alone even when you were surrounded by people or had the opportunity to engage in social events, it’s more than likely the thoughts you were telling yourself that kept you in that place.
Not only do we fall into the habit of allowing our thoughts to run away with us and create stories that harm our health. We’re often not even aware that we can change that. Sometimes we’re not even aware of what we’re doing to ourselves.
In this show, I’ll talk about how to change the way you think about the situations and people that leave you feeling disconnected and the risks to your health if you don’t begin to manage your mind.
Read Full Transcript Below:
If you are a regular listener to this show you’ve probably picked up that I have a glass half full perspective on life most of the time. And that’s not a result of delusional thinking. It’s a result of many years of working on the way that I think and learning to manage my mind.
But I have to tell you, over these past few weeks, things have started to feel very heavy. With all the unrest, fear, distancing, and controversy piled on top of the day to day life challenges and events, I recently injured my hip which has been a very painful event and, a couple of people who are close to me have lost their loved ones.
I’ve found that I have to be even more diligent in staying connected to how I’m thinking and how I’m managing my energy because when there are so many things happening at once it can be easy to withdraw and feel disconnected or to feel overwhelmed and then give up on doing the things you need to support your happiness and your wellness.
So of course, going through all this makes me think about you. Because I know I’m not going through piles of challenges alone. We all have a lot on our plates right now and a lot of uncertainty in our world and lives.
So how do we live with uncertainty while staying calm and connected, rather than feeling anxious and lonely?
Feeling lonely, disconnected, and misunderstood Is already a struggle for a lot of survivors And I feel a strong pull to talk about this today.
A little story of something else that has caused me to become fascinated with how our minds react to being disconnected is a show that I’m obsessed with on the history channel called Alone.
Its a survival show where participants get dropped in the middle of nowhere and have to survive off the land on their own.
The survival skills and what they go through on the show are fascinating but what happens to the way they think when long periods of time go by and they are alone and missing their social connections is amazing to watch.
That kind of loneliness, the type that comes from social isolation, like being dropped off in a remote location alone or being quarantined for months ar a time can be tough... and when it’s combined with another kind of loneliness it can be even worse.
The other kind of loneliness, the kind you experience when you come up for air after breast cancer treatment and everyone around you thinks life will go back to normal yet you find yourself wrestling with what you’ve been through, how you’re feeling now...most likely not how you were expecting to feel, and then you start beating yourself up because you’re surrounded by love and support yet you feel lonely and you tell yourself you shouldn’t...which is a bunch of crap we’ll get to in a minute.
This type of loneliness is a state of mind. And I don’t mean it in the sense of it’s all in your head get over it.
I mean there’s a disconnect between what you’re thinking, experiencing, and feeling and what others think you’re experiencing, and in that gap is a lot of unsaid stuff that doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal with.
This loneliness is the feeling of being disconnected even if you’re right next to the people you love because you don’t feel understood and often you don’t understand why you don’t feel understood or what’s even happening to you.
The other day I was reading an article in Harvard Health Publishing and I was shocked to read that loneliness is one of the biggest health concerns people face...all people…and that studies show loneliness and having poor social connections are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes daily, and it’s worse for your health than obesity and may increase your risk of death by 29%.
We’re often so worried about what we should eat or what body products we should use after breast cancer but getting your mind in the right place is truly the critical piece to all of the other external practices.
Cigna, a health care service provider, says that some of the symptoms of chronic loneliness are:
Negative feelings of self-doubt and self-worth. Feeling like you are always less than enough?
The overwhelming feeling of isolation regardless of where you are and who’s around.
Even exhaustion and burnout when you try to engage with people socially.
I think it's really important to talk about these symptoms and to understand that there's not something wrong with you.
When you're experiencing these types of emotions, feeling disconnected or your body is telling you it's exhausted and it's heavy and it's difficult to push on.
These are things you need to pay attention to... not to dismiss and tell yourself that you shouldn't feel like that.
You should feel however it is that you are feeling. Rather than dismissing or minimizing these feelings...try to dive into them.
Spend some time understanding why you feel like that.
Meaning pay attention to what you’re thinking when you’re feeling disconnected.
It will always come back to the way that you're thinking.
Whether those thoughts are that you're uncomfortable talking about your experience... often times I meet women who feel disconnected and are uncomfortable in Social environments because they think other people are feeling sorry for them or wondering what their boobs look like now, or wondering if they're safe or if they're afraid of dying... These are all just stories that we tell ourselves.
But these stories are powerful and they can create huge divides and as I already talked about they can have a tremendous impact on your health.
In one of my recent coaching calls with my revivify group we were discussing how much being in a coaching program during this time of isolation has been a tremendous benefit to the mental well-being of these women.
And it's not the first time that I've heard that.
Having something to do, spending time on self-exploration, and getting connected to a group of other like-minded people is such a powerful experience.
Another reason, I'm so proud of the women I work with is that they value their mental well-being and they were courageous enough to notice that even though they may have looked put together on the outside, internally they were struggling, and that mental and emotional health is equally if not more important than the physical health.
We pay who knows how much money to gyms and yoga studios and nutritionists and personal trainers, boot camps... The fitness industry is huge and... If we can identify something in our body that doesn't feel right we addressed immediately.
We talk to a doctor, we go to a physical therapist or a massage therapist or something that helps the physical body get out of pain and or out of danger but when we notice these feelings inside of us the emotions, the emotional pain we dismiss it, or we try to ignore it, but we try to bury it somewhere inside of us thinking if we don't think about it, or talk about it it's not going to impact Our Lives. But it always will. It will not get better on its own just like an infected wound will not get better on its own...these things NEED attention.
That in itself is an important thing for you to examine. Really take a look at those thoughts that you're telling yourself that say your emotional and mental health is not valid, it's not worth an investment, is not worth the time it would take to give it attention.
So I can give you some steps to help you start working through feelings of loneliness, things you can do to feel a little more connected and I will do that.
But I think even more importantly, doing the foundational work of understanding how you treat yourself when you find yourself in this position of feeling disconnected.
It's important to realize that the things you're thinking. What is going through your mind? The story you are telling yourself is what is creating your feelings. It doesn't work the other way around.
For example, I used the story a minute ago where you might be out somewhere and you tell yourself people are acting strange or differently around you and you decide it's because they think you’re different or inferior in some way. There's no evidence to support that. It's just a story you decided on. That makes you feel bad and disconnected.
For all, you know They want to ask you questions. They’re proud or impressed about what you've been through but they don’t know if that's crossing a boundary.
They may just be curious.
I have had more than one person in the awkward situation of hearing I had a mastectomy and then immediately looking at my chest because I had reconstruction and I look like I have breasts.
They don’t know what's going on. They’re just curious and that's understandable. I just laugh and then help them understand what the process is.
So you can tell yourself it's
you, which will make you feel bad and result in your withdrawing or being disconnected. Or you can tell yourself it’s them and their lack of understanding about your experience and their curiosity to learn more. Which hopefully will make you feel better.
When you have these unintentional thoughts running through your mind, having a negative impact on your life and your health You have to work to increase your awareness of when they're happening, and then you have to intentionally choose to think differently.
This is called reframing. You’re not kidding yourself or You’re telling yourself something that isn’t true. . Psychology today in an article titled
reframing is changing how you see something and then expressing it differently….and that It’s…. a psychological paradigm shift that replaces your old way of thinking with a new and improved mindset….to keep your thoughts from sliding down a slippery slope of impending doom.
And the final and most important point I want to share with you from this article is that thoughts have no emotion nor inherent meaning. you assign them meaning by how you interpret and respond to them.
Yes! If you can work on grasping this concept. And you can practice reframing, changing the way you choose to think. You will transform your mental health and by default... your physical health. Because it’s all connected.
I opened this show saying that there have been a lot of big heavy things to deal with in and around my life lately and I can choose to look at the heartache and uncertainty and physical and mental pain and say man the world sucks. Life is awful and no matter what you do or how hard you try shitty things are going to happen so there's just no point in putting out so much effort.
I’m just going to stay here in my house, read books, do yoga, and leave the world behind. That’s a choice and it’s an option that’s available to me.
If I let those unintentional, automatic thoughts run away with me.
Or I can say, well, that’s not a completely untrue statement there is pain, loss, illness, and unrest in the world and there always has been.
But there’s also good, and compassion and love and laughter and fun.
So one of the best ways to practice reframing is to limit yourself to just the facts. This sounds so easy but it is not...trust me.
When I”m coaching someone and I ask for the fact of they’re circumstances. It often takes a lot of guidance to unweave the story and emotions around the fact and simply look at the facts and then see what you make them mean to you.
So here’s a fact I had breast cancer, I went through chemotherapy, I had my breasts removed.
All true. Now, what do I make that mean to me? What do you make it mean to you?
To me it was a journey of understanding how my body felt and worked differently, it was a second chance at life. And after getting through the physical and emotional struggle. I saw my experience as an opportunity to support others.
DO I sometimes miss the look and feel and the natural reaction of my natural breasts. Yes. I do. And that’s ok, I think it’s normal. I had them for 48 years, and they had many levels of meaning to me.
I don’t let that or what other people might think of that define me or limit me.
If you’re feeling disconnected, if you're feeling weighed down ask yourself what are the facts you're dealing with, write them down and keep rewriting them until you get all of the drama out of them and you’re only looking at facts.
Then write that you think about each of those facts and how that is making you feel specific emotions.
You might find yourself coming up with yeah but, but This happened or that’s because.
If that happens
Stop and go back facts are just facts. Facts can be agreed on by everyone they are presented to they are data. period.
I had breast cancer. That’s not debatable. It’s a fact.
Breast cancer ruined my body. Did it? Is that a fact?
If I presented that statement to 50 people is it verifiable and everyone would agree? No of course they wouldn’t... breast cancer ruined my body is what I decide the fact means to me.
And you can decide that. You can definitely choose to think that. but if your life’s results right now are not what you want them to be you might consider how to reframe the thoughts that lead to it.
One of the first exercises my clients do in REvivify is to walk through what they think about themselves from someone else's perspective.
The reason I have them do that and the reason why it’s so important is that it makes them look at the things they tell themselves about themselves that are not true. They are not facts. If they were facts someone else would see the exact same thing. But that never happens in this exercise.
It’s an important thing to do because you must become aware of and release the stories you tell yourself that leave you lonely, disconnected, and floating through an experience where life is running you rather than you creating the life you want.
Like so many things I talk about on this show. This is not easy. It takes work, it takes a willingness, to be honest with yourself and it takes putting in the effort to change things even though you’ve already been through hell and you just want shit to fix itself and be right again.
As much as I wish that too...it’s just a fantasy. You have to do the work to change your thoughts and connect with others, putting yourself out there and saying this is what I’m thinking, this is what I’m feeling anyone else??
Trust me, I see everything that happens in the breast cancer recovery group, in REVIVIFY, and in my empower group and that reaching out and hearing a resounding YES! Me too, I felt like that and this is what I did, or I feel like that and I could use some support too….it’s life-changing.
That small connection, that realization that you’re not alone or crazy and other women get you gives you confidence and strength. The strength to do what you need to do not the permission to say oh yeah see she thinks this sucks too...no no no that’s not what my groups are for.
They are for empowering you, connecting you, and helping you to see that you can do hard things and then you can overcome more hard things, and then, with practice, you just get stuff done because you have more awareness and it all doesn't feel so hard,
So here’s your homework:
1. Open up to paper, separate the facts from the drama, in whatever area you're struggling with.
2. Write down what you think about the facts
3. Write how you coil think about them differently that would create healthier emotions
4. Connect to someone. Tell them what the one fact is that you struggle to reframe and see if they can offer helpful insight.
If you're in the Breast Cancer Recovery Group go there and post about it. If your not in the group you can join it by….
And because I know there is such a big need for support….Revivify