The most common concern I hear after breast cancer is what should I eat?
Closely followed by:
How do I lose weight?
How do I motivate myself to exercise?
But it’s rare for people to focus first on managing emotions and reducing stress.
Maybe it’s because we don’t realize the powerful impact that the mind has on the body.
Or maybe we think life is supposed to be stressful, hard, and full of challenging people and relationships.
Whether it’s one of those reasons or any other, it’s important to realize that supporting your best health MUST include managing your mind.
That’s not only a real and necessary thing, but there are proven strategies and benefits to doing so.
In this episode, I’ll talk about those benefits and strategies and offer some simple ways to start the important practice of training your brain.
Think of the results you see when you train the body consistently and imagine how beneficial it will be to your mental and emotional health to be able to train your brain.
It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s worth the effort.
Referred to in this episode:
Read the full transcript below:
Laura Lummer 00:00
You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started.
Laura Lummer 00:32
Hey, friends, welcome to episode 263 of the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And this is our Tuesday terrain talk. This is where we talk about the things you can do to support the health of your body. And I'm very excited to dig in today's into today's topic. Because when I talk with people about things they can do to support their health, I find especially with women, we have a money mindset that leads us to feeling guilty for doing things that support ourselves. And in fact, there's a podcast coming up very soon that you'll be hearing on money mindset and how important it is to healing. But for today's Tuesday terrain talk, I'm going to talk to you about something that is totally free. So we can let the money mindset go, we can let go of the guilt, about spending money on ourselves, we can let go of weighing are self worth against the value of $1. Because it's completely free. And it is one of the most beneficial practices that you can do to support your health. Because this practice affects us in so many profound ways. When like anything else like exercise, or like good eating habits or good sleep habits, we do this consistently. So really, consistency is the key and just about anything we're going to do to support our health. And today's topic. Meditation is no different. Now, before you turn off the podcast, I want to talk for a minute about people's thoughts on meditation, because they can be all across the board. We have an idea in our head of what meditation should be, quote unquote, what should it be. And I know that the predominant thought is meditation is the silence of the mind. It is sitting with no thoughts. And friends, I cannot even imagine how many years of meditation it would take to get a human brain to have no thoughts like that's so far removed from the realm of my reality that I can't even imagine or even tried to go there. Because for me, and for the meditation I'm talking about and for the health benefits that you can get from meditation, it is about not thinking. In fact, it's about being able to be very present in the moment. And not only is it not thinking, but it's noticing thoughts that are happening right here right now. Now, I hear from other people objections, I mean, to try to deal with all the objections that I hear come up, oh my god, I can't possibly do that meditation is not for me, my mind is too busy. That's the point. Your busy mind is thinking about all kinds of things that aren't happening. And I'm going to bet that 99% of those things you're busy mind is thinking about are creating sensations in your body, and emotions in your body that we would relate to stress, right? Here's the trick about being present in the moment. When we're here in the moment. For most of us in this moment, you're safe right now. You're somewhere where you're listening to a podcast, and you're okay, you're physically alive, you're breathing. And as long as we're here in this moment, we can connect to what keeps us present in this moment, which is our breath. And then we can learn a very long practice of learning to notice thoughts that come into let them go. Now, when we talk about and when I hear people's objections about meditation, and they say, There's no way I can't quiet my mind, I can't not think I wouldn't want you not to think in fact, the practice of meditation, the practice of awareness is noticing and becoming more aware, when your brain is wandering off. Thinking about other things that are not happening that have not happened that most likely will not happen and that are taking you out of this moment because those thoughts are creating feelings of anxiety or shame or stress or depression and We want to be able to bring the brain back. So it's actually this practice of meditation. Now there are many practices of meditation. But when we're talking about mindfulness meditation, and learning to practice being in the moment, this is like going to the gym for your brain, we go to the gym to train the body to strengthen our cardiovascular system. So our lungs work better. So our circulation improves. And so we actually reduce our cortisol levels through movement. Well, the same thing happens with our brain, but we've got to keep going to the gym, which means we have to, instead of getting our body up and moving as we do with exercise, we notice how much our mind is moving. And we try to bring it back and calm it down, and keep it with us here and present. So it's actually beautiful. If you say, Well, my mind is so busy, it's constantly straying. Awesome. That's what you're here to notice. Oh, my mind strayed, bring it back. Oh, I was trying to focus on my breath. And I went straight to the sound of the clock, come back to the breath. Oh, I was trying to focus on my breath. And I started thinking about what I was making for dinner. Awesome, come back to the breath. It's that practice of coming back to the breath. And I say the breath because the breath grounds us in this moment, the breath is happening here and now. And when we come back to the breath, over and over, we train ourselves so that as we go out into real life, and we notice that we're distracted, we notice that we're unfocused, we noticed that we're feeling anxiety, we can notice what is happening to our brain, and bring it back to the breath here in the moment. So the practice of meditation is the awareness of how you keep coming back. So when I first started teaching meditation, many years ago, my students would say to me, Oh, my God, it was a three minute long meditation. And I caught myself 100 times thinking of other things. That is exactly what I want them to do, to catch themselves, like the practice is the catching, it's the awareness, it's the noticing, and then the coming back. So we can let ourselves off the hook for judging ourselves because our minds aren't empty. Okay, you have a human brain, it's got 60,000 thoughts a day on the average. So why would we think especially in the beginning, when we're starting a meditation practice that we're going to sit down, make a decision to focus on our breath, and suddenly our brain isn't going to work? Suddenly, our brain isn't going to be human anymore? Suddenly, it's not going to have thoughts. We're just gonna pause, there's no off button friends, there's no off button, there's just a training. And the importance of spending time in meditation. Is that training? And is that ability to learn that you can have power over your mind? But first, you've got to be aware of what your mind is doing. And that means specifically aware, it doesn't just mean Oh, my God, my mind is racing, I have a million thoughts a day. Okay. What are those thoughts about? What did those thoughts do to you? What happens if you come back? And notice that you're here? Now? How do those thoughts change? So it's this amazing practice of really getting to know your brain, and then getting to teach your brain how you want it to work? So what in the world does that have to do with supporting the health of your terrain? How does meditation and sitting there coming back to your breath 100 times in a few minutes? How does that help our terrain? Well, I'm going to give you just the shortlist from the Cleveland Clinic. On the benefits of meditation. We've got gaining a new perspective on stressful situations. Because when we sit in silence, we create space. When we notice that our brain is going a mile a minute, and we take a breath, and we bring it here, we anchor it in the moment, we open space for our brain to consider. We open opportunities for other ideas to come to us building skills to manage your stress, what's the skill? Stress comes from thoughts, no matter what the situation is, if you're looking at a situation, and you tell yourself a story that creates anxiety, you're increasing stress. So let me be really clear on that. And I can go even to a cancer diagnosis and say, you hear the words, you've been diagnosed with cancer, immediately there's going to be fear, there's going to be thoughts and those thoughts are going to create something in your body, right? That's going to be a totally normal reaction in the moment someone gets cancer diagnosis, stress, fear, anxiety, because why not because anything in the moment has changed. Most of us aren't in pain. When we get into cancer diagnosis. Some of us have found a lump, but a lot of people discover it through a mammogram. And we at that moment need to discover something palpable, but we're not feeling sick. We're not in pain, right. And so then we hear that diagnosis. And it's not as if we're in this moment, again, struggling physically or in pain or at the risk of imminent death in the moment, right. But our brain starts to go to all of the stories of what is to come for us in the future. Now we feel stressed. Now, take some time to process that, especially in an initial diagnosis, it's going to take time to process that. But it's in that processing time, that if we've worked with our brain, and we understand that our brain goes off on these tangents, and we have the ability to bring it back to the here and now, then as we process difficult situations and emotions, we build that skill, to be able to choose different thoughts, and take the level of stress down a notch. Because when we feel stressed, we initiate chemical cascades that create inflammatory conditions in our body. So we want to be able to have control over the brain. Another benefit is it increases self awareness. So it increases the ability for us to notice what's in the here and now and what are stories I'm telling myself. It helps us to be more aware of the way we think. And then it's a whole process of not fighting the way that you think. But just noticing this is just the way my brain works. This is the way my brain thinks. And as I become aware of that, I can expect that, and then I can choose something else. So it increases our self awareness. It increases our focus on the present. Again, what does that do, it helps to reduce anxiety and depression. Because when we're here in this moment, we are not busy in our brain judging ourselves for what we've done in the past, worrying about what might come in the future. We're just here dealing with life in the moment. And that's so much easier. So that helps to reduce negative emotions. As I've just explained, it helps to create that space to increase our imagination, our creativity, so it leads us to more joy, it actually lowers our resting heart rate, it lowers resting blood pressure. And meditation improves sleep quality. And in fact, meditation is used for a slew of symptoms. And I distinctly remember because one of the symptoms on that list is asthma, one of the conditions, and I have a couple of children that are asthmatic, but my second son when he was little, I can distinctly remember, oh, gosh, it was tough, it's tough to watch your little kid struggling for breath, and I would lay there next to him and rub his beautiful little toe head curls. And we would breathe, I would help him just concentrate on that breath. So he wasn't feeling so much fear. And that calmness really helps with our whole chemical reaction and our physical response to thoughts in our mind. So a list of symptoms and conditions at the Cleveland Clinic suggests meditation helps with is anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems, and tension headaches. Because, again, friends, we don't realize how much stressful thoughts create physical pain. Our body stores these emotions from the way that we think. And we can create a lot of pain for ourselves. That is why when we do a train talk, and we talk about meditation, the importance of it is to remember that in order to support your health, we've got to move beyond just thinking about diet and nutrition. We've got to really connect ourselves and understand the impact that the thoughts have on our body and the amount of stress it creates. And as we go through life, and we have emotional traumas, whether they're big T's or little T traumas, we store them in our body. And the storage of those negative emotions manifests into physical symptoms, oftentimes into physical pain. And when we get into a meditation practice, we can become more aware of that. And we can begin letting go of the things that the body holds on to that creates pain, and that manifests into disease. So super, super important. Now, how do you meditate? I just said a minute ago, we've got 60,000 thoughts going on in our mind? What do you do? How do you meditate? How long do you meditate? I'm supposed to sit here silently for 20 minutes, is that the deal? And I just want to offer that a slow and consistent start is the absolute best. The more you take time to create space for relaxation, the more you reap the benefits of the lists that I've just shared with you. And that's okay to do in five minute increment. It's in three minute increments when I started teaching, and I have new students come to meditation classes in the silence part of it, because I would start off with guided meditation to help them come to the breath. And a lot of times when you are new to meditation, getting an app that gives you a guided meditation is really nice, because it gives your brain something to focus on, you hear a voice, and it gives you something to listen to, and pay attention to keeping you here in this moment, then as you move into silence, the brain wants to get distracted, right, it wants to go bing, bing, bing all over the place. So when you're moving into silence as you choose to do that, then using the breath as an anchor, and the sensations of breath, because you can feel breath as it moves through your nose, right, you feel breath moving in and out of your nostrils. There are sensations there. And so then you can start to focus on those sensations as well. And again, it's not about doing that without thought. It's about noticing, but you're kind of directing those thoughts. So if someone is directing and saying, Pay attention to the breath, in your in and out of your nostrils, is it warm? Is it cool? Is it sharp? Is it soft, that it's giving your brain something to think about, other than the bills that have to be paid next Wednesday, right? So it allows you to be here in this moment, and it'll wander off, but you will bring it back. So there are many, many different types of meditation. What I'm referring to is more of a mindfulness meditation, there are guided meditations, which I highly recommend, for a start, there are mantra meditations. And that's one that I learned. As a kid, my dad took us to transcendental meditation classes. And in transcendental meditation, you go through the whole study of meditation and how the mind works. And then each person is given their individual mantra. So a sound that's specific to them, their body, their vibrations, their energy. And you just think the sound over and over again, this is very much like prayer, if you are a prayerful person, most prayers are said over and over, right, there's a rosary, and the Hail Mary is about 10 times over in each decade of the Rosary, right? That is a type of meditation, because the mind is focused on doing something repetitive. So it's distracted from going off on a tangent somewhere else. There's Tai Chi, there's Chi Gong, this is meditations that include your body include physical movement, but in that physical movement, it's having you connect to your breath, or connect to the energy in your body. And what does that doing, it's bringing you present in the moment. Again, it's bringing the brain back to right now, yoga is another form of this act of meditation. Because in a yoga class, as yoga is traditionally done, the focus is on the breath. Now, I know there's a lot of versions of yoga out there now. And some of them are pretty wild. And some of them are strength training classes that are just done in hot rooms. But in the traditional sense, yoga is done to connect you to the breath. And it's actually in yoga studies. The Asana, the physical practice of yoga is that first step, leading towards meditation. Because the object of yoga asana of yoga postures is to bring the breath and the body into sync. Because Yogi's have known for 1000s of years, you can't sit in meditation with a restless body, with a stiff, aching body, your mind is going to get distracted, it's uncomfortable, it hurts. So when we get up and we do yoga, and we strengthen the body, we lubricate the joints, we open the body, we loosen the connective tissue, it becomes easier for us to sit. And then as we sit, we can concentrate on the breath, we learn the tools, when we're doing yoga, we learn that if you direct the breath while you're moving the body, you can get into poses in a little different way you can hold poses a little longer, because instead of your mind, being focused on your thighs burning, you focus your mind on your breath. And as you do that, you're able to control the body, as well as bring the mind into the present moment. It's really fascinating. So there are all of these ways for you to be able to enjoy this practice of meditation. And you can find anything that works for you. Walking meditations are super valuable. Being in nature, in and of itself is an incredible practice to support the health of your body. But when you're doing a walking meditation, and you're just really focusing on each step on each breath that you take, as you walk. So if you're someone who tells yourself well, I have a busier mind than everybody and I can't sit still, even in telling ourselves that we have to ask why am I choosing that story? Would I like to do something to support my health? By quieting my mind, reducing the levels of stress, I experience reducing the level of cortisol in my body, lowering my blood pressure. And again, doing all of this and benefiting yourself in all of these ways completely free. It is simply the decision to sit and give yourself a few minutes. And it's beautiful to do five minutes, three times a week, start there, you can do five minutes three times a week for yourself. And then you move up because as you do that consistently, you will notice that you start feeling better, you will start to see the benefits. And you'll want to add day four, and you want to add day five. And until you start to notice I take five minutes every day for myself, just to be present, and create space and relax my body. And this relaxation is a vital part of supporting the health of your amazing miraculous body and allowing it to do all the work that it does to support you living your healthiest life. All right, I have a couple of resources that can help you out, you can go to my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com Go to the resources section, you'll see a link up at the top, and I have some downloadable meditations on there. They're free, you can use them and I'll guide you through some meditations and some breath work. So check them out and come and find me and DM me and let me know how that went. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as the breast cancer recovery coach. And you can come to my free Facebook group, the breast cancer recovery group, or you can get the ultimate in help and join my better than before breast cancer life coaching membership. You can find all the information for all these things on my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com All right friends, I will talk to you again soon. And until then be good to yourself.