By Francinne Lawrence, Ph.D., Manager of Survivorship and Integrative Medicine
Life is unpredictable. Woody Allen is quoted as saying, “If you want to see God laugh, tell him you have plans.” If ever I had a reason to question the unpredictability of life, I’d simply have to look back on the many twists and turns life took in getting me to the present moment. And in working with cancer patients and family members through the Cancer Center’s survivorship program, I can tell you, cancer is never part of anyone’s life plan. Uncertainty and unpredictability, while often unsettling, are common experiences for most of us.
Why then, with such uncertainty in life, do human beings struggle so with change and the unexpected? A social worker friend of mine use to joke and say, “The only people who like change are babies with dirty diapers.” There are a number of reasons people are resistant to change.
Change can be associated with loss of control. Our sense of self-determination is often challenged when faced with a potential change coming from someone else or a situation that feels bigger than us. Everything can seem different. We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic, but change jolts us into awareness that things are different and sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Also, sometimes the threat is real. Change is often resisted because it can pose a significant threat to things in life that we love and enjoy.
In facing significant change, there are three practices that can be used to ease the acceptance of and adjustment to changing circumstances:
Honesty. Admit to yourself that change can be challenging and acknowledge any feelings, even negative ones that may arise.
Look for the silver lining. Identify any positive outcomes that may result from the change. What we give our attention to gets bigger, so focus on the positive whenever possible.
Practice self-compassion. Acknowledging that change can be difficult, be patient with yourself. Cut yourself some slack if you find yourself struggling. Allow yourself extra time to accomplish tasks. Take restorative breaks by practicing deep breathing or reading a fun book. Whenever possible, keep things familiar and remain focused on the important things.
Posha Hogan, author, therapist, and three-time cancer survivor will speak at the Survivorship Celebration Luncheon at the Cancer Center on June 23rd on cultivating inner peace and greater joy in the midst of uncertainty. Among others like herself who have known the life-changing unpredictability of a cancer diagnosis, Ms. Hogan will share her life learnings of finding meaning and wonder while faced with uncertainty.
For more information on the Celebration Luncheon, please call (225) 215-0182 or email Laura Gaddy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Francinne Lawrence, Ph.D., is the manager of survivorship and integrative medicine at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. An expert in Mind-Body Medicine, Lawrence is uniquely qualified for her role at the Cancer Center having trained and practiced in a variety of related fields along the way, including ordained clergywoman and hospital chaplain, practicing licensed clinical social worker and administrator and certified health and wellness coach.