These field notes came out of my cancer experience. Some information is not cancer-exclusive, however, and may be useful for some of you. Try or share what resonates and discard the rest. More to come!
Written by Geri Ann Higgins
I have said affirmations over the years, but they took on new power and meaning after my diagnosis. My favorites to this day include, “I am healed and I am healing,” “My body is a garden, the weeds are already disappearing” and “I am safe and I am loved”.
I would say them throughout the day – in my office, walking to my car, in an exercise class… but I said them most when I was in bed. Post-diagnosis, sleep can evade you. Even a frequent meditator like me could not prevent the mind spirals. But talking to myself? Doable.
I would hold my head in my hands in the comforting neurovascular hold – this is easier in bed with pillows helping to prop you so you can really relax.
Place one hand over your forehead and cradle the back of your head with the other. Take a deep breath in and then sigh heavily out. Repeat a couple of times. Bring your breathing back to a normal, relaxed pattern and begin your affirmation. Every time you feel yourself starting to fall into a mind spiral, slowly take in oxygen, hold for a few seconds, and then audibly sigh out. Return to the affirmations.
You don’t need to do the neurovascular hold with your affirmations, but it can help reduce stress even more. The neurovascular points are located just above the middle of your eyebrows. The warmth and pressure of your hands prevents blood from leaving the forebrain, interrupting the flight or fight response. I liked to layer it on!
What helped: Saying affirmations while in bed during the wee hours of the morning. Although insomnia is not your friend, using that time to repeat the affirmations became a meditative mantra that eventually lulled me back to a state of rest. I also found them empowering prior to and during diagnostic tests and difficult blood draws (I’m a stingy blood giver).
What I wish I knew at the time: I did not realize that I would not be able to place my arms and hands above my head post-surgery. I was so focused on other things, I did not think of the different ways that I would be impacted by my post-surgical range of motion limitations. To increase range of motion, view this helpful intro and 15 minute routine by breast cancer survivor and fitness trainer, Miranda Esmonde-White.
Some things you can do or think about right now:
- Create your own affirmation or mantra for whatever you’re facing today – make it positive, emotionally powerful and, most importantly, easy to remember.
- Consider recording yourself saying the affirmation(s) and listen to them. I liked to do this before bed.
- Try the neurovascular hold, as explained above.
- Use this alternate hand placement if you have limited arm range of motion: place both elbows on a desk or table. Look at your open left hand. Turn and place it over your forehead horizontally OR with the base of your hand in line with your eyebrows and fingers pointing into your hairline. You’re still covering the neurovascular points/forebrain this way. Place your right hand over the back of your head (the occipital lobe area). Add in your affirmation!
Next Up: Anxious Moments
Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.
Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.
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