When I turned 50 I was just beginning to navigate the maze of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. I’d been dreading turning 50, just as I’d dreaded turning any age that had a “0” in it. The “zero” birthdays have always been a time of stress, harsh reflection and the “oh my God” feeling that life was rushing by and what did I have to show for it? Yes, I had a happy family, two wonderful children and up until I was 49 years old and 11 months, my health.
My everyday routines were so out of control with finding and interviewing doctors, plastic surgeons, oncologists, radiology oncologists and more that the thought that I was turning 50 in less than a month from the day of diagnosis hardly appeared on my radar. On my actual birthday though, with my family gathered around me I was faced with not only the thought of, “what have I done with my life and what have I accomplished” along with the “I am facing a more than 12 hour long surgery to rid my body of breast cancer but I was looking at a bruised, battered and chopped up body on the other side.”
Frankly, I was also afraid, “what if I don’t make it through the surgery or if an infection sets in and something even worse happens.” Even worse than a cancer diagnosis? Yes, death is worse than a cancer diagnosis, but when you’re in the midst of it and having the feeling of facing your own mortality because of a health issue AND a “zero” birthday, it’s a double whammy.
What came of it? I decided that if I felt my life was stuck in neutral that I needed to use this scare as an opportunity to do something about it. I needed to kick start changes, implement new routines in both my health and in my business life, and I needed to learn to stop and smell the roses and live in the moment. Living in the moment has been an ideal that has typically eluded me; I am in a moment but am wondering what the next moment will bring. My oncologist, when I shared this with her, recommended a book, “Full Catastrophe Living” and reading through it helped me “use my mind and body to face stress and illness” just like the title said. I continue to refer to it on those days when I feel I am too stressed to even stop and take a full breath.
When I am feeling overwhelmed and also looking at my life as being stuck in a traffic jam or my “vehicle” in neutral here are a few measures I employ to get me out of my head and back on the road:
- My first thought is: Do I need some help? Can I reach out to a friend or a business accountability partner and say, “this is where I am, why am I not seeing a way around this obstacle?” Having a fresh perspective or a new set of eyes to look at your problem may help you move around or past it to the other side.
- Do I need to be more creative in my handling of XYZ? Just because you have always done a particular task in a particular way doesn’t mean it is the only way. Perhaps you need to look at the issue with new eyes and approach it in a different manner and viola, issue solved. Believe me I am not diminishing a roadblock or a creative block, but sometimes if I just step away and allow my frustrations to melt away I can look at a problem and actually solve it.
- Speaking of walking away… yes, there are times when you just need to take a break. Your break could involve a 15-minute meditation session, a walk with the dog during your lunch hour, a talk on the phone with a friend, taking the time to brew a cup of tea and taking it on the porch to sip it slowly. Whatever helps you relax is what you should do if you take a break. Getting your mind involved in another task or even in no task, may allow your synapses to start firing and offer you a new perspective that you can undertake once you’ve taken the time to take care of yourself.
What do you do when you feel you’re at the end of your rope? Do you ever feel your life is stuck in neutral? What steps can you take to get back in gear?