This week I’m playing the waiting game… waiting for biopsy results. It’s never fun when a doctor tells you they ‘need to do further tests’ and it’s in those moments of incredible vulnerability it’s easy to fall prey to fear and anxiety. If I’d been in this situation 10 years ago, my reactions over these last few weeks would have been to panic, start blaming all and sundry and feeling completely helpless. I’m grateful I have some knowledge that helps contain this while waiting for the doctor to call.
I’ve been utilising key mental and emotional strategies to help me stay calm and this week and I thought it may be helpful to share them. At some point, every one of us finds ourselves afraid or feeling that life is ‘out of our control’ in some way. So here’s my top strategies, which I hope are helpful to you too.
My number one strategy for reigning in fear comes from a story I heard years ago. (I’m not sure of the source.)
A young shepherd was tending his sheep in rugged terrain when a very hungry lion appeared. The shepherd yelled and screamed at the lion, standing tall and waving his arms but it wasn’t put off. It started to come toward the shepherd, hunting it’s prey and sizing him up. The shepherd was wise enough to know this lion was going to attack, so he ran. He pelted along the mountain toward the cliff top as fast as his legs and lungs could carry him. As he chanced a glance behind the lion was almost upon him but he was at the cliff’s edge. His only option was to jump…
As he fell, he managed to grab a small branch that hung a metre from the top. He panted heavily and smiled as the lion roared down at him in frustration. While the shepherd was dangling high about the sea and rocks, he noticed a spindly blackberry bush with one ripe, delicious fruit ready to pick. He let go of one hand and reached for the fruit and managed to pick it without dropping it. He slowly popped it in his mouth and savoured the taste as if he didn’t have a care in the world. It was the sweetest, most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and he was happy.
The point… if he’d wasted those last moments before he fell in panic, he would have missed the wonderful experience that was right in front of him. In that moment of picking the blackberry, he was safe and still very alive. So my number one strategy when fear wants to take a hold is to deal with what actually is real and present at any given moment. Right now, I don’t have my results and so I’m dealing with what is real, not what I imagine could be or worst case scenarios. By doing this, I’m still able to enjoy the simple things and cherish time with family, without getting lost in my head in ‘what if’s?’.
Other strategies that work well:
- Distraction – do something enjoyable and nurturing. Ruminating is one of the biggest contributors to depression, despair and is rarely productive. Limit how long you hold a thought process for and change it up, get into action and do something engaging.
- Gratitude – Treat the situation as ‘perfect’ and ‘a gift’. Rather than feeling helpless, right now I’m thanking my body every day for giving me the opportunity to listen and to re-evaluate what’s ‘healthy’ for me. I am trusting that this experience is necessary and is an opportunity to gain something essential, whatever that may be.
- Lastly, belief is powerful! What we believe to be true, is true for us. I’m keeping a vigilant grip on my thoughts and refocusing them onto a belief that works for me rather than allowing my mind to buy into pessimism or panic. We can be the masters of our mind and have the ability to steer it where it serves us best. For instance, rather than buying into a belief that I’m unwell, I’m choosing to believe that I’m on the road to optimal health and this is a part of my journey to it.
If you have any more strategies that have helped you in tricky moments, please share with our community. Who knows what challenges someone else may be experiencing this week.