How 5 Minutes a Day will Change Your Life

Do you ever have a day where you thought to yourself “where did the day go?” That’s me. Everyday. I’m the QUEEN of the day that got away. Every evening around 6 o’clock, my husband laughs when I act so surprised that dinnertime has magically arrived without my knowledge.

And it does! After I suddenly realize that dinner snuck up behind me, I scramble to first THINK of something to cook, and then frantically fix something (somewhat) healthy.

After the chaos of dinner, I’m done. Tapped out. I’ve forgotten whatever I was in the middle of doing before cooking dinner. I feel as though my whole day was flung together and I have nothing to show for it. It’s as though that little bit of chaos threw off my whole day.

So what did I do? I set a new goal in my journal. And it worked.

I’ve been journaling for some time now. In the mornings, I do my own version of the ‘5 minute journal’ approach. I call it “Gratitude and Goals”. Gratitude for the things I have currently and goals for the things I want in the future – and every morning, I write these things down so that my day is a bridge between the two.

And it’s changed my life.

It takes about 5 minutes most mornings. A quick 2 pages of writing, and my mind is clear. This approach to journaling helps me to take on the day without all the clutter usually rattling around in my brain. My day starts and ends more clearly and with a purpose – plus it helps me to remember dinner!

So how do YOU do this? Grab a journal, a pen, and a cup of coffee.

You ready?

OK start with page one. Write down 2 things you are grateful for – and why. They can be something simple, like your family or your home or the fact that you could sleep in that day (I’ve written that one a few times!) Whatever you are truly grateful for in your life and why you’re grateful.

Now close your eyes and see those things in your mind for 2 deep breaths. Seriously. Picture your family/home/sleeping in. Now breath in…out…in…out while holding that image.

Ready for step 2?

Write down 2 goals you have. They can be anything – to accomplish more at work, to be more mindful, to beat cancer (that was my written goal for forever!!) Even just being less nauseous from chemo treatment. Whatever you REALLY want to do.

It can be something you want to accomplish that day (like putting dinner on the table by 7) or that year (like finishing that ‘honey-do list’). Small or large, whatever it is, write it down.

Now, again, close your eyes. Picture yourself reaching that goal. Hold that image and take 2 more deep breaths.

At this point, I usually turn the page and write my thoughts. Whatever has come to mind, I write it down. If it’s a big appointment day, I write down my fears and anxieties. Or sometimes I write about activities from the night before such as a fun dinner party or seeing family. Whatever is rattling around in my brain first thing in the morning is written on the next page.

FIVE minutes. And its changed my life.

How did I come to this? Well, I’ve always found that writing is a great outlet for me. I’ve also been practicing mindfulness since my diagnosis, and I found that this 5 minute journal method combines the best of journaling, visualization, and mindfulness.  Over time, I’ve found it keeps me ‘present’ and less stressed all day. I now direct my day rather than my day directing me.

It’s also helped tremendously with my cancer fears. As Tony Robbins likes to say, you can’t be grateful and fearful at the same time. I am proof that changing your mindset really DOES change your life. This five minutes has helped me to quiet the fears and find a greater meaning in everyday life BEYOND cancer.

Using a journal to focus my morning thoughts has retrained my brain to see the bright side. Throughout the day, my mind thinks back to the things I’m grateful for rather than the things I’m fearful might happen. My gratitude has replaced my fear.

And some days, having a calm dinner with family shows me the happiest and greatest meaning of life. Set aside 5 minutes to try something that may change YOUR life – like this 5 minute journal – and take control of your fears.

Year One After Treatment

Year One After Treatment

Last week, I got the results from my latest PET/CT scan. According to my calendar, it was my 4th scan since the final round of immunotherapy last May.

It turned out to be lucky #4 because I heard the sweetest 3 letters anyone with cancer will ever hear:

N…E…D

No Evidence of Disease

No evidence that the stupid f*cking melanoma was ever there. None. My insides are “squeaky clean” according to my oncologist.

Holy hell, people! I can’t help but curse, I’m so f*cking happy!!

Me and my favorite person at the Miles for Melanoma event in Boston last year

A lot has happened in the past year since my treatment. I mean…like…a lot. Life keeps moving forward, with or without us, so it’s interesting to look back at the path I’ve chosen.

In the past year, these events top the list as the most important: stopped treatment early due to gastritis and borderline colitis, lost 20 pounds, went on steroids, had a nervous system reaction, lost my mother-in-law to a heart attack, interviewed like crazy and got 2 job offers, started a job as a traveler, and now my husband and I have decided to retire early so we’re in the process of buying a rental property.

Man – the last year of my life really makes my head spin. I’m only 33 and I feel like I’ve experienced enough to be twice that age.

OK, maybe not TWICE that age. I take it back 😉

But the last year was definitely tough. Going through treatment and then losing my mother-in-law so suddenly broke my heart. Here I was, really trying to keep my head above water with all the side effects of treatment, and then out of NOWHERE we lose a very dear family member. Losing her so suddenly made me realize EVERY day here on this earth is a blessing, side effects and all.

Life is short. Make the most of every day. Make the most of every year.

And that’s my plan. I’m working on kicking cancer’s ass – one year NED at a time.

The Mental Health Crisis in America

Mental health is one of the few places the medical field has absolutely FAILED in the US. And when I say failed, I mean failed with a big fat ‘F’. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, exit stage left kind of fail.

The numbers don’t lie. The statistics of how we’ve failed, and continue to do so, are staggering. Over half of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, even to this day. Teenage depression rates are rising. 43.7 million Americans struggle with a diagnosable mental health disorder, which is over 18% of the population. These numbers even EXCLUDE developmental disorders and over 8% of adults in America who report having a substance or alcohol problem!

How can this BE? We’re in 2017, people! We can’t IGNORE over a quarter of the population!

We HAVE GOT to do better at helping those with mental health problems. Not tomorrow – TODAY!

This really hit home for me in a one-two punch. My friend’s brother, who had been struggling with depression, committed suicide. The following year, I was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t really soak in the hardship of my friend’s loss until I saw myself in a similar boat – struggling to keep myself afloat mentally and physically.

Mental health problems can affect any one of us. Our friends, our family, and ourselves. Just like breaking a leg or having cancer, treatment SHOULD be available to everyone. For any reason.

But it’s not.

No matter how you slice it, millions of Americans struggle with mental health…every….single….day.

You can find many more statistics and resources at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/

I found myself struggling with anxiety and depression after my diagnosis. I couldn’t accept that cancer could happen to me. I became terrified of the sun’s UV “death rays” and scared of being in the sun (see my post about conquering that fear here). My entire career has been in healthcare, but I developed “white coat syndrome” – it’s a real thing – where before every appointment or scan, I would sit in the waiting room, sweating profusely with my blood pressure and heart rate skyrocketing. My dread and anxiety when seeing the doctor became the norm.

Does this sound familiar?

When I finally decided to take control of my thoughts and emotions, things slowly became better. I decided that cancer may take my body, but I wouldn’t let it take my soul. I became stronger mentally and started to bail out the sinking ship to weather the storm. I did this through mind-body connection methods such as mindfulness meditation and journaling that I discuss in this blog.

Many people can do this same thing and eventually bail themselves out. Many others, however, need professional help to lead them in the right direction through the storm.

BOTH methods towards mental health simply DO NOT have enough support out there. Those who want to take control of their thoughts on their own don’t have enough support. And those who need professional help don’t have easy access to professionals.

We HAVE GOT to help each other and ourselves. We need to acknowledge that America needs better access to mental health services. Ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. And every day, more and more people are struggling.

Mental health doesn’t have to be this way. If you see someone struggling, don’t ignore the symptoms. If you need help, please reach out. Anxiety, depression, anger, and fear don’t have to be a daily part of your life.

Let’s admit America has a mental health problem.

Because as the saying goes, admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing the problem.

3 Easy Ways to Take Control of Your Health

Happy belated 4th of July my fellow health nuts! I hope everyone is out there celebrating our Independence Day as though it’s your OWN personal holiday! All those fireworks are because you’re so amazing, you know 😉

Happy Independence Day!

I’m so terribly sorry I haven’t been writing as much lately. I promise to do better!! Work has been a biiiiiit crazy with the travels – in just the past 4 weeks, I’ve been to Nevada, New York, Minnesota, and Illinois. I’m seeing the country one state at a time! Traveling for work does have a few perks (but don’t tell my boss that!!)

Traveling to fun places like Las Vegas for work is NOT the same as traveling for vacation, though. By 8:30 PM pacific time (or 11:30 my normal time), I was COMPLETELY worn out. I drove straight past “The Strip” and crawled into bed. I know, I’m a bundle of fun, huh?! I didn’t even pull the handle on one single slot machine!! But I can promise you that next time I go to Vegas, it will be all fun – not quite “The Hangover” worthy, but still fun!

While traveling, I do have some downtime with all the dreaded waiting at airports. And I have to admit, I’ve been chewing on this article for a while. Lots of pondering and note-jotting. And I sat on my hands to stop myself from starting for a loooooooooong time.

Why? Well, honestly, because of the political climate as of late. You can’t discuss health care without discussing politics.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’d be happy to discuss the deep ins and outs of health care with anyone. But it’s hugely complex and complicated. Health care is NOT black and white, and there is no 100% correct answer to any health question.

But with this said, we have NO idea how health care will be in the future, let alone later this year. No one has a magic ball that will predict how any new legislation will work. Just as there were problems with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), there will likely be unforeseen problems with any legislation presently being batted around in Washington this very moment.

So why do you care? Well, you want to keep on living, don’t you? Health and happiness and all that jazz, right?! But you can’t live a healthy, happy life without your health. So take control of your health and reap the long-lived rewards.

Use these 3 ways to take control of your health 

1 – Don’t let politicians stick their nose in your healthcare

To quote Walter Cronkite: America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.

As I stated before, politics and health care don’t always mix. Honestly, neither political party truly CARES about your health. They care about what they THINK you care about. And what will win them votes. If they really cared, they’d consult with health care systems, hospitals, doctors, administrators, insurance companies, anyone and everyone in the biz and form a plan of action.

Right now, I hear lots of talk, but no real plan.

Our health care system is on life support, and no one can come up with the cure.

We all know that our health is important. But your health is important NOW, not when the suits in DC decide it’s important! So be proactive – take care of your body without letting the politicians stick their noses in your business. Your body is not in their control.

So stop waiting for someone else to figure out what’s best for your health care. Use what you have at your disposal – be it insurance, homeopathic medicine, the internet, or your local health store. Do what you need to do to take control of your health. And do it now.

Because as of tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Your guess is as good as mine. Don’t wait. Take care of yourself now – you are your own best advocate

Don’t wait for these people to decide on YOUR health care!

2 – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Just like a car, your body needs some preventative maintenance. Dermatologist visits, yearly physicals, mammograms, and colonoscopies are just a few of the many ways for the medical field to check in on your health.

But what can YOU do to take control of your health without visiting a doctor?

Listen to your body. If you’re exhausted, make it a point to get more sleep. If your GI system is out of whack, cut out the junk and clean up your diet. If you need a mental health day away from it all, then clock out and hit the road.

Work can wait. Your health problems, however, will never wait for the right time. And as Murphy’s Law will have it, your health matters the most when everything else in life lands in the crapper. So change your focus to maintaining your health rather than just abusing it.

You only have one body. Treat it like the temple it is supposed to be.

3 – Kick your stress to the curb

Have you ever gone on an amazing vacation to dread going home? Or have a great weekend and the thought of going to work on Monday immediately makes you cringe, ruining your relaxed vibe? Or have so much on your plate that you just wanna cry yourself to sleep?

Americans love to heap the stress onto our plates. Long hours of work and then rush rush rush – rush to pick up the kids and rush to get them to practice and hurry fix who-knows-what for dinner before zoning out in front of the TV for a couple hours before falling into bed exhausted.

Is this life? Is this what we’re all living for? I don’t think so.

Make it a priority to de-stress your life. Remove all the negative things – relationships, jobs, useless junk, bad habits – kick them all to the curb. It’s much like cleaning the old crap out of the closet. The process may take some time, but it’s such a relief once it’s over.

Once you remove your negative cloud, you can see life so much more clearly. You can see things in a new light – the light that really gives life meaning – and appreciate the people and the things around you.

It opens up a new path to REAL health and happiness. The kind that’s worth living for.

So, ladies and gentlemen, use these three ways to take control of your health. TODAY is your day to take life by the horns and become a healthier you!

What will YOU do today to become a healthier you? Let us know in the comments below!

How I kicked my cancer fear to the curb

Recently, I’ve had many people ask me one of the most important (but most overlooked) questions about cancer treatment. How did I learn to cope?

I don’t mean physically cope with getting through the treatments. Coping with treatments and healing after surgery is really just ‘grin and bear it’. There’s no secret to physically getting through treatment – you just have to put on your rally cap and fight like hell.

But how do you MENTALLY cope with cancer? How do you endure a diagnosis like stage 3 melanoma and NOT want to crawl into a hole and cry yourself to sleep?

Well, I have to admit, there was definitely a little bit of that for me – at first.

 

I’ve always said that cancer is more of a mental battle than a physical one. My melanoma diagnosis hit me very hard. I’m in healthcare – I should KNOW the warning signs. I should KNOW to take care of my own health first and foremost. But I put my changing/bleeding mole on the back burner while I worked 60 hours/week taking care of other people.

I felt a HUGE amount of guilt and blamed myself for months. I felt defeated. I felt lost. Why me? How could I do this to my family? What if I don’t make it? How am I supposed to live my life like this?

And then I gradually began to realize that this was a battle of wills. Much like any sport, the team with the best mental state wins. I was NOT going to let this stupid cancer win. This cancer was NOT going to bring down my spirit. If I was going to fight like hell physically, I also had to fight mentally. My whole being had to fight – and fight hard.

I knew the odds weren’t in my favor. I knew that melanoma defeating me was more of a likelihood than a possibility. At the age of 31, I had to come to grips with my own mortality in a very real way.

But you know what? As the old saying goes: there are only 2 certainties in this world – death and taxes. If my life was going to be cut short, I better make it a damn good one.

So I came to the conclusion: cancer may take my life. But cancer would NOT take my soul.

 

Sometimes you have to endure the rain to experience a rainbow

I have a soft spot for country music, and Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” to this day makes me cry. There’s something about facing death that makes you realize how precious life is – and you have to soak up EVERY MOMENT. Every day is truly a blessing.

Thousands of people have survived cancer and been given a second chance on life. And since treatment that has become my new mentality – I’ve been given a second chance at life. And you can’t have a full life when you’re constantly worried.

So I permanently shut off that leaky faucet of fears and guild and questions that kept creeping into my mind.

How did I do it? Mindfulness meditation.

I began reading books such as The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh and it made me realize that meditation doesn’t have to be all granola and incense and “ohm”. Just being mindful – learning to soak in every moment – was something we could all do. Soaking in the joys of everyday life has made me more grateful and more introspective about how I want to live.

Think about it. Think about what you want to accomplish in life. REALLY TRULY accomplish. Because YOU are the only one who can make these dreams a reality. YOU are the only one who can choose to live in a beautiful state rather than living every day in fear.

Because living in fear is no way to live. And I choose living a life that’s worth living. And so should you.

So say NO to the fears. Say NO to melanoma and cancer. Put your foot down and choose to take back your life. Start LIVING your life while you still can. It’s that simple.

So get out there and start living!!