The Dark Night of the Soul. When life as we’ve known it is shaken to the ground, and we find ourselves in a hailstorm of worry and despair. Often, we are faced with decisions and are not certain of the best choices as we navigate an adversity that has no exact end date. The change in our circumstances can feel surreal, causing us to exclaim “this is not my life!”
Upon receiving the diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, I felt like I had been sent to a foreign country where I didn’t know the language or the customs. I had to acclimate to a new reality that, while I could accept it as temporary, I knew that it was going to be well over a year until the course was completed medically. Even if you and I already believe that there is a seed of good in every adversity, we still need the strength, mindset and skills to sustain and support ourselves while the havoc plays out. We can’t deny the distressing facts coming at us when upheaval enters our lives, but we can learn to manage our thinking and practice calming techniques to keep worry and anguish from overtaking us and our well-being.
Adversity demands something new of us that may not have been accessible in calmer circumstances. Not having a choice but to deal with our monster can raise our game. Once I accepted what the year ahead held in store for me something inside of me shifted and I began to take the lead in how I wanted to handle this difficult journey. I eventually approached my troubling event as if it were a story I could learn from and potentially influence. My first empowering decision was to no longer see myself as a victim of circumstance. This set the stage for everything else. I decided to stop fighting the facts and instead, channel my energy into things that supported and comforted me as I faced each new challenge.
This doesn’t mean that I no longer experienced worry, exhaustion and anguish. They still showed up for me, but I became better at managing them so that I could get the rest and recovery I needed in order to kick cancer out of my life for good. As a life coach, I use the analogy of buckling up fear in the backseat, rather than letting it drive the car. Fear will still be shouting at you from the backseat, but you are now in the driver’s seat, directing the intent.
There is a place inside all of us where we can find calm. Consider a storm out on the sea. The winds are blowing. The waves are churning. The clouds are rolling, dark and ominous. The rains are intense and unceasing. But if you go deep down below the surface of the stormy waters – deep, deep down – you will find the calm. There are no signs of a storm down below. Only quiet. It requires practice, but we have the capacity to leave our troubles at the surface and go deep into the comforting calm through various means, some of which I share below. Pick the ones that most resonate with you and try them.
- Breathe: Big, deep breaths into the belly. Fear creates shallow breathing, but with our awareness and focus, we can bring ourselves back into deep cleansing breath.
- Journaling: I used my journal to record my feelings, fears as well as my prayers and affirmations.
- Visualization: I employed visualization to see successful surgical outcomes as well as a clean bill of health. We’ve been conditioned to prepare for the worst, so it takes practice to create a vision of what we would prefer rather than what we fear. We can even use this for others and for our world right now.
- Meditation: There are many terrific sites and apps such as YouTube or the app Insight Timer that can take you from a beginner to an established meditator. Meditation places your focus on calming, life-giving mindsets, like a mini vacation from stress.
- Read spiritually supportive literature/Watch uplifting movies: I took a lot of comfort in reading uplifting scriptures, poetry and watching movies that lifted me up or made me laugh. Much like choosing a nutritional diet!
- Ask for and accept help from others: I was brought up not to bother others, so this took practice, but once I accepted help, it felt like grace was pouring over my life and situation, and I had more energy available to me.
- Prayer and affirmations: Prayers, affirmations and feeling gratitude have a different energy than prayers that plead and beg. You and I were born worthy. We truly are spiritual beings in a human body. Understanding and connecting with our divinity puts us in a position to feel loved and empowered.
- Keep negativity at a distance. Some negative may be under the same roof. Just do your best to limit your exposure. The fewer people and broadcasts amplifying your dark time, the better. This is the time to pull in a positive team of supporters. This goes for consuming too much negative media too. No need to deny the facts, but get the news and go back to your best place of calm and support. No need to bathe in it!
- Music: What uplifts you? What brings you peace? I listened to all kinds and also included reiki music on days I was in bed after chemotherapy. I drifted dreamily in and out of sleep and felt beautifully supported.
No matter where you may be in an adversity, you have the ability to choose who you will be and what serves your healing and growth. There are many tools and resources that are available to you. We’ve only scratched the surface here. There will be time for re-building when the dust has settled. For now, put yourself in a place that brings peace and support.