Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Stepping stones towards resilience

Our Sunday discussion this week centred around small practical steps that our women have taken to build their resilience. Naz introduced the topic with her science hat on, reminding us that our brains have the capability to build new neural pathways which may help us to become more emotionally resilient. Whilst of course our bodies need time and nurture to heal, our brains may benefit from challenges which allow neuroplasticity to support our growing emotional strength. We need goals in order to move forward in life.

Some women reported not wanting to set long term goals since their breast cancer diagnosis (we have members with both primary and secondary diagnoses) but without exception our women reflect on where and how they want to be, and take steps to make things happen. Some days, when we're struggling physically, it's a huge challenge just to get out of bed. On other days we can climb mountains and run marathons, but not without physical and mental training and preparation. We can't just turn up at the start line expecting to complete the course. 

Our women employ a variety of strategies to move forward following the major disease that is breast cancer. The trick seems to be a mixture of self-compassion and breaking free of our comfort zones. The theme of appreciating the simple everyday things in life came through very strongly, alongside not sweating the small stuff. We can't avoid stress completely but we can choose not to let things that don't really matter get to us.

Having a go at something new is key for many of our members, from singing and dancing to crafting and studying. Finding what makes us happy by going out and having a go, and then doing more of the things that bring us joy, is a well-established method of improving wellbeing. For those who have busy working lives and families to look after it's important to achieve some balance, with many citing daily walking (some with dogs) as key to their emotional and physical health. Resting is a huge priority for our members, and many have learnt to listen to their bodies and take it easy when they need to (though many also have a way to go on this one as we strive to look after everyone around us!)

The everyday can still be challenging for us as we recover our health or work to maintain it. Music keeps us calm, uplifts us or soothes us. Exercise feeds both mind and body. Many have used mindfulness and breathing exercises to good effect. We all need things to look forward to so booking ahead for little or large treats provides these. Everyday treats are also key for many, as we want to enjoy our lives not just live them. We treasure a smile from a child, a sunny day, a refreshing shower, a light traffic commute, a lunchtime walk, a nanny nap.  We are grateful, we laugh a lot. Some of us also cry a lot as we understand that living well means feeling sad as well as happy.

One of our members found us this quote to round off our discussion : 'The art of being happy lies in extracting happiness from common things.' Henry Ward Beecher.

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