Managing Stress, an essential for healing

We have all heard over and over again how important it is to bring down stress levels for our mental, emotional and physical health.

I recently followed a video presentation about how stress impacts gut health. All the presenters – doctors, naturopaths and health educators – emphasized the central role of a healthy, ‘happy’ gut for overall health. Further they all stated that unless stress is reduced, all the healthy foods and natural supplements have limited effect. They all expressed in one way or another the need to bring body/mind into the relaxed parasympathetic state to promote well-being and healing.

How do you bring the body/mind into a relaxed mode when you have not only the daily stresses of your everyday life, but you are faced with a serious illness?

Your first priority is to gain some perspective and reduce your fear and worry to a level that allows you to think and act constructively. I have an article posted on my website – Two Empowering Strategies for Managing Fear following a Diagnosis. I want to highlight a few sections of that report.

The two strategies are -
1) managing fear in the moment
and
2) getting knowledge.
In this article, I am going to make a few comments about managing fear in the moment.

The first step is to acknowledge your fear and know that it is a natural reaction. However, it need not paralyze you. There are tools to help you reduce and manage it. It’s OK to feel fear and still move forward. You don’t have to get rid of all your fear to do so.

Talking about your fears with someone who can really listen to you with compassion and calmness is most supportive and can help you stay present. Remember your fear is for what might happen in the future. What you fear hasn’t happened and may never happen. Your fear is for an imagined future that has no reality in the now. The only reality is in the present.

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Catch yourself when your thoughts run ahead to what you fear might happen and bring yourself back to the present and what you can do. Be as present as much as you can. Take one day at a time and do whatever you can do for yourself each day.

Avoid taking on other people’s fears and projections. You want to surround yourself with those who are open to a healing perspective and are not projecting their fears onto you.

Develop a simple routine to help calm yourself and de-stress. Here are a few ideas:
- mindful breathing – example: slow, easy, deep breaths into your lower abdomen (belly breath) to count of 4 seconds, hold for 4, exhale to count of 8, hold for 4.
- meditation or guided visualization – there are many available online. Example: ‘Assisting in Your Own Healing’ by Louise Hay on Youtube; mediations by Deepak Chopra, Bernie Siegel
- simple body movements – stretches, dance, yoga
- walks in nature – you can also create your own visualizations of your favourite walks, real or imagined. You can take yourself to anywhere in the world – a tropical paradise, a quiet lake or beautiful sandy beach by the ocean, a meadow or garden full of flowers.

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The most healing actions you can take for yourself is to nurture calm and foster trust in your body/mind’s natural ability to heal itself.

I invite you to share one of your own de-stressing or calming strategies on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Dr.NelieJohnson/.

To access the full report – Two Empowering Strategies for Managing Fear following a Diagnosis – click here.

Love heals us

It’s the day after Valentine’s Day and a few words of blessing came to me to share.

Wishing you the blessings of Love

… the Beauty and Solace of Nature

… Healing of Mind, Body and Spirit

… and Joy and Peace in your Heart.

I also value this quote –

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Knowledge of the truth has the power to relieve our fears and open us to look at things differently and see possibilities. And the core and foundation of Healing is Love.

What a surgeon learned about cancer

Some 30 years ago when I began asking the big questions – “why is this patient sick with cancer? why now? what more can be done? “ – I came across the Dr. Siegel’s books. I really identified with his story.

Bernie, as he likes to be known by colleagues and patients alike, was a general surgeon who, in the mid 1970s, became very discouraged with the outcomes he was getting for his patients with surgery and standard cancer therapies. However, one day he happened to step back and reflect on his results and realized that out of a hundred patients, some 15 or so did far better than expected. They beat the odds. He determined that he needed to talk with those patients to find out what they were doing that was making the difference.

In doing so, he learned that these patients were not fighting cancer, not falling victim to cancer, and not remaining helpless, powerless and fearful. They were all, in one way or another, seeing cancer as a signal or a sign post that the way they had been living their lives was not working. Rather than resisting having cancer, they accepted the cancer as a needed wake up call to motivate them to make changes in their lives.

In addition to medical treatment, these patients took steps toward restoring their health physically, mentally and emotionally. They looked to where they were holding toxic emotions of regret, bitterness, anger, lack of forgiveness, guilt and unresolved grief. They took responsibility for clearing their own unhealthy behaviours, reactions and beliefs and for doing their part to heal their relationships. Dr. Siegel has written several books that chronicle his learning from these aware and empowered patients which he calls exceptional cancers patients or ECaPs. Further he believed that any patient can become exceptional.

After attending a teaching seminar given by Dr. O. Carl Simonton, oncologist, and his psychologist wife, who as pioneers in mind-body medicine were introducing visualization and other techniques with cancer patients, Bernie started therapy groups for cancer patients in 1978. He recognized the vital need to treat the patient with the disease rather than the disease alone. ECaP groups are established in many centres throughout the United States offering programs ‘designed specifically to integrate the power of mind, body, and spirit with the best traditional medical care.’

Bernie has written several books and the one I most recommend is “Peace, Love and Healing”. His conclusions about the cause of cancer and how people can and do heal parallel many of my own.

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Over the last 40 years, Dr. Siegel and many other doctors, including myself, are showing the way to a whole person approach to disease. From my own experience and training, there is a specific stress or conflict pattern associated with every disease and illness, from colds to cancer, as well as ‘dis-ease’, which provides essential and valuable clues to those areas in a person’s life that need attention.

In other words, every disease carries a message of what the patient needs to know to clear obstacles to his/her own healing. What is the message of your illness – of breast cancer for example? What it is trying to tell you could save your life and help you recover your health and happiness.

Thoughts for the New Year

We are already into the third week of January 2019! I do hope you had good times with family and friends over the holiday season.

I don’t know about you but I found myself after the busyness of Christmas and New Year’s in a bit of a slump. As I looked back over 2018 I felt a little flat. I had not done all I wanted to do. I didn’t feel I made the most of the year.

As I looked forward into the New Year, I felt somewhat anxious about measuring up to my expectations and the goals I had set for myself. The year loomed rather long and challenging. It didn’t help that I had taken on a number of new projects toward the end of 2018 and was feeling rather overwhelmed and unfocused. A part of me wanted to pull back and stay in my comfort zone to avoid any risk of putting myself out there, so to speak. Ever felt that way?

But then I met a former patient of mine, Steve (not his name) who I guided through a bout with cancer for which he had been given at best a year to live. He had a second challenge with a different cancer about 15 years later. However, I had left my practice and had not been involved in his care at that time and I had not seen him for a number of years.

So when Steve saw me in the grocery store over the holidays, he called out to me and shared that he was clear for the second cancer and was very well and healthy. He looked terrific. He was alive and well 20 years after been given the original prognosis of a year at best with the first cancer. I had been a part of giving him his life back ! I was in awe at what he had accomplished with my guidance and how it was possible to defy the odds.

Meeting Steve that day gave me a boost and had me realize I had slipped into effort and seeing the glass half empty. I had forgotten to remind myself of the many successes over the years. I also got how important it was to monitor my mindset and keep resetting it as needed.

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Sunrise over the Fraser at Maple Ridge, BC

I have found getting out in nature or reading inspiring writing or watching uplifting, heart-centred videos are helpful to keep a healthy focus in my life. And you never know when or where you will find inspiration. Just last week I was cycling on the dyke near my home and stopped at a bench which had this writing on a memorial plaque.

Enjoy the beauty around you.
Have the courage to see things differently.
Make the world a better place one day at a time,
and don’t let go of the important things
that give meaning to your life.

What more is there to say.

Wishing you the best of health throughout the New Year.

Christmas Message – Coping with holiday stress

It’s less than a week away from Christmas Day, a much anticipated and joyful time for many. I certainly hope that is so for you and your family and friends. 

However, sometimes gathering with family can be stressful too in the heightened atmosphere of the season. Being around family members you are in close proximity with, especially for an extend period, can cause friction. You may find yourself triggered by behaviour or words of a family member. Without knowing why a wave of unpleasant feelings takes over.

You may have the experience of not being heard and dismissed, or feeling out of place, or treated somehow like a child again. In these situations be aware that being triggered means there is some unfinished business from your past surfacing and giving you an opportunity to reflect on it and clear it. 

If you find yourself triggered, here are 3 steps to defuse the discomfort of the moment, calm yourself, and get present.

1) When you notice you are feeling uncomfortable or irritated, avoid reacting and put yourself on pause. Step away from the situation.

2) Take a minute or two to calm yourself with a few slow breaths. Breathing with a short inhale and a longer exhale is especially soothing.  Take a moment to identify the feelings. If it is anger or irritation, check if there is a deeper layer of feeling – for example feeling hurt or lack of respect or not belonging. Be willing to accept that these feelings are far more related to past experiences than the present one. 

Whether you can identify the feelings or not, make a note of the trigger and check in with yourself later when you have more time to reflect on it, bring understanding to your reaction, and progress to clear it.   

3) Bring yourself into the present. Accept that the feelings are arising from you and are not caused by another. In other words how you are feeling has nothing to do with the other or the situation and everything to do with your response. You determine how you respond and how you want to feel. Ask yourself – how do I want to feel in this moment? what do I want my experience to be? – and then choose that.  

Throughout these steps, hold yourself and others with kindness and compassion.  

Frost crystals on grass stubble poking up through a frozen pool of surface water.

Frost crystals on grass stubble poking up through a frozen pool of surface water.

Wishing you and your family the beauty, peace and joy of Christmas and good health and happiness throughout the New Year.  
 

Can we promote breast health and prevent breast cancer?

Is it possible that we can prevent the disease, or at least decrease the risk, by promoting breast health? I believe the answer is yes.

In order to have true physical health and well-being, you have to have a good level of emotional health. The one follows the other. When I think about breast health, I immediately think of promoting mental, emotional and psychosocial/spiritual well-being.

Reflecting

As a family physician, I began asking myself some 20 years ago why people get sick and how they can get well again. There had to be more to treating disease, such as breast cancer, than treating the physical. Just as we recognize the wholeness of who we are – mental, emotional, spiritual as well as physical – there is a whole disease – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical.

I discovered that when we consider the whole disease, many more options open up. When we really use what we know about ourselves – events we experienced and their impact – we discover keys to healing our life.

I discovered that when I helped my patients heal their lives, they often healed physically. In my search for answers to my questions, I discovered that there are over 35 years of experience of doctors, psychologists, and scientists revealing the most likely mental and emotional factors contributing to specific diseases, such as each specific type of cancer, MS, diabetes, heart disease, and more – from minor illness to major disease. From this body of knowledge, I have learned the most likely types of stress that contribute to breast cancer.

The most important thing I learned is the following : to have good breast health, healthy relationships, especially within the family home are key.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and reflect upon.

  1. How well connected do you feel to members of your family? – partner, children, siblings, parents, close friend, or anyone you consider part of your home nest
  2. How well do you feel you can express your love and receive love with those in your home nest?
  3. Do you hold any strong concern for someone leaving you or for the integrity of relationships between family members?
    for a major relationship coming apart? For example between you and your partner, between father and son.
  4. Do you have concerns for the survival or future well-being of anyone in your family nest? For example a serious illness for a child or your partner, a concern for your child’s future career because of failed exams or criminal record.
  5. What patterns in relationships may you be carrying over from early childhood and your experience in your family of origin? As much as we may consciously want healthy change, there are hidden unconscious stresses that stem from early emotional programming and result in unconscious coping reactions.

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Remember it is not only what happens to you but more importantly how you respond to what happens to you that determines the impact of any stress.

The very best advice I can give any woman (or man) for good breast health is to develop good relationship health, especially with those close to you that mean the most to you – your family. Take workshops, or get private counselling if you feel you need it, to learn about yourself and grow yourself emotionally.

Take responsibility for your own personal well-being rather than expect a relationship to improve when the other person does the work of ‘changing’. Complaining and blaming others or circumstances will hold you back from healthy change. You have to be the change that you want to see in your relationships and in your life. You are the power to create your happiest and healthiest you.

Finally, and most importantly, the key to relationship health is developing the resilience and personal resources to survive breakups and challenges in relationships that are an inevitable part of life. As we develop these personal skills, challenges become breakthroughs and we can grow in compassion for ourselves and others and that is the true source of our healing.

Important – Although I have been a physician for over 30 years, the views expressed in this article are not representative of mainstream Western Medicine. If you have diagnosis of breast disease, be sure to seek medical advice and care.

Nelie C Johnson, MD (retired)

Inspirations for Healing – Change your perspective

Here are the closing lines from the previous Inspirations for Healing article – From Fear to Acceptance – …much of your fear is the result of lack of knowledge of what is possible. Fear is a call to explore what is possible.

I ask you to set aside your fear, even a little, by not focusing on it so much. Now bring your attention to finding out more about disease. To do so you need to be willing to look at things differently.

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Focusing on your physical diagnosis and viewing it as a disaster will keep you from seeking to know more and being open to solutions. Importantly if you see the disease as only physical you are missing the whole disease – its mental, emotional and spiritual roots. To use an analogy, you’ll be fixed on the tip of the iceberg and miss the bulk that lies below the surface.

Your diagnosis is the ‘what’ – what has happened. The question you need to ask is ‘why’ or ‘what for’. “ Why is this cancer or life-threatening illness showing up in my life at this time? What is the meaning of it? “

From over 20 years of my own search for answers to these questions for myself and for my patients, I have learned and witnessed many times over that disease such as cancer shows up for a reason and has a purpose. It is the natural response of the brain/body to manage or contain a pattern of stress which is a determined to be a risk to survival of the whole individual.

You may well ask “how can cancer that is threatening my life be a way for the brain/body to ensure my survival?” Actually the cancer is minimizing the threat to your survival in the short term at the risk to your survival in the longer term. It is containing the impact of the stress in only one organ or small area of the body and allowing for the rest of the brain/body to function normally for much longer than if the stress overwhelmed the whole. With this strategy, running the cancer, you are given time and the best possible function of your brain and body to come up with a solution to the stress.

Disease is in reality your brain/body’s ultimate survival mechanism to keep your brain/body functioning as well as possible for as long as possible, giving you the best chance to sort things out. The disease is doing whatever it can to serve you. Further It is giving you a message or clues to what deeply ails you at a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. For every illness or disease, there can be found a core emotional stress or conflict that is at its source.

Along with medical and additional alternative treatments you may be doing, the disease is a sign for you to do the deeper emotional work to fully heal.

Keep watch for other articles in this series – Inspirations for Healing.

I invite you to leave comments and questions on my Facebook page.

Inspirations for Healing – From Fear to Acceptance

I have been giving a lot of thought to what people most need to hear from me to support them with their health concerns. As I was hiking last Sunday along a forested trail, in Nature’s quiet, ideas surfaced. After the hoopla and excitement of the book launch (more about the event below), it was time to settle into sharing more of my message about healing. I plan to do so over a series of blog articles, this being the first one.

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The first response to learning of a diagnosis of serious illness or disease, is naturally shock, stress, fear and even panic. It is important to acknowledge your fears. Talking them out with a compassionate listener or writing them out can help to separate yourself enough to move beyond your fears a little. Your fears are for a future that does not have to happen. As much as possible stay present and focused on your current condition, what is happening in the now, for that is what is real.

I like the word inspiration. Taking the root word ‘inspire’, it’s first meaning is to breathe in, so despite any fear or panic arising, your best next response is to pause and breathe – slow and deep. This allows you to calm your fears and brings more oxygen to your brain to think more clearly.

Then what will support you is an attitude of acceptance – acceptance of where you are at, of what your reality is for now. Let me be clear, this is not acceptance of the prognosis or any projected negative future. Your future will depend on how you respond to the present.

Wishing things were different, resisting the reality or fighting it only fuels the problem and creates more stress. You may have heard the phrase “what you resist persists”. In other words, as you put energy into pushing against your present reality, you are depleting yourself of energy to put toward finding solutions.

For sure fear is a natural response to hearing of a challenging diagnosis. However, much of your fear is the result of lack of knowledge of what is possible. Fear is a call to explore what is possible. Calm, clear thinking will help you explore possibilities.

Keep a watch for other articles in this series – Inspirations for Healing.

I invite you to leave comments and questions on my Facebook page.

Getting the message out there

I am excited to pass along news that my chapter in which I share some of my story and my message of healing is coming out with the launch of the WOW book on March 1st!

I am very pleased with my chapter and really pleased with the book. There is something for everyone – 15 powerful and inspiring stories written by 15 women entrepreneurs and change makers sharing part of their journey toward their success and contributions. Several of the chapters cover aspects of healing and other topics include fitness, nutrition, interior design, business and travel. It’s a great book to gift to a friend.

Woman of Worth Book
To take part in the Amazon launch on March 1st for those on Facebook it’s easy. Simply click below:

https://www.facebook.com/events/188131908468316/ [Read more...]

I’m back and sharing inspiration…

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Greetings readers and followers, I am back after 2 years taking time out to play, travel, relax and reflect. I travelled throughout BC and in Quebec for the fall colours. I toured some of central Europe in 2017 – the big cities of Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Krakow and Warsaw, Vienna and Munich and did a road trip through Bavaria. I shared a perfectly delightful two weeks in Newfoundland in July last year too with three friends. Locally I have been active hiking into some spectacular mountain areas – Mt Baker, Manning Park and Whistler – along with some snowshoeing and skiing as well. [Read more...]