Whether you’re in remission or still in treatment, reflecting on your cancer journey can help you heal mentally, emotionally and physically. Taking time to reflect can help you see your resilience and strength, says Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.
“You start to see the different twists and turns you had to take and how you were able to overcome many obstacles,” he says. “Reflection allows you to see the inner strength you have.”
As a Cancer Wellness facilitator, Buttimer says people have told him that while they would never want to repeat their cancer experience, they’re grateful that their diagnosis helped them clarify their priorities, such as their health and relationships.
“We often talk about how the mind goes to the negative and with cancer, it’s hard not to,” he says. “But you can look at what’s been good about it too.”
How to reflect on your cancer journey
Buttimer recognizes that slowing down and spending time in stillness can be challenging, so he recommends the following practices to help you process and reflect on what you’ve been through so far.
Journaling. Buttimer says journaling is a helpful way to recognize patterns in your thoughts and feelings, wherever you are in your cancer journey. It also allows you to go back and read about your initial struggles and see how far you’ve come. Try a reflective writing prompt or write about what you’re grateful for in your journey.
Reflective walking. “Take a walk and think about the different steps of the process you’ve been through,” suggests Buttimer. “Consider the resilience you’ve had to keep moving forward.”
Support groups. Attending a support group can help you connect with others who have been through similar experiences and process difficult emotions. Each person’s support group experience is different, so Buttimer recommends following your gut about how supportive and helpful the group is.
Mindfulness practices. Buttimer says the welfare of the mind and body are connected. Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga can help calm your mind and allow you to feel more connected with your body.
Positive visualization. “The mind doesn’t know the difference between something real and something vividly imagined,” explains Buttimer. “If you can begin to visualize yourself being healthy, strong and well, the body is going to translate that to some degree. Conversely, if your mind goes down a negative road, the body keeps feeding that.”
Seek out supportive loved ones. Seek out family and friends who are supportive. Be willing to lean into those people who give you hope because that will support your healing.
“The complementary medicine we’re talking about – support groups, meditation, journaling, positive visualization – these are very important,” says Buttimer. “You can support your treatment and your recovery process to some degree with complementary strategies.”
Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.