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Blog: ACTivate Your Life Insights


By Tom Dyer, ACTivate Your Life - Affected By Cancer Lead at Tenovus Cancer Care

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s a time to be brave and courageous, to speak our truth and acknowledge any difficulties that we may be facing.

As ACTivate Your Life Lead at Tenovus Cancer Care I’ve been doing a lot of reading around the subject of mental health. I stumbled across some tips from Joe Oliver, Jon Hill and Eric Morris in their book, Activate Your Life.

In a paragraph focussing on depression they provide steps to help people self-soothe.

It’s a sad reality that those with depression are very compassionate toward other people but very rarely towards themselves and can often be self-critical. We can all get wrapped in feelings of self-loathing and become very defeatist. And yet, if we saw a friend in need we’d stretch our arms out wide and soothe them.

It’s important we recognise that we too need soothing, to take a break from the real word and recuperate. Activate Your Life gives some suggestions as to how you can self-soothe.

Allow yourself to have time alone. Avoidance can come very easily and naturally when we’re feeling down. Particularly if we’re fighting against being somewhere because we don’t feel like we’re actually invited. What might come as easily is making the conscious decision to actively spend time by ourselves in the interest of self-care and healing.

Soothe your senses. We have five senses; sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste. Do we truly use these senses to their full capacity? Unlikely. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness based therapy. Getting in touch with our senses and focussing on the present can help us feel less depressed about the past and less anxious about the future.

Allow yourself to rely on the help from others. Test yourself and try to ask for help. Take this further by actually accepting help when it is offered to you. You may feel embarrassed that you need to ask in the first place, and you may also feel underserving of help when it’s offered. If this is the case, try to figure out why you are thinking those thoughts. Don’t act on them, just be curious with them and figure out what your body is doing with those thoughts.

Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. This is arguably the hardest thing to do when you are actively trying to avoid your feelings, but allow yourself to fully immerse yourself in those feelings. What does it feel like to be sad, joyful, disappointed, elated? Practice the skill of noticing the evaluations and judgements, come along with these emotions and make room for them without judging them. Let them be and see how they relate to your values.

The important thing to consider is that our emotions happen automatically, but our responses to these emotions are entirely up to us. We might not be able to respond the way we want first time around, but increasing our awareness of our emotions is the first step in taking control of our responses and moving toward a life that we want to live, guided by our values.

At your most vulnerable you need to become courageous and talk about your emotions and your shame because the power that shame builds on is your silence. If you open up to someone who you can trust and who will listen to you – and believe me, there are more people around than you think – you take control of your shame and own it, it does not own you. Find that person and tell them how you’re feeling. Take time to be by yourself and really lean into your senses.

These tips won’t rid you of a diagnosis, but they will help you take control and manage how you respond to what you’re feeling, which could be the first step you take in overcoming any mental health that you may be feeling.

If you’ve been affected by cancer and want to attend an ACTivate Your Life – Affected By Cancer course you can sign up to be notified of our courses here. If you want to hear from us by email you will also be added to our monthly ACTivate Your Life Insights newsletter.
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