"Brilliant & honest... It has been 9 years since I was diagnosed with Stage IIIB breast cancer...only to realize the toughest part of all of that would be *recovering from it.* I loved that this podcast addresses the hormonal changes, Rx side effects, chemo brain, etc. Thank you!"
Training your brain to catch yourself when you're thinking in ways that create anxiety rather than health is the first step in having a positive and healthy mindset, and a positive mindset is part of a healthy lifestyle as well as a tool in reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence. However, that's easier said than done. In this episode, Laura teaches you a simple trick to train your brain to be aware of when your thoughts are going in the wrong direction and how to bring them back before they make you sick.
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00:00 This is Laura Lummer, healthy lifestyle coach, personal trainer and clinical Ayurveda specialist. You're listening to Let Your Lifestyle Be Your Medicine, your resource for creating and living a healthy life. In this podcast we talk about nutrition, healthy thinking, exercise and lots of other ways to connect with your body and live a healthy, vibrant life.
00:33 Welcome back to episode two of Let Your Lifestyle Be Your Medicine. I just want to start off this episode by saying thank you so much to all of the people who were supportive in giving me positive feedback and downloading and subscribing to Let Your Lifestyle Be Your Medicine from the very first episode. It really means a lot to me, and I appreciate your support. So that being said, I hope you enjoy episode number two, and we're going to jump right into it. Today we're going to talk about how we think and how our thinking affects our health and happiness. I love this statement by doctor John O'Keefe. He's an author, and he writes a book called the Art of Abundance. And in that book he says, "Your subconscious does not judge what you tell it, that it accepts what you tell it as your truth. Make sure you focus on positive thoughts and actions."
01:28 Now doctor O'Keefe is referring to creating financial or career success in the statement, but really I believe the statement applies to any type of success that you may want. And I think that having the healthiest, happiest life possible is a factor of success. You know, don't we all want to have that? Of course, we do. It's something we all strive for and being successful at creating it, all of these rules and laws of success apply to making that happen. So as cancer survivors or even people who are, you know, aging, you're over 50, you're getting cracks and pops or for anybody who has faced a health crisis or is facing a health crisis, we tend to carry a lot more fear with us around our health. And I'm sure that's very easy to understand why, going through cancer is scary and knowing that it can kill you is scary. And so it leaves this impression on us, and it fills us with this angst at times because we don't want it to come back. And that completely makes sense, it was a really scary experience.
02:48 I would say that of the women that I talked to who survived cancer, probably the most common longterm side effect that I hear is that of fear. And that's why if you have downloaded my book, the 6 Habits of Healthy, Happy Breast Cancer Survivors, I address that in that book. And then also I have a five week video series that addresses managing fear and anxiety, because it's just such a pronounced effect of going through cancer, chemotherapy, treatments, surgeries, it leaves that residual fear inside of us. And then that has a lot of effects on the way that we think, which is a very cyclical process. And then in turn, it affects our health, the way that we think. So I know that I have definitely experienced thoughts of having a recurrence, fearful thoughts of having a recurrence. And let's say that I feel, sometimes I might feel unusually fatigued, or my immune system is definitely different since going through cancer treatment.
03:55 So you get a weird pain or an unexplained infection and my mind will sometimes automatically go to thinking, "Oh no, what if I have cancer again?" And I'm certainly no psychotherapist, but I think that's a reasonable thought, and I don't think that, that thought in itself is the problem. So I'm not saying control what pops up in your mind, but here's the tricky part, the next step. When that thought pops up in your mind, that thought of, "Did they read the test right? Did they get all the cancer? What is that weird pain? Is something wrong with me again?" And definitely check stuff out if it's really weird, and you know it, but if it's, you know what I'm talking about, those are these common thoughts that just pop up all the time. And the problem arises when we latch onto one of those thoughts, and we turn it into a story, and we turn it into a movie.
04:54 Let me give you an example, so, okay, I have a weird pain in my side today, and I think, "Oh, oh no, I hope I don't have cancer again." Okay, let that thought go, move on with my day. Versus, "Oh, I hope I don't have cancer again. Oh my God, it was so hard the first time, it just sucked. There's no way I can go through that again. I mean, this pain in my side, maybe it's like in my kidney or maybe it's a pancreas or what other organs do I have over there? And wow, I've heard that if you get, if you get kidney cancer, if you get pancreatic cancer that's like a death sentence and there's no way. I'm just not going to go through that, and I don't want to do radiation or chemo. Oh my gosh. You know, if that's happening, I'm just going to, I'm going to cash in my retirement right now. I'm going to go on that trip I've wanted to go to forever to see the glowworms from the caves, from the Lord of the Rings. And here we go." Right?
05:51 So here's the story. Now even just listening to me describe that story, right? Don't you feel some anxiety come up inside of you? Because I sure do. So we go from a simple thought of, "Ooh, gosh, I hope I don't have cancer again," to a story of planning out the end of our life and how we're going to finance it and who's going to take part in it and that's the part that we want to work on. Getting caught up in the thought, creating a story out of the thought, and then allowing that story to create these physical sensations of sickness and anxiety. Because that's a very real thing and that's very real chemical reactions that are happening in your body when you start to feel that anxiety. Oh my God, my heart is racing, or I'm feeling a heaviness, or I'm feeling sick to my stomach. And when, I know who hasn't heard someone say it, well it's all in your head. And it kind of is, because it's what you're thinking that's causing a physical reaction. But how do you stop that?
06:59 How do you train yourself to allow that thought to pass rather than to create the story out of the thought? And that's what we're going to talk about today. So I would say probably the most transformative experience that I had with regards to the way I think came from my training and my education at the California College of Ayurveda. There are many different aspects to Ayurveda, but one of them is the use of mantra sound therapy and sound therapy is used in many healing, for many, it's one of many healing modalities. But I remember when I was studying sound therapy at the California College of Ayurveda, and we were learning about mantras, and we were learning about meditation with a mantra because there's different types of meditation, mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation and others. But I remember I was going through a really tough time, and I was feeling really stressed and really anxious. I was having trouble with an ex-husband regarding a custody situation with my children and it was really upsetting.
08:12 And I didn't know it at the time because we don't know what we don't know, but I was driving myself crazy with thinking about this situation. And when I went through the classes where I learned mantra, and it was part of my homework to study this and to practice it and to see what experiences came from the practice of it, I realized that, wow, this was an awesome way to distract my mind from these stories of things that weren't happening but were making me physically sick. And what I mean by they weren't happening is that although there were some things happening, the things that were in my head were what I was forecasting, right? So if I was having a problem, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, we're going to end up in court," which there was nothing served that said we're going to end up in court. But in my head we're going to end up going to court and if we go to court, this is what's going to happen. And this is how much it's going to cost and this is what's going to go on. And this is what I'm going to say and this is what they're going to say.
09:16 And I didn't realize at the time that, that whole make believe scenario that I was creating was really stressing me out like big time. But I started to practice this mantra, and I started to notice that when the story would run in my head, the key is to be aware of it. And that's what I learned there. The story started to run, and I would catch it and say, "Oh wait, hang on. What I'm thinking right now is not really happening right now." But of course I'm absorbed in this thought because I'm concerned and because there's a real life situation happening. But I could turn and use a mantra, a sound therapy, and distract my mind, because you can't think of two things at the same time, right? When you're doing something and then something else pops into your mind, do you stop and say, "Oh, I'm thinking of two things at the same time?" Or do you stop and say, "Oh, I was distracted, so I lost focus on the first thing." So, that's the trick.
10:18 Is that little awareness of the story is running, it's not real. It's creating anxiety and stress for me, how do I stop it? Let me distract my mind with something else. And that something can be a mantra, it can be a prayer, it can be your favorite saying, it can be an affirmation. It can be whatever you feel comfortable with. So in Ayurveda, in yoga, there's several mantra's that I really like and there's a very simple one that is just so hum. So if you were to catch yourself, and your mind's running a mile a minute, and you realize that your heart's beating, and your stomach is upset, and you're feeling so stressed out, and you're worried about whatever it might be, maybe it's money, maybe it's a cancer recurrence, maybe it's did they do the test right? But is what is worrying you happening right now? And is the fact that you're thinking about it and upsetting yourself going to change the reality of the situation? Or is it going to change the fact that what you're thinking about isn't real to begin with?
11:37 So practicing that awareness and then maybe you come back, and you say, "Oh my gosh, there goes my head again. I'm thinking about this. I'm going to come back, and I'm going to notice my breath. And as I inhale I'm going to say inhale, or I'm going to say, so, on the way in. And as I exhale I'm going to think the word hum on the way out. And this is just going to be a trigger for me, so that my mind gets distracted. I'm thinking on inhaling and I'm exhaling, and then thinking a word, so, hum. Or I'm thinking, in, out." I know some people aren't comfortable with mantras for whatever reason and that's fine. So maybe just a simple word in, out, in, out. But the point being that it's the distracting the mind from the story that's creating the anxiety and bring yourself back to that calm place. And that sounds like a really simple thing to do. It is a very simple thing to do, but training the mind, and it's really what this is about.
12:40 So mindfulness practices, not only the one I learned at the California College of Ayurveda with mantra, but then I went on to do the studies, and the course in mindfulness based stress reduction, and it's not using mantra, but it's using the breath, and the awareness of being present. And both of those are really in-depth trainings because you have to train your mind to catch the story. And I know I've said that multiple times now, but I can't impress it enough. If you don't create an awareness that your mind has wondered off, then you can't bring it back. So when people come to me, and they say, "Oh gosh, you know, I know I should do yoga, I should do meditation. You know what? I'm going to start doing meditation. I'm going to practice meditation." And I say, "That's awesome, and it is awesome, and it's wonderful, and I know it'll change your life, but how do you do that? How are you going to meditate?" And a lot of people don't know.
13:41 "Well, I guess I'll just, I'm just going to sit down in a quiet place and try not to think." Well good luck with that, because trying not to think, I don't, I mean you'd have to be a sage that's been trained in the Himalayas for decades and very committed to their practice before you can just automatically not think, okay? When we say the mind has a mind of its own, we're not kidding, because the mind, thoughts are going to pop up, and I know that's happened to you, I know that's happened to me because it happens to everybody. You know, you could be leaving your house one morning after having had a lovely weekend with your significant other, and you're driving down the road thinking, "Wow, that was really nice. And we saw a good movie, and we just had a relaxing weekend, and you know, if that person ever cheats on me, here's what, this is what I'm going to do. And here's what I would say and you know what? I'm not going to put up with that," and hold on, how did that just happen? Right?
14:36 That happens in our head all the time, and it's catching our mind doing that, that's the key to your wellness. That's the key to your healthy thinking. And so what I want you to take away from this week's episode and to try to practice for the next couple of weeks is training yourself to catch when your thoughts are wondering into a story, creating a movie or something that is unhealthy for you. And you know it's unhealthy for you because physically you consent to that change. So you know, I have, my philosophy is reconnecting with yourself, right? Looking internally and sensing what is impacting you for the positive and for the not so positive. So for this week we're looking at where is my head running with this thought? How do I get caught up in it? How do I know I got caught up in it? And then bring myself back to just noticing my breath. I'm inhaling, I'm exhaling, I'm inhaling, I'm exhaling. And you can just use that word. And when you do that, you come back to the present moment. It brings you right here, right now.
15:55 And if you downloaded my book, the 6 Habits of Healthy, Happy Breast Cancer Survivors, then you also got my five week video episode on managing fear and anxiety. And I talk a lot about this methodology and mindfulness and breath practices in that series, so if you have it definitely check that out. You can get it on my website under the books tab. But when I leave you today, I want to leave you with that idea of practicing this. When you're driving, when you're laying in bed, and you can't sleep because your mind is going a mile a minute and ask yourself, are these things that I'm thinking about happening right now? Probably not because you're laying in bed, and it's one o'clock in the morning. Nothing is happening right now. So by laying in bed, thinking about them at one o'clock in the morning, is it going to make it better? It isn't. It's going to make you sleep deprived and frazzled and probably even more stressed out when you have to deal with the things that are on your mind.
16:53 So come back to the breath, focus on the breath. And if you say to yourself, "My mind is still wondering and I'm trying to breathe, but I keep getting distracted and thinking of something else," that's okay, that will happen. Every time you notice I'm not thinking, inhale, inhale, inhale, exhale anymore. Start over again, bring your mind back. Inhale, exhale, use that trigger word for yourself. And the more you do it, the more you're going to start to notice a really wonderful sense of calm. And the more, when I say you're training your brain, because the faster you're going to catch it, the faster you're going to catch, when your mind has gone off on some fantasy tangent that is, has no real effect on your life in this moment. And that's something that we all have to remember. You know as cancer survivors and again, I talked about fear a little earlier in this episode, that we have this fear of death, right?
17:52 "Oh my God, I don't want to get cancer again. I don't want to die." But doesn't everybody have that fear of death? Didn't you have it before you had cancer? Because didn't you know that at any point in time, life could be taken from us because that's how tentative life is. It's here and then it's not here. And there are many people whose life comes to an end every day from things other than cancer. So it's really important that we learn to let go of that fear that has been, it's been impressed on us from this really traumatic experience that we've had. But if we hang onto it, then we continue to live in the past, and we continue to give power to that cancer experience. And that's what I want to support you in getting past. I want you to take back your power so that you enjoy this moment today for everything that it is. And the way you're going to do that is by learning how to catch your mind when it wanders off.
18:54 You're going to heighten that awareness of how you're thinking and then you're going to use your breath, or a mantra, or an affirmation as an anchor to bring yourself back into this moment. So that's what I have for you today. It's a simple little lesson on healthy thinking, and I hope that you do practice it and if you have any questions you can certainly post them on my Facebook page. You can find me on Facebook at Laura Lummer and I hope that you do go to my page and like it, because I put out daily goodness on Facebook, lots of posts, lots of information, not just for myself but other credible and really fantastic resources about nutrition, health, and exercise. And if you haven't had the time to go to the iTunes store and subscribe to this podcast, please take the time to do that and even leave me a review. That would be awesome.
19:48 The more subscriptions and reviews that Let Your Lifestyle Be Your Medicine receives, then the easier it will be for other women like us who are looking for ways to reestablish and rebuild a healthy life after cancer treatment, it will be easier for them to find this podcast as well. So you can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram. You can find me at [1fitgrandma 00:20:11] and that's the number one. And if again, you haven't downloaded my book, the 6 Habits of Healthy Breast Cancer Survivors, I hope that you'll go to my website, Lauralummer.com/books and download that book for free. I'm also working hard behind the scenes here to get revivify ready for you and I think that it's going to be ready to release mid March at the latest. And that is going to be my Facebook page, completely online, eight week wellness program where there's all kinds of great stuff, meal prep, exercise, healthy thinking, meditations, and a really robust community of other women who survived breast cancers. So we'll have a wonderful community, so look forward to seeing that.
20:58 And again, I thank you for listening to this episode. I'm really excited for some of the other podcasts I'll be doing this month, and I'm having a wonderful, amazing guest that you can look forward to, and she should be here by episode three, so she'll be either in three or four and her name is Aaron Somerville. She is an oncology life coach at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. And she is just amazing and has had a lifetime of working with people and using their thinking, and their belief systems to heal their bodies. She's incredible, so look forward to that. And again, thanks for listening and if you get a chance, go ahead and subscribe to this podcast, and I'll see you two weeks from now with episode three.