Having been around women who are survivors of cancer, breast cancer, more often than any other, on a regular basis - health, wellness and lifestyle often comes to mind. When I meet women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the things that is top of mind after diagnosis and during recovery, as they learn about some of the things that can contribute to cancer, is this thought - what if I had known this earlier. Now, it's true that cancer can be random. It is true that 80 percent of the more than 250,000 women that are diagnosed with breast cancer annually have no family history. It is true that there the exact cause of breast cancer is unclear, but there are risk factors that are known - and known ways to lower those risks. With one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer, there has to be ways we can proactively be our own best advocates; and I wonder if young girls and women paid as much attention to their internal self as much as the external, and implemented some of the lifestyle changes that could lower their risk of breast cancer, what a different world it could be. Yet, even more importantly than tracking statistics on a particular disease, is the importance of living a lifestyle that can prevent other diseases and one that contributes to one's overall health - mind, body, spirit and soul.
So, how can we change the way we live in order to have a healthier lifestyle overall, and one that could contribute to a longer lifespan and perhaps one without cancer? And, how can women who have had other life altering health crises begin to transform their lives, so they live a more holistically health lifestyle. Here is some food for thought:
- Put yourself first. This might seem counter-intuitive, but bodies get tired, then sick when they run on empty. Think about it. How are you investing in yourself? Do you have daily rituals that feed your body (workout and healthy nutritional habits), mind (reading/inspirational stories or quotes), soul (meditation or prayer)? If you're in such a rush that you forget to honor the temple that houses your soul, then what good can you be to anyone else when you're depleted, sick and resentful. Some of us don't know how to say "no". We run ourselves to the ground and only stop when we are exhausted, sleeping or sick. An idea to consider - maybe illness is our body's way of saying, "pay attention to me", "stop doing that", or "are you trying to kill me or something?". The world tends to not stop pushing unless we are sick and tired, so your body gets sick and tired so you can stop - what a novel concept. Start saying "yes" to you, first. When your cup is full, you'll have more to give - and in a balanced way.
- Know Your Family History. Ask your mother and father about their family health history - on both sides of their family and dig back as far as you can. People often don't know their family history, and sometimes there is important genetic information, for example, the BRCA or breast cancer gene, which is an important factor in women's decision-making and preventative testing processes as it pertains to breast health. Knowing that you or someone in your family has this gene allows a woman to make important decisions - proactively, that could save her life.
- Learn the facts about food. Yes, exposure to the sun's rays could cause cancer. Yes, having a family history could increase your risk, but also learn the facts about what types of food to eat that can help you have a clean, less toxic body. Investing in buying foods that are better for you, like greens, avocados, berries, broccoli, nuts, tomatoes, red grapes and grapefruit, are among foods you can eat, that are shown to inhibit carcinogens from entering cells or suppress tumor growth.
- Schedule time to give to yourself what you give to others. Often people say they are too busy or can't afford to make time and space to live a healthier life, but if you were to take a mental picture of what you're saying to yourself, when you say this, it's really this - "I'm not important enough to myself to invest in me. Other things are more important." Because life can be hectic at times and demanding, it is important to schedule time in for a workout, a nap or even time to read an inspirational word or take a moment to pause and meditate and center in the middle of a busy day. I have time blocks on my schedule, where I have saved inspirational quotes that I'll meditate on. I schedule a half an hour nap twice a week, and I schedule "no electronic zone" times, where I can allow my mind to relax and my breaths to be still. I find myself at times running here and there, never feeling as if I'm getting anything done. It is at these times, when having a scheduled item that feeds my soul comes in handy. Sometimes, I even send myself little gifts in the mail. I have a monthly note to "surprise myself", with a card, flowers, or something fun. Nothing brightens up your day then a letter to yourself on a day when you really need it.
- Do regular internal "selfies". I have time that I have set aside once a month - it could be a half hour or 15 minutes - to see what I need - in every way - do I need a day alone, do I need nature, have I been practicing my rituals daily, exercising, eating healthy, feeding my mind, body and soul? It's quite easy to start healthier lifestyle practices, then when life gets busy, you find yourself back to ordering in, putting off that work out, meditation time, buying products (food, skincare, etc.) that pollute your inner environment, your temple. It's easy to begin to put ourselves last again, so that we make sure we check off our "to do" list. Having an informal time to do a quick "pic" of yourself and see how you're feeling is a good practice to get into in order to not allow yourself to get too far off base.
- Don't Wait Until a Crisis. Often times we think about making a change, but it's not until something happens that shakes up our entire life, that we are literally forced to look within for strength, for the why, how and what next. Because of my work in breast health and women and girls heath, I have had the opportunity to meet many women who have lived through ordeals you couldn't imagine - and turned their lemons into lemonade. One such incredible woman is someone I met recently, Brandy Gillmore, who developed Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy, a neurovascular disorder that is rare and life altering. After taking medication prescribed by her doctors that left her dizzy and almost incapacitated, Brandy found herself spending most of her days in bed; and being confined to a wheelchair otherwise. Accustomed to being active and on top of things, she began to explore holistic medicine and study the mind, body, spirit connection. After implementing a mixture of herbs, holistic health , spiritual and mental practices, Brandy found herself transitioning to a walker, cane and eventually was able to walk (pain free) on her own. Brandy was getting her life back. She was a walking miracle. After seeing how mind, body, spirit and holistic health practices transformed her life, Brandy is now practicing what she preaches. She founded Gillmore Holistics to help others learn and integrate healthy lifestyle practices in the hopes that they have a better quality of life. Brandy's message to others is start early and take ownership of your life.
- Have people in your life who keep you accountable to your goals. I have several friends who are my accountability partners, and women, like my friend, Brandy Gillmore, who has gone through seemingly insurmountable challenges. I love to surround myself with women who are "positive disrupters" - who face situations and then ask what they can do to make life better for others, then "own" the solution. Having accountability partners can hold you to your goals so that you have someone making sure you're on track; someone to bounce ideas off; someone to push you to strive higher; let you know when you do need to slow down; offer support resources when you need it and inspire you to be the best version of you. You can have more than one accountability partner; but it's better to stick with one person, set up a structure for your meetings and calls, so that you can support each other and be productive. One thing to remember, the accountability partnership support doesn't have to just be about work - you need to also have goals for play, family and health.
I look forward to sharing more with you on my next blog. If you would like to learn more about Brandy Gillmore and activating the ability to heal from within, visit Brandy’s website, sign up for her newsletter, follow her on Twitter and friend her on Facebook. You can change your life - one step at a time!