How to Keep a Healthy Mindset when Unwell with CF
– Written by Aoife P. R.
I was recently discharged from a 2-week stay in hospital. My chest got quite tight and my weight dropped significantly too, so I knew pretty quickly that 2 weeks of IV antibiotics were necessary. To be honest, I was feeling so lousy that I was kind of looking forward to the admission because I knew I needed a tune-up very badly!
Throughout my admission, I began to realise how I fell into this position of feeling so unwell. Because of the twice-daily check-ins from my physiotherapists, my dietician, nurses, and doctors, I was reminded of the crucial healthy habits I had let slip. It was a particularly rude awakening when my team told me I had a spot of pneumonia, something I had never suffered from before, common as it may be in the world of people with C.F.
I felt a wave of panic and anxiety take over me briefly until I wrote down all my questions and had a doctor answer them for me. Luckily, it was only a small patch of pneumonia, so my team wasn’t overly concerned about it. Plus my lung function wasn’t too far off my baseline scores.
I had a reasoning chat with myself and said, “Look Aoife, this is the scare you need. You’re just going to have to take more responsibility for yourself or you’re going to make NO progress with your health and business goals.”
I don’t know why, but despite surviving Cancer, CF, and the pits of depression for over 30 years, I’ve been in this position a lot more than you’d expect. I still go through these phases of letting things slip, skipping my treatments and physio, even though I KNOW the effects it can have on me. And to be completely honest, these pep talks don’t usually even work on me for too long! As a lot of you know, once life returns to normal when you’re home from the hospital, it’s tougher to keep it all up as we’re instructed to by our CF teams.
But this time it all hit a little differently. Why? Because for the first time in 30 years I have a purpose! Now I don’t mean that I’ve never had a purpose ever like obviously, I have. I’ve had lots of different jobs here and there and have a purpose as a sister, daughter, friend, girlfriend, etc. But this was the first time I had passion and goals to achieve around this purpose. And to think of not being able to achieve them because of my bad habits scared the life out of me!
As some of you may know, I am a Reflexologist and Breathwork Coach. My truest passion is the latter. Breathwork has been completely transformative for my CF health and lung function, but also for my personal development, anxiety, depression, creativity, and general mindset. This tool has literally evolved my entire existence, and that’s why it is now my purpose. I am so eager to get out and share my learnings with the CF community and teach them how to breathe optimally, something with even 90% lung function I was never taught to do! This new career has given me goals that I feel are truly achievable, even with my health difficulties.
Okay so stay with me, because I’m not trying to boast here or rub it in. As I’ve said, I was NOT this person for the majority of my life. I very much lived in a Victim Mindset, blaming the world around me for my health struggles and thinking I had the most difficult life imaginable. I never took any personal responsibility for myself, but of course, this wasn’t a conscious choice, I just didn’t know any better at the time. It all became an endless cycle of depression, anger, and sadness that eventually was my normal mindset.
According to Psychotherapist and Relationship Specialist @Jen_Cameron_, “Victim mentality is seen as a personality trait – it is when someone believes the negative situations or actions of another or life – have been ‘put on’ them!
Meaning the individual rarely sees the piece they ‘play’ or the ‘control’ they have within the circumstances they find themselves in. Usually, there is a lack of resources/resilience within these individuals. Therefore they can remain stuck in a ‘Victim Mindset’.”
This was definitely my general existence. And I’m sure reading that description, some of you may be thinking, “Oh God, that’s me!!”, and if it is, that’s okay! In fact, it’s really common, especially when dealing with a chronic illness your entire life. Particularly in childhood and teenage years, it is truly awful not being able to keep up with the energy of your peers or siblings. It’s common to be left feeling abnormal, isolated, and hard done by. If these feelings and thoughts aren’t addressed healthily, they can manifest into negative traits in adulthood.
But, as Jen said, this is a mindset, and mindsets can be changed! And I’m going to give you my top tips on how to do exactly that!
1. Vision Board
Start nice and easy and have a bit of fun! Vision boards are a great way to stimulate your imagination and start visualising the life you want from relationships to your career to your dream home. Dream big! Don’t hold back, even if the imposter syndrome is trying to creep in, let your imagination flow.
2. Gratitude Journal
Another really enjoyable activity to help stimulate your mindset is gratitude journaling. There are so many gorgeous gratitude journals available out there from Amazon to your local book store!
I like to set a further self-care ritual around my journalling time by lighting a candle and making a hot cup of peppermint tea.
If your mind is heavy with those negative thoughts, then start simple. Think of 3 things you’re grateful for in this moment. Even if you’re unwell with an infection, are you grateful to not be in the hospital? Are you grateful to be born into a first-world country where you can access the medications to make you better? You might be sick with your lungs, but are you grateful for the sight that your eyes give you, and the ability to listen to your favourite music or podcast from your sick bed with your healthy working ears?
Don’t just jot it down, sit in it for a moment as you sip your tea. What can you see with your eyes that function so well? What can you hear with your ears? Sit in that gratitude for a moment and soak it in.
Social media is full of accounts that specialise in creating gorgeous affirmations or poems that really make you pause for thought. Some of my favorites on Instagram are; @loveaprilgreen @morganharpernichols @anxiety_wellbeing
You can pick a couple of positive affirmations that stick out to you and write them before or after your gratitude list in your journal.
There are so many amazing benefits to mindfulness that many of us are aware of by now. Yet still, we can go a whole day, week, or month without having mindful moments as we let our busy lifestyles get in the way.
I find it easiest to be mindful when I’m in nature. Whether that’s out for a walk -take out those earphones and pay attention to what you can see, feel and hear around you, petting my dog Brax -paying attention to his soft curls and feeling the loving bond between us, -at the beach watching the waves roll in and out and feeling the damp sand under my feet.
Nature forces us to slow down, all we have to do is pay attention to it to engage in mindfulness.
5. Active Breathwork
You know I love this one! Breathwork is an active form of meditation. Some people even describe it as therapy on speed! Lol!
Breathwork helps us access our subconscious, releasing negative thoughts, emotions, and tension from our bodies. Often after a breathwork session, a person will feel creative, peaceful, and gain mental clarity.
Paying attention to our breath also forces us to slow down and check in with ourselves. It engages our parasympathetic nervous system which reduces our cortisol production and engages our inner healing.
6. Life Coaching
Sometimes we get really stuck, and the longer we feel stuck the more difficult it can be to get out of this negative headspace.
Life coaching is a more casual alternative to counseling. Coaches work with clients to help them achieve their goals or help them establish what sort of goals their lives could benefit from.
7. Little lifestyle changes
From everything from books to podcasts and social media feeds, you can alter what you are exposed to on a daily basis. Press that ‘unfollow’ or ‘unsubscribe’ button on those accounts or newsletters that serve you no positive purpose. Start to identify the type of content you can benefit from in your life. Studies have shown that people that chose to be entertained rather than educated, tend to be less successful in their lives. Chose to follow people who bring substance to your life. Read and listen to content from Life Coaches, NutriotionalistsNutritionists, Doctors, Psychologists, Therapists, etc. rather than new age ‘Influencers’ that encourage you to keep up with fashion trends and spend your money or the lives of celebrities who don’t even know you exist.
Social media can be amazing, but only if we chose to use it in a way that benefits us.
8. Would you treat your dog this poorly?
This might seem like a random one, so let me explain! For about a year or two during my Cancer recovery, I was a little tooooo soft on myself. I didn’t push myself to do anything that I didn’t feel mentally or physically up to doing. This resulted in constant late nights, lie-ins, little exercise, very little goal setting, and certainly no goal achieving!
Then I watched a Reel on Instagram about a successful entrepreneur explaining that she was doing the same for a period of her life until she started treating herself the way she treated her dog!
At this time of feeling low, she realised her dog was living a healthier life than her, so she made a shift. She ensured to get herself walked once a day, she prepared and ate healthy meals every day, she made sure to have fun and socialise once a week and she made sure to engage in self-care once a week too.
This slowly made her brain produce more serotonin and she began to feel happier and more productive in her daily life.
I started to apply this theory myself over a year ago and I haven’t looked back since! Every time my inner dialog tries to kick in and tell me that I’m ‘not bothered’ or ‘too tired’, I get up straight away and shake myself before it’s too late.
This method has really changed my life in the past year. I’m looking after myself better than ever and achieving goals that I put off working on for far too long!
So give this one a go!
I hope you found this blog post useful! If you want to learn more about how to take control of your life despite having Cystic Fibrosis and rise into your full potential then subscribe to my newsletter at www.aoifepr.com