by Gary McClain, MS, PhD, LMHC
“I feel inspired!”
When was the last time you said that? Given what’s going on in the world, no judgment if it’s been a while.
When you’re living through the ups and downs of life as we know it, inspired may feel like a word that belongs in someone else’s vocabulary. And if cancer has you feeling like your life currently has more downs than ups, you may be asking, “What is there to be inspired about?”
But before we answer that question, let’s look at the definition of inspiration. Dictionary.com says inspire means “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence.” And, in turn, inspiration is “a thing or a person that inspires.”
My personal definition of inspire is to give someone a push in a positive direction. And inspiration is whatever gives you that push. For example, a story about someone overcoming a challenge against seemingly impossible odds, music that makes you want to leap out of your chair and sing, words of wisdom that cause you to look at life in a different way, an athlete who sets a new record, a scientist who makes an important discovery, or a friend or family member who has achieved a goal.
Here’s something else to consider. As a cancer survivor, you’ve likely been an inspiration to someone else. Now, the question is this: How can you get your hands around some inspiration for your own life after cancer?
Inspiration Is Within Your Grasp
Chances are you already have inspiration. You’ve just been too busy or too focused on cancer to notice what inspires you. How about taking specific action to bring more inspiration into your life?
Here are some tips to help you find your inspiration after a cancer diagnosis.
❉ Get quiet. Try to spend some time alone – away from the noise and the demands and the distractions of life with cancer – at least once a week. Sit with yourself. Allow your mind to wander. Let your emotions pass through you. Think about what it means to be inspired. Remember what has inspired you in the past.
❉ Pump up the jams. Music can be inspiring. It speaks to a part of your brain that is beyond words and logic. Music can help you connect with the emotions you’ve been pushing aside to focus on the day-to-day demands of life with cancer. So, put on your favorite playlist and see where it takes you.
❉ Go outdoors. When it comes to finding inspiration, spending time in nature is an old standby. Take a walk in a park or a drive through the countryside. All nature requires is that you take in your surroundings and enjoy. The only thing you need to do is unwind.
(verb) to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence
(noun) a thing or a person that inspires
❉ Shake things up. Push yourself to break out of your familiar patterns. How about trying something new? Pick up a new hobby. Or challenge yourself to get better at something you’re already fairly good at. Maybe just switch up your morning routine. Positive action inspires more positive action.
❉ Actively look for inspiration. Pick up an inspiring book or watch an inspirational movie. Tool around on the web and check out inspirational websites. You might can even find an app on your smartphone that inspires you to look at life in a different way.
❉ Find a role model. Make a list of people who have inspired you in some way. They can be people you know personally or people you’ve heard about. Think of people who are living their life in a way that inspires you to do more in your own life. If you can, get together and talk with someone who inspires you. You can also read a biography or watch a biopic of someone inspiring. You may find a seed of wisdom, or a few seeds, you can apply to your own life.
❉ Clean house. Get rid of the clutter in your home and in your mind. Do away with all the stuff you have accumulated over the years that no longer serves a purpose or that holds you back. Create space for new ways of thinking and feeling.
❉ Be an inspiration. Share your story with someone who could use some inspiration themselves. You may be surprised at how your own experiences with overcoming life’s challenges might be just what someone else needs to hear. Think of it this way, it might take someone else being inspired by you to help you see the ways in which you are already living an inspired life.
❉ Practice gratitude. Begin each day with a gratitude practice. Every morning, name something you are grateful for, big or small. The sun shining through your kitchen window. The hot coffee filling up your favorite mug. A smile from someone you love. Your support network. Your healthcare team. Chances are, if you put your mind to the task, you can come up with all kinds of things in your life to be grateful for. Being grateful helps you to be more optimistic and can have a positive effect on your emotional wellbeing.
❉ Don’t work too hard. Getting inspired isn’t a chore that you add to your to-do list and then beat yourself up for not
completing. Simply spend time doing things that open you up to new ways of thinking and living. Finding inspiration is a journey, not a task.
❉ Open up. Your heart and your mind. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Let inspiration find its way to you.
How about this for inspiration: Embrace your life as a cancer survivor. Make the most of each day. And commit to taking the best possible care of yourself – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Dr. Gary McClain is a therapist, patient advocate, blogger, and author specializing in helping clients deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses. His goal is to help people understand and cope with their emotions, learn about their lifestyle and treatment options, maintain compliance with medical regimens, communicate effectively with the medical establishment, and listen to their inner voice as they make decisions about the future. Dr. McClain welcomes your questions and comments through email at gary@JustGotDiagnosed.com.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2022.