In the face of chronic illness, it is surprising how some people can remain happy while others struggle to find joy. The speaker shared her personal journey with Lupus and how she has been able to remain positive. It turns out that the true secret is one of resiliency. In order to be resilient, a person must have an ability to recover from, or adjust easily to misfortune or change and learn how to “unleash their unsinkable spirit.” Choosing not to be a victim means that you have an illness rather than “the illness having you”.
In the face of illness, life plans and expectations may have to change. New plans must be created and embraced without carrying future worry or past regret. Compared to other members of the animal kingdom, human beings have a large frontal lobe, making us the only creatures that worry about the future. The average adult ‘s worry is composed of thoughts of the future 40% of the time, their past 30% of the time, health 11% and petty things 10%. Legitimate worry only makes up 9%. “Borrowing trouble from tomorrow reduces one’s ability to focus on the joy of today.“
The good news is that positive thinking can be taught. Positive self-talk is one effective technique, which has also been utilized as part of mindfulness based stress reduction and in aspects of cognitive behavioural therapy. Another suggestion for embracing joy is to relish moments that create happiness. To achieve this, we must take the time to “breathe in happiness” and hold onto these moments.
As health care practitioners, techniques used to help patients maintain resiliency must not be forgotten in our own lives. A happy and less stressed health professional has more positivity to share with their patients. When we become too busy, the two aspects that suffer most are looking after our own body and our relationships. It can be a difficult balance, however, we must “learn to give of ourselves without giving ourselves away”. Patients look to us to offer empathy and not sympathy; to acknowledge their fears, to listen to our hearts and remind them that they are still loveable even when they feel they no longer are.
The closing message was to patients and health care providers alike:
Live with intention
Walk to the edge
Play with abandon
Live with no regret
Do what you love
Live as if this is all there is
At the end of this session, there was a sense of positivity felt throughout the room. When standing in the bus shuttle line outside my hotel in the rain the next morning, I found myself using self talk to focus on the positive things that would be making up the day that lie ahead. It actually worked!!
Carolyn Whiskin, RPh, BScPhm, NCMP
Carolyn Whiskin is the director of pharmacy programs at the Charlton Centre For Specialized Treatments in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She began her career as the rheumatology pharmacist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton. Carolyn has been a guest on radio and television and speaks throughout Canada to patients and health professionals. She has lectured at the University of Toronto, Mc Master University and the University of Waterloo. Carolyn has been the recipient of several awards including the national Commitment to Care Award in the area of patient care. Carolyn currently serves on the Model of Care Committee for the Ontario Rheumatology Association.