There are days during and after a breast cancer diagnosis where we can feel so alone. Dealing with the day-to-day discomfort, fears, pain and endless questions can isolate us, but only if we let it. Cancer doesn’t own us. We are the CEOs of our own health and wellbeing, and like any good leader, we need to surround ourselves with reinforcements as well as delegate duties and – at times – “fire” some people. We each have the power within ourselves to make this diagnosis seem like a gift. Use it to weed out the toxic relationships and reinforce the positive support squad you deserve.
Solid relationships – you know, the kind where you can count on the other person to show up, be reliable, relatable, consistent and responsive – lead to longevity. Study after study supports this factoid. It’s not about the quantity of friendships, but the quality that makes all the difference when looking to plow through tough times and get to “the other side” with a smile. When people have strong social connections – that means family, friends and even community – research shows they are happier, physically healthier and tend to live longer than those who lack those connections.
Here’s what you need to know and how to take action:
STEP 1: Identify those relationships that are harmful to your health. Yup, toxicity brews a strong cup of damage. Sometimes we need to wake up and smell the coffee. Then dump it down the drain. Or, at the least, add a little honey and find a way for it to become more palatable. In order to identify those Negative Nellys in your life, consider a few key questions, does this person:
- Make every conversation about her/himself?
- Knock down your moments of triumph
- Breed anxiety
- Just plain suck at making plans and keeping them
- Zap your energy
- Take more than (s)he gives
- Talk behind your back
- Make you feel “less then”
Remember, there are life-givers and life-takers. Surround yourself with those who contribute to your best health and wellness.
STEP 2: Other questions you can ask yourself to further ID these negativity attractors:
- Are you always walking on eggshells?
- Do you often feel nervous of the reaction this person will have to something you say or do?
- Do you seem to make all the effort?
- Do you feel really stressed or anxious or even queasy/uneasy after talking to the person or while being around him/her?
STEP 3: Time to have that conversation to extract yourself from this relationship.
- Let your “friend” know (ahead of time!) that there is an important conversation you feel you need to have then set an agreed upon time and location.
- Choose a public spot to meet (it lessens the chances of a loud or uber uncomfortable emotional reaction).
- As any therapist worth her salt will tell ya, use “I” statements to reflect on your feelings and emotions.
- Once you have expressed your concerns, use those ears appropriately and earnestly listen to the other person’s feelings, albeit possibly raw and emotionally charged.
- Attempt to work towards a compromise.
- If all else fails and you don’t feel you have made the headway you hoped for, then time to cut it loose and say sayonara. Be direct and firm, but with the kindness you would hope someone would show you in this same situation. You will feel a weight lifted!
Identifying, confronting, and ultimately saying goodbye to a toxic friend can be one of the most freeing and empowering things you will ever do. Friendship is a “relationship of choice”, which implies an expectation of reciprocity in the relationship.
Now that you’ve got a handle on ridding or reducing your interaction with the Negative Nellys, it’s time to reinforce the Positive Polly’s – your rock-star squad for positive support.
STEP 1: Make a plan of action.
- Reach out on a regular basis by phone (and not just text) to those whom you count on, so they also know you have their backs.
- Set weekly or monthly girls’ nights out or lunch dates with a bestie. Our lives get so insanely busy that we often forget to take time for this, as it is truly a method of much-needed self-care.
- This process of solidifying your reinforcements goes double for your family. Your significant other needs to know you want to spend special time together. So set up a walk before dinner a couple times a week or binge-in-bed Saturday nights!
- Go ahead and schedule a family trip, invite relatives to come visit or host a monthly potluck for all those you care about.
STEP 2: Reinforce a positive mindset. When things get tough, sometimes we are our own best friend! How to train your brain towards positivity?
- Stay present during challenging moments.
- Tackle your concerns when you need to address them, but don’t spend your whole day worrying about something looming in the future.
- Focus on what you can control.
- Remind yourself of the good things you have going.
- Question the reasoning behind your worries.
Now you’ve got this and should be off and running with your crew (kudos!) – and your improved mindset. Enjoy and show gratitude for them and YOU will be happier and healthier for it.
ABOUT SAMANTHA HARRIS
Emmy Award-winner Samantha Harris may best be know for her eight seasons as the host of Dancing with the Stars or her many years on Entertainment Tonight. The 11-time fitness cover model and mother of two was blindsided by her breast cancer diagnosis at age 40. In a quest for answers and leaning into her journalism background, she researched all she could and determined that what she put in, on and around her body gravely affected her health. Her bestselling book, Your Healthiest Healthy, arms others with the tools necessary to take control to become the healthiest version of themselves.