I’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s been a 3-month journey from the initial screening mammogram to diagnosis. But now I know. It doesn’t feel real yet. I can’t feel it. It’s deep so it was only detected on my screening mammogram. Women, get your mammograms!
I haven’t started treatment yet so there are no side effects. I feel the same. But so much has changed. I’m “fighting cancer” but the only “fighting” so far has been reading, learning, and going to doctor’s appointments.
Think On These Things
As a life coach one of my favorite practices is doing thought work. It’s even more important now. What I think about matters. What I dwell on makes a difference in how I go through this. Even though anxiety shows up I know that it robs me of today. One of my favorite sections of scripture talks about this:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9, ESV
This verse directly follows a verse that tells me to “do not be anxious about anything” but to give it to God with thankfulness and to let my request be known to Him. This is always my desire, but in the past I have struggled with taking those worries back that I have given to Him. And that’s why I appreciate the concrete instructions in verses 8 & 9. I can direct my thoughts and the promise is that the God of peace will be with me.
A Deeper Faith
One of the ways I direct my thinking in a more positive direction is to play worship music. I have playlists of songs that have specific meanings for me. It’s fascinating to me how every Bible verse and every worship song takes on new meaning when you are going through a tough time. I have always wanted to write blog posts to share some of my favorite songs. And with this post I am finally going to do it. I hope these songs will speak to you too.
This particular song by Shane and Shane has been a favorite of mine for several years. It is from the book of Job and if you’ve never read that book it’s about intense suffering and how God can be found in the midst of it. My prayer, of course, is to be healed. But my testimony is that even if He doesn’t heal me here on earth I still praise Him. I encourage you to listen to the song linked below as well as the excerpt of a teaching by pastor John Piper that is part of the video.
“My heart and flesh may fail The earth will all give way But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord Lifted high on that day Behold, the Lamb that was slain And I’ll know every tear was worth it all
Though You slay me Yet I will praise You Though You take from me I will bless Your name Though You ruin me Still I will worship Sing a song to the one who’s all I needThough tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now You’re still all that I need You’re enough for me”
Often, as nurses, we don’t prioritize self-care. We brag about working a 12-hour shift without eating or sometimes without even peeing. We wear it as a badge of honor sometimes. And I know there are times where you sacrifice for the sake of taking care of your patients. But the consistent practice of over-working and not caring for your mind, your body, and your spirit will ultimately lead to breakdown of mind or body or both.
Self-Care is Not Selfish
It sounds cliche but it is our responsibility to take care of our own bodies. We educate our patients to ways they need to take responsibility for their own health and then we ignore our own. When I was a nursing student I did a rotation through the cath lab. I was shocked to see nurses and physicians coming in from their smoke break and stop by the break room to grab pastries and soda. I wondered how long it would be before they were patients in their own cath lab!
My Instruction Manual
My Bible has many verses that guide me and encourage me to take care of this one body I was given.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Charges me to care for my body and see it as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
We are encouraged to manage our minds and our anxiety levels in Philippians 4:6-8 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I am instructed to myself well and fuel my body’s needs. Matthew 15:32 “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
Our bodies require regular rest periods. Mark 6:31 “And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”
I must know my limits. Exodus 18:18-19 “But Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. Surely you and these people with you will wear yourselves out, because the task is too heavy for you. You cannot handle it alone.”
My spirit is energized when I do the work I was created to do. Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Evaluate Your Own Health Care Practices
“An empty lantern shines no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows yourself to shine brightly.” – Anonymous
I try to work my self-care practices into my daily routine so that they become habit. Other self-care happens less regularly like my chiropractor and massage appointments. I have found that I need less frequent appointments if I go regularly for a “tune up” instead of going in when I’m a total mess. Other self-care includes self-coaching and getting coached by a life coach. Even life coaches need a coach!
Take a hard look how you are caring for yourself and look for ways to level up this month. You don’t always need to do some huge overhaul of your life to implement self-care. What are some easy ways you can take better care of yourself this month?
Would you describe yourself as burned out or flourishing?
How do you describe your current level of mental wellness?
There are times in life when we are disillusioned with where we are in our jobs, our families, our lives. Times when we are ready for change. If that is you then keep reading. My mission is to help nurses go from frustration, burnout, and stagnation to flourishing. According to Dr. Lynn Soots, “Flourishing is the product of the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected with life, passions, and relishing in accomplishments through the peaks and valleys of life.” The opposite of flourishing is stagnation, languishing, feeling stuck. It’s when the comfort zone just starts to feel like a rut.
One thing we are not taught while growing up is how to take care of our own mental wellness. Then, we go into healthcare and have to deal with some of the most difficult parts of the human condition. Dying patients, neglect, abuse, horrific trauma, and more. We work with people on the most difficult days of their lives. And we are on our own to figure out how to cope with it all. Me? I just shoved it all down. Stayed numb. But you can only do that for so long. It’s like holding a large beach ball under water. Eventually it pops up through the surface.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a flourishing nurse is content and satisfied. She feels like her life and her job have purpose. She is engaged in her life and is accepting of all parts of herself. She has a sense of personal growth and works on her mental wellbeing and spiritual health.It is a state of being. It’s a process that takes effort and attention.
It does not mean you are always happy or that you only feel positive emotions. But it means you can feel a full range of emotions and you don’t have to hide from them or stuff them down in order to function.
Personally, I want to be a Flourishing Nurse. I want to understand that I can be happy despite my circumstances. I want to be a person who is ok with feeling discomfort – whether that means nervousness, sadness, grief, fear, or anxiety. I want to know just what to do when I feel these feelings. I want to have a self-care routine that takes care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health on a daily basis. I want to know how to seek help when my own routines are not enough and I want to be unashamed to do so. I want to take responsibility for the things I can control – my own thoughts, feelings, and actions. I want to stop trying to bear the burden for the things I can’t control – these include other people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors – they are not my responsibility.
If you’ve read this far I want to give you some practical information that you can begin to implement today to get you closer to the person you want to be. A tool called the self-coaching model has been such a valuable practice in managing my own mental wellness, dealing with adversity, and consistently moving towards my goals and dreams. This is a long post packed with information. I also created a summary ebook with a self-coaching checklist for you to download if you’d like. CLICK HERE and I’ll send it over to your email inbox.
The Self-Coaching Model
I use a concept called the self-coaching model in my own daily practice and in my coaching. The Model is a way of describing how we function in the world. When we are going through our days we don’t really realize that this process is happening. It is very automated.
This particular way of describing how we think, feel, and act was developed by Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School, one of my mentors. You can learn more about Brooke and her work at The Life Coach School. If you study psychology you will see these principles worded many different ways. It’s not a new concept. For our purposes, we will use the term “the model.” We dig deep into how the model plays out in your specific circumstances in my Flourishing Nurses program. But for now I want to give you an idea of how it’s playing out in your life and how you can intervene to create better results.
When studying the Bible I read things like “renew your mind” or “transform your mind.” I’ve always desired to do this but I didn’t really know what steps I should take to accomplish this. I had the desire to do it but I couldn’t figure out “the how.” My brain just seems to keep offering up my usual negative way of thinking. The framework of the model helps me to understand this transformation in a way I can understand and gives me the clarity I need to take action. Self-coaching is the term I use for the daily process of recognizing my current thinking, gaining understanding on how it’s affecting my results, and tweaking it to bring about the results I want in my life.
The Unintentional Model
The term “unintentional model” is what is already happening in our brains without being conscious of it. Author Jon Acuff describes these unintentional thoughts as the soundtracks of our lives. They are the thoughts that just play in the background without conscious thought or effort. Many of these thoughts are negative. Thoughts like, “I’ll never lose weight,” or, “This relationship was a mistake,” or “I’m never going to figure this out.” Thinking thoughts like this over and over become beliefs for us. And your brain works really hard to prove those beliefs true.
The Intentional Model to Take Action Towards Better Mental Wellness
Once we recognize this unintentional process and what it’s creating in our lives, we can create an “intentional model” and put it to work to create our desired goals. But first we have to acknowledge that our current way of thinking, feeling, and acting is what is getting us the results we have now in our jobs, our relationships, our health, etc. We have to stop blaming things or people outside our control. The blame game just keeps us stuck as victims of our circumstances. Let me explain more.
Where are you now?
Before we dig into the model itself I want to take you through an exercise. Think about a goal you want to achieve. It can be a big goal or even just one step of a larger goal. Grab a sheet of paper and write down your goal. It can be any goal. Some examples:
Clean out my closet
Lose 50 pounds
Obtain my Bachelor’s degree
Run a 5k in under 30 minutes
Become a Nurse Practitioner
Clean out my email inbox
Take a new job or switch departments
…any size goal will do for this exercise.
Now write down where you are now in relation to this goal. What is your current situation? Write as much detail as possible. How do you feel when you think about it?
For example if you had a weight loss goal you might write:
I weigh ___ pounds. I am out of breath when I go up stairs or play with my children. I am reluctant to play on the floor with my kids because I struggle to get up again. I have aches and pains that I never used to have. I avoid certain activities (get specific) that I used to enjoy because my weight causes a problem. Riding on amusement park rides are uncomfortable because of my size. I eat until I’m uncomfortable sometimes. I can’t stick to my diet. I am frequently disappointed in myself. I don’t tell my friends I’m on a diet because I’ve failed so many of them before. Etc., etc., etc.
Write as much as you can about where your starting line is.
Where do you want to be?
Then, brainstorm how it would look if you achieved your goal. What does that look like to you? What are the actions you take? What do you think? How do you feel? What kind of person have you become by achieving?
Continuing on with the weight loss example I might write this:
When I achieve my goal I will be able to fly on an airplane without a seat belt extender. My blood sugar levels will be in the normal range. I will be able to play with my children without getting short of breath. My feet and knees won’t hurt anymore. I will be able to enjoy hiking with my family. I will be a good example of healthful eating and taking care of my body. I enjoy delicious foods but I don’t overeat. I have learned that I can do difficult things and I take the things I learned in my weight loss journey and apply them to other goals. I am proud of myself.
Keep writing…as much as you can think of.
Brainstorm Your Obstacles
The next step is to brainstorm all the obstacles that are in your way of achieving that goal.
I don’t know what to eat to lose weight.
I can’t exercise because my knees hurt.
My doctor says I need medication to lower my blood sugar.
My family keeps junk food in the house.
I’m addicted to junk food.
I eat when I’m stressed and I’m under a lot of stress right now.
Think of every obstacle in your way.
Now set your paper aside. We’re going to dig into some detail about the model and then we’ll come back to this exercise and plan your strategies.
Overview of The Model
The beauty of the model is that we can use it to solve ANY problem. Isn’t that amazing? We abbreviate the model with the acronym CTFAR.
Your result always ties back to the original thought that drove this whole model.
Let’s dig in a little deeper
Circumstances are neutral Just the facts. (C) •
Circumstances are things that happen in the world. Things outside of our control. This can be a diagnosis, something someone said to you, something that happened to you, or anything really. It is a fact, provable in a court of law. Everyone would agree. Your weight on a scale is a fact. We could all look at it and see the same number. The judgement, “I am fat” is not a fact. That is your thought about the number on a scale. When you write a circumstance there should be no adjectives. It’s very plain, boring, “fact-y.” We tend to think that these circumstances are to blame for how we feel, act, or for what results we’re seeing. But…
The reality is thoughts are always the problem (T) •
Our thoughts are just sentences inside our brains. It is estimated that we think 40,000 – 60,000 thoughts every day. Most of those thoughts we are not even aware of. We accept most of these thoughts as true even though many (most?) are not true. Thoughts are not facts. They are thoughts. We know this because 5 people could see the same thing and have 5 different thoughts. Maybe you see someone dancing around on the sidewalk in front of a store.
You might think:
“He’s on drugs.”
Someone else might think,
“He sure looks happy.”
“This is embarrassing.”
“I wish I felt so free and wasn’t worried about what other people thought.”
“I wonder if he needs help.”
Same circumstance – man dancing. 5 different thoughts.
Your Thoughts Create Your Feelings (F) •
Once you have a thought in the mind, your body reacts with a feeling/emotion. This can happen in an instant. Often so fast that we don’t connect the thought to the emotion. Many times we think that the circumstance created the feeling. As in, “He yelled at me and made me so mad!” Really he yelled at you and you had a thought that made you mad. The thought was probably something like, “He shouldn’t yell,” or “I hate it when he yells at me,” or “Oh, snap! Now it’s on!” That thought unleashed the emotion of anger.
Here’s the thing, if you think that your feelings come from things outside of yourself (what other people say, what they think about you, your situation at work, a diagnosis, etc.), then you have to either control the world or feel really crummy about yourself and your situation when you can’t control it.
Recognizing how your thoughts and feelings work together is the key to taking action towards your goal of improved mental wellness. (A) •
It’s also the key to understanding how you are getting the undesired results you are currently facing in your life.
We take action FROM our feelings. When we are feeling angry we do different things than when we are feeling curious. When we are feeling motivated we take different action than when we are feeling shame. Feelings are the fuel. If you want different results, you need the right fuel. You get the fuel by managing your thoughts. See how it’s all coming together?
Your actions create your results (R) •
Usually, we try to accomplish things in our lives by changing our actions. Often, we fail over time because we don’t know how to consistently maintain those actions. Using the weight loss example, you might try to lose weight by doing a super restrictive diet and increasing exercise. It works for a while…days, weeks, maybe even months. But then you fall off the wagon and it all goes wrong. Likely you were taking that action from a place of shame, dissatisfaction, frustration, or other negative emotions that got you started on your journey. Unfortunately, those emotions are not emotions that fuel consistent action.
Let’s put it all together
A thought download, or brain dump, is the one of the most effective ways to getting to your thoughts so that you can apply the self-coaching model. If you did the exercise at the beginning of this post about where you were, where you want to be, and the obstacles in your way, you already did a version of a thought download. That was kind of a guided, more organized thought download.
Thought downloads are often disorganized, messy, and all over the place. Because that’s how our brains are! We have 40,000 – 60,000 thoughts a day. Thought downloads help us pull some of those thoughts out so you can see them, decide if they are helpful thoughts, recognize what those thoughts are creating for you, and then decide if they are thoughts you want to keep. I recommend you do a thought download at least once a day to uncover your thoughts and apply the model.
Go back to the exercise you did at the beginning of this post. Write CTFAR down the left hand side of the page. Look at the sentences you wrote in the “where are you now” section. What part of those sentences are facts and what part are thoughts? Put one fact in the C (circumstance) line and your thought about that circumstance in the T (thought) line. In the F (feeling) line, write how that thought makes you feel. Then, next to the A (actions) list all the actions you take or the actions you avoid when you are feeling that way. And lastly, next to the R (results) write the result those actions are creating.
f I go back to my weight loss example I could write the following model:
C – I weight ___ pounds
T – I can’t stick to my diet
F – discouraged
A – deprive myself then comfort myself with food, give up, beat myself up emotionally,
R – I don’t stick to my diet
Can you see how, in this example, my thoughts are leading me to the very result I don’t want? When I take action from a place of discouragement I am never going to find sustainable actions.
Now write CTFAR down the page again.
The C will be the same as the previous model. I weigh ___ pounds.
For the T line, choose a thought from the things you wrote in the “Where I want to be” section above. For my example I chose:
T – I enjoy delicious foods but I don’t overeat
F – encouraged
A – I plan realistic foods, I plan for delicious foods, I stop eating when I’m satisfied because I know I can have this food again, I don’t tell myself I’m deprived, I don’t tell myself I’m restricted, I evaluate when I do have times when I eat too much so I can learn, I don’t beat myself up about any overeats
R – I am able to enjoy foods I love and still lose weight
So, with this model you can start to see how thinking about the situation (my weight) a bit differently, I generate a feeling that helps me institute activites that move me towards my goal instead of sabotaging myself with the previous thought of, “I can’t stick to my diet.”
Changing thoughts doesn’t just happen in an instant. Your brain has had a lot of practice thinking the old thoughts. It takes practice. You can apply this process to anything you want. You look at how your current thinking is producing your current results. And then you play around with thoughts that could lead you closer to your goal until you find a thought (or several thoughts) that actually lead you closer to where you want to be.
Go back through the obstacles you listed in the exercise above. Put some of those obstacles in the model and see if you can put them in the model and come up with some solutions to get you to your goal. Reach out to me if you need help with this.
Your Current Level of Mental Wellness
Your current mental wellness is a measure of the quality of your thoughts. We all have times when our circumstances seem to drive how we feel. But in reality, it’s our thought life that has the power to do that. That is such good news! Because we don’t always have the power to change our circumstance. But we always have the power to change our own thoughts.
This doesn’t mean that we will always have positive feelings. Throughout life there are times where we do want to feel sad, or disappointed, or angry. But you can decide the feelings you want to feel on purpose and know that they don’t just happen to you.
Again, if you’d like a summary of self-coaching with a reminder checklist you can CLICK HERE and I’ll send it over to your email inbox.