How To Be Happy During Challenging Times

When I got my breast cancer diagnosis in April 2017, I wished I could fast forward into this year, without first passing through chemo, surgery, radiotherapy, etc. - sounds a bit like Monopoly but instead of going directly to jail, it was more of a “go directly to remission” wishful thinking!

Photo by MD Black

But of course this wasn’t possible. And I used to wake up at all sorts of pre-dawn hours contemplating what was coming my way, imagining how I’d look when I lost my hair, how I’d feel about this, if there would be complications and so on.

I felt like I was about to jump off a cliff into a great unknown. And I’ve never been a fan of uncertainty!

So do you know what I did?

I decided to throw a party!

I love dancing and having fun, and I saw no reason to wait another four or five months until I at least finished chemo to enjoy myself. I decided that there was no time like the present to be happy, and what better way was there to send me into treatment than with a good store of serotonin and positive vibes, generated by a good night of dancing with family and friends?!

And so I held my “Pre-Chemo & Egg Freezing Celebration” (it coincidentally turned out to be the day after I had this procedure ahead of chemo in case it left me infertile, but at the time of sending out the invitations, it was planned as a pre-chemo party).

If you’re going through a challenge at the moment, whatever it’s nature, I advise you to celebrate! Of course I’m not suggesting that you hold a party as I did (unless of course you want to - be sure to invite me!), but to simply celebrate where you are at this point in time, despite what’s going on.

  • You may not have your full health, but you’ve probably got family and friends that love you unconditionally.
  • You may not have the family or friends that you dream of, but you’ve probably got a job or business that helps you fulfil your passion and lifestyle desires.
  • You may not have the ideal job or business, but you’ve probably still got your health.

And so it goes — we’ve ALWAYS got something to CELEBRATE!

My Pre-Chemo & Egg Freezing Celebration, a few days before starting chemotherapy. Photo by Sherif Mekhail.

“But isn’t this simply a denial of our problems?”, you may ask.

Not at all!

Choosing to have fun with my family and friends that evening didn’t mean I no longer had to face cancer and its gruelling treatment. But it better equipped me to do so.

When we don’t spend all our time and energy focusing on what’s difficult in our lives, we literally open up a space through which we can energise ourselves to overcome the challenges ahead of us.

Breathe

Whatever you may be struggling with right now - whether it’s a health challenge, a career, relationship or financial one - resist the temptation to try and solve it instantly. The chances are that you’ll end up feeling more down than boosted if you try to tackle the issue as soon as it arises.

Some challenges, like cancer, take months to resolve (my initial treatment was eight months long) and there is a linear journey that needs to be travelled. The solutions won’t necessarily be clear from the outset. So just breathe and brace yourself for the journey.

Do your best and leave God to do the rest

I’m a firm believer in this (you may prefer “the universe” to “God”). I believe that we constantly co-design our lives, we can’t sit and do nothing all the time and expect to make progress, and similarly, we can’t always be trying to make things happen on our own; we need to do a mix of both.

So proactively take the actions that you need to take to improve your situation, like update your CV if you’d like a new job or take your prescribed health treatment if you’re unwell. But don’t then sit and worry about the outcomes of these actions. Leave God/the universe to weave their magic and respond. Call it faith, luck or serendipity - but you know when things seem to land in your lap out of the blue and you didn’t have to lift a finger to make them happen? It just means that you did your part and left the rest to the laws of the world.

Relax and have fun!

Once you’ve taken proactive action then release the need to control outcomes, just sit back and enjoy your life as it is - with the ongoing challenge(s)! No two days are alike, and while some will be more difficult than others, there will still be amazing days! And if not amazing, then at least “not bad” days.

The first seven to ten days after each chemo session had me lying in bed wondering if I’d ever feel good again, but I quickly learnt that I could still go out and about and have fun after that. And instead of waiting until those days came then wondering what to do, I’d plan activities in advance for these windows of opportunity.

You may be short on cash, but you can enjoy walks in nature, alone or with friends or family. You may be impatient to change your toxic job, but you can still socialise on the weekends with uplifting people.

“Don’t stop living your life fully during a challenge!”

We can’t always immediately change the circumstances we’re in, but we can always decide how we’ll travel to the other end of any challenge.

Choose to travel in style!

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