Is your mind having a field day rehearsing all the worst case scenarios with MS?
Are your thoughts constantly feeding you doubt, fears and insecurities?
Does it feel like your mind will never turn off?
Day or night, it doesn’t matter, the runaway thoughts just have no end.
It’s exhausting mentally, emotionally and even physically.
My friends, your mindset can not be overlooked when it comes to managing your health.
We can’t just focus on what we’re feeding our body.
We have to pay attention to how we’re feeding our mind as well.
And if your mind just spoke to you right there, saying, great, here’s yet another thing you’re not doing “right.”
Add this to the endless list of things that you need to do better.
If that sounds like your thoughts, my friend, this message is for you!
Don’t Settle for Negative Thinking
I want to remind us not to “settle” for the fact that these negative thoughts that consume our mind are how it should be or that it’s something that is out of our control.
You can influence them, and I want to show you how to do it in a way that is realistic and something that you actually enjoy doing.
So, let’s dive in!
Managing Mindset with Multiple Sclerosis
With all the things that we do to best manage MS, mindset rarely tops the list.
You focus on food, supplements and exercise… but mindset, that takes a back seat.
You want the more tangible practices that will make a REAL difference and get your results FAST.
You don’t have time to waste with some woo-woo mindset stuff.
You have Multiple Sclerosis and you want to stop the progressions asap.
As a nutrition coach, yoga instructor and personal trainer, I couldn’t agree more that food, supplements and exercise can move the needle on your health in a big way.
BUT I also know that if you’re not addressing the mindset, those efforts will be short lived.
It doesn’t matter which habit you’re trying to start, if you’re constantly doubting yourself or your plan, your results will be short-lived.
You lose motivation.
You ask yourself if any of these habits are really worth it or if you’re just depriving yourself for no reason.
I mean, having MS is hard enough, now you’re punishing yourself on top of it by eating bland, boring food while everyone around you enjoys whatever food they want, whenever they want.
It’s no surprise that you pretty quickly find yourself back and square one… frustrated and discouraged.
It’s exhausting to constantly fight against negative thoughts and fears.
It’s Common, But Not How It Needs to Be
Yet, I’m willing to bet that this is the norm for most of us.
More of us struggle with this way of thinking than not.
But while it may be the norm, it doesn’t mean that it’s how it has to be.
If you allow these thoughts to run the show they start to take root, forming your beliefs and influencing your daily decisions.
And when they’re influencing your daily decisions, that quickly adds up to negatively influence your day but your LIFE!
So I have a question for you… What could be possible for you if your thoughts were actually supportive and encouraging?
How would your life be different if you didn’t constantly have these negative thoughts consuming your mind?
What if you were not only able to turn the volume down on these thoughts, but what if you could switch to a completely different playlist, so to speak, that was supportive and encouraging.
Personally, I’m like, yes!
Where do I download this playlist of positive, encouraging thoughts?
Is it on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube?
Tell me all the details, I want it now!
Well, my friends, that’s what I want to help us with today.
Let’s dive into how we can best manage our mindset so that we can nourish both our body and minds!
Take a Breath
Here are some tangible ways that you can start putting this into practice.
To no surprise, I’m going to start with the breath.
If you’ve been around for a little while and listened to previous podcast episodes, attended any of my online events or watched any of my YouTube videos then you know that I love starting with the breath.
You could say that it’s the yoga instructor in me, and maybe it is, but honestly, I do it because it’s what I find to be most helpful.
It’s almost an immediate reset for me.
And I love the simplicity of it.
It’s always available to you, it’s free and it can be done in less than a minute.
It doesn’t change the circumstances or stressful events that we’re in, but it can change our response to them.
It can help us – pretty quickly – shift from the chaos in our mind to a more calm way of thinking.
This can not be understated.
I don’t know about you but if I responded to this world from this place more often, life would feel a lot easier.
Let’s face it, life is hard enough.
Life with MS is complicated.
So if there’s an opportunity to ease either of these it’s worth it!
You might like how this feels, but say okay Alene, that’s great but here’s the reality… the negative self talk immediately kicks in as soon as I’m down that last exhale.
So, let’s talk about self talk.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t believe that positive self-talk is just a matter of pushing away or ignoring negative thoughts and forcing in a positive thought that you don’t believe.
I personally don’t feel that’s effective.
It can easily feel like you’re trying to convince yourself of something that you flat out don’t believe is true.
What I think is a much more effective first step is simply interrupting the negative thought.
That can begin with a breath.
But interrupt that thought, reminding yourself that not every thought is true.
So giving ourselves the opportunity to feel like we can question the thought can be really helpful.
I like the work of Byron Katie for this reason. She’s an author and speaker known for her work in personal development.
If you haven’t heard of her before, let me bring you up to speed.
Byron Katie’s Work – The Power of Self-Inquiry
Byron Katie’s work is rooted in self-inquiry and introspection.
She helps you to challenge and ultimately transform your thoughts and beliefs, which I know sounds a bit pie in the sky but let’s take a look.
This is my best attempt to summarize her work, but honestly if any of this resonates or intrigues you, check out her books, she has several of them and I’m pretty sure that they’re also all available on audible too if you’re an audiobook lover like me!
Okay, so here’s a brief overview of her method:
Identify the Thought
Begin by identifying a thought or belief that is causing you distress, anxiety, or suffering.
It could be anything from self-doubt to fear, resentment, or frustration.
Apply “The Four Questions”
Then she has you apply a series of four questions to the thought.
- Is it true?
Start by questioning the truth of the thought.
Ask yourself if it’s an unquestionable fact or if there might be room for doubt.
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Go deeper and consider whether you can be completely certain that the thought is true beyond any doubt.
- How do you react when you believe that thought?
Explore how believing the thought affects your emotions, behaviors, and interactions with others.
- Who would you be without that thought?
Imagine a version of yourself who doesn’t hold onto that thought and consider how your life might change.
After questioning the thought, apply what she calls “The Turnaround.”
This involves looking at the opposite of your original belief to gain new insights and perspectives. So, you’re basically asking yourself what if the opposite were true.
I’ll give you an example here.
“My Family Doesn’t Understand MS”
A common thought that many of us struggle with is, “my family doesn’t understand what it’s like to deal with MS.”
So, if I were flipping this around, I would ask, what if I don’t understand what it’s like for them to see me struggling with an invisible disease?”
“What if I’m not fully understanding what it’s like to see the same person on the outside but depending on the day they’re seeing me act two different ways.”
Some days I’m relatively “normal” and other days “I don’t have any energy or strength. How are they supposed to know how I’m feeling when I look the same on the outside? The reality is, when I have days that I’m “normal” it’s easy for them to forget and then they feel blindsided when out of the blue I’m yelling about how I don’t have any energy and they just don’t get it.”
This is why I love this work, because just helping me to flip this single thought around is so powerful.
It’s true, our family doesn’t get what it’s like to live with MS – unless they experience it firsthand, which none of us would ever wish upon them.
But what if we don’t fully understand their experience of supporting a family member with MS?
I would even add in here the fact that most men want to “fix” things, they want a solution to problems. They’re fixers. So when their spouse is dealing with something that they can’t “fix” they struggle. They might not be able to articulate it that way and it may come out with frustration, but what if they’re struggling with having to watch you experience something that they can’t fix?
My friends, this is by no means intended to downplay the very real challenges of us living with an invisible disease, but in the context of our discussion today, we’re exploring how we can get ourselves out of these rabbit holes of negative thoughts that aren’t serving us in any way.
I love two other questions she asks.
How Do You React When You Believe the Belief?
How does believing your original belief – my family doesn’t get what it’s like for me to live with MS – affects your emotions and actions?
Does it lead to stress, frustration, or strained relationships?
How might your reactions change if you held a different perspective?
This is where I think the concept of our beliefs do shape our reality is true.
Because when she asks this question – how do I react when I believe this thought… the truth is I can respond with frustration and anger.
I’m responding based on a thought or a belief that I lead myself to believe is true without any other sides considered.
And I equally love her next question…
Who Would You Be Without the Belief?
Imagine a version of yourself without this belief.
How would you feel, and how might your interactions with your family change?
Well for starters, I would feel less alone.
I would be less resentful towards them.
I might seek to better understand their struggles, and actually try to support them or see how I can make the situation a little easier for both of us.
It’s about considering possibilities of a more balanced perspective.
So, Let’s Recap
So as we’re looking to develop a healthier mindset…
Start with the breath
Then interrupt to the thought to ask if it’s really true
How is this belief causing you to show up in the world
Who would you be without this belief?
Now, one that that I find to be true with most aspects of change – and certainly changing your mindset is no exception – is the fact that when you first start to practice this, you might ask yourself these questions, but still choose not to change your response.
In my opinion, that’s part of the process.
But don’t stop trying.
Keeping asking yourself these questions because eventually you start to see it more clearly and you start to develop a true belief in them.
So while some of you may practice this once and have a dramatic turnaround, most of you will need to practice this many times over before it really starts to stick.
But when you think about the possibility of how your life could change if you could create a healthier mindset, it’s worth it!
Be Open to Counseling
Last but not least, I’ll share that sometimes it’s easier to work through thoughts, beliefs, or any challenges you’re experiencing through the help of a counselor.
You know that I’m also a big proponent of counseling.
This can come in a lot of different ways, but I would encourage you to stay open to the possibilities of how beneficial this can be for you.
If you’ve been kicking the idea around, maybe this is your prompt to schedule the appointment.
Get the recommendation of someone in your area whether it be a traditional therapist or someone at your local church or place of worship, and schedule the appointment.
Keep in mind that often the best therapists have a bit of a wait to see them, so their first available appointment may be a couple weeks out.
But that can also be that they’re that good, and worth the wait.
Take Action Today
I guess, my point is that, if your mindset is having a significant impact on you and your daily life, don’t wait to do something about it.
There are so many resources available to you, use them.
If it can help you feel better on a daily basis, improve your relationship with – including the one with yourself – and help to improve your health too, that’s worth it!
And always remember, I am cheering you on!