I’m sure you’ve heard that stress is hard on the body, maybe you have been told to treat yourself better or that self-care is important. Has anyone told you that certain personality traits and thought patterns could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer? This article explores the personality traits and choices that put some people at a much higher risk for developing cancer while other people do not have as high of a risk. Through exploring psychoneuroimmunology and epigenetics new insight into the disease process and healing from the inside out can be gained. After completing the short self-reporting questions, read through the suggestions below and remember to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!
Although people are in no way, shape, or form to blame for developing cancer or any other disease. There could be some ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer. I was very surprised to stumble upon so many seemingly positive and pro-social personality traits and choices that could put someone at a higher risk. To determine if your personality and choices could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I go out of my way to make other people happy?
Do I regularly put the needs of other people ahead of my own needs?
Do I push myself to achieve things even when I am exhausted?
Do I feel like relaxing and taking time to myself is a waste of valuable time?
I have a lot to worry about?
Am I keeping a secret that I would be ashamed if people found out about?
Did I experience being sexually or physically abused (especially before the age of 18)?
I have a deep hatred for myself?
I am unworthy of love?
I have a hard time to express my anger and hurt feelings?
I have a hard time asking people for a favour or saying no to a request?
I regularly volunteer and give to others?
I don’t know what I want or I don’t know my purpose?
I feel confused about who I am?
I put the needs of my friends, children, partner, and parents before my own needs?
The more questions you said yes to, the higher your potential risk for developing cancer at some point. I am not saying doing any of the above things is a bad thing, balance is the key factor here. The great news is that there are many ways to challenge and change choices and patterns of interactions that will decrease your stress and lower your risk for developing cancer. The following strategies may be key ingredients to your healthy and happy life:
Learning to let go
Letting go is a really hard thing to do. Setting ourselves free from the negative and critical things we have been told about ourselves. Learning to love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. There are a number of reasons we hold on to the past so tightly, sometimes it is the only connection we have to our parents, sometimes it helps us to understand who we are and define ourselves, other times it helps us to feel grounded in an otherwise chaotic world.
Take a deep breath, feel the warm air entering your body, filling your lungs and diaphragm with health and vitality. As you slowly breathe out picture yourself releasing the stress and tension from your system. As you take another deep breath in, visualize bringing vitality and positive energy into your system. Feel the positive energy going from your lung into your core. As you exhale realize you are taking a step towards the self-care and healing you deserve. Feel free to take a couple more deep and healing breaths, you deserve them.
Being Present in your Body
Being present in your body can be a very hard thing to do, this skill is especially hard for people that have experienced violations to their boundaries because indeed their body was not safe in those experiences. This is a healing day, you can be safe in your body now and learn how to be present and aware of your body, you can learn the skills you need to be safe now.
If you have not experienced violations, have successfully gained safety in therapy, or are feeling like you want to be present in your body and gain an awareness of your body’s needs. This exercise is called the body scan. This mindfulness based exercise works by building the brain maps for various areas of your body and helping bring a conscious awareness to the signals your body is sending you.
This exercise is suitable for people with all types of bodies and ability levels, if any body parts are experiencing pain, numbing, or no sensation at all simply close your eyes and visualize that part of your body healing. Begin by focusing on your toes, perhaps you can feel them on the ground, feel whether you are wearing socks or are barefoot. Visualize your feet as a healthy and vital part of your body system. Think of how feet impact your life. Next move up to your legs. If possible gently squeeze your shins or thighs with your hand. Can you feel the pressure or the warmth or coolness of your legs? Visualize the energy pathways in your legs, what colour are they? Slowly move your focus to your hips. As you move closer to your hips and core some people who have experienced sexual violation may feel themselves getting nervous, remind yourself that you are safe in this moment in time and continue. Feel your hips and bottom against the surface you are sitting on. Close your eyes and visualize your hips, do you see a colour or feel a particular temperature? Can you tense and release your muscles? Slowly move your attention to your abdomen. Is it quiet or do you hear a rumbling? Is there any tightness or tension in this part of your body? Put your hand on your abdomen and take a deep breath, can you feel your abdomen expanding as it fills with air? Realize the amazing capabilities your abdomen may have to help you absorb nutrients or expand to allow more air into your system. Move your attention up to your shoulders. Gently move your shoulders from side to side, do you feel any tension or tightness? Cross your arms across your chest and give yourself a hug. You have done well during this body scan exercise. If you would like you can take a minute to focus on your head and neck and face. Paying attention to various feature and organs you have and their purpose in your life.
Lastly we will take a moment to focus on gaining identity and finding yourself. People who give too much and struggle to say no often also have a hard time describing themselves and understanding who they are. They may feel confused and unsure of who they are and what they really want. Feel free to grab a piece of paper and answer a couple simple questions to help you figure out who you are. At the top of the page write your name. Write out your favourite food, your favourite ice cream flavour, or the last thing you ate. Next write out your favourite show, movie, or the last thing you watched on a television. Have you read any good books or magazines recently? Write down something you learned or enjoyed or found amusing while you were reading. Although these may seem like simple things to write, they begin to draw your attention to facts about yourself which helps your brain to both accept yourself and conceptualize who you are and what you enjoy. Developing an identity and sense of self is much like building a muscle, it takes focus, perseverance, and consciously paying attention.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and are a step closer to healing and preventing cancer and other diseases. You deserve to be happy and healthy. If you feel like you need more support in changing patterns that are increasing your potential risk of cancer and other diseases please reach out to me, your doctor, your therapist, or other healing professionals in your community. Have a great day and as always, good luck on your healing journey.
References: Attitudes and Cancer. (2014). Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/attitudes-and-cancer
Bond, L. (2015). The Cancer Personality. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.laura-bond.com/2011/09/the-cancer-personality/
Mate, G. (2015). When the Body Says No – Dr. Gabor Maté. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://drgabormate.com/book/when-the-body-says-no/
Wellisch, D. & Yager, J. (2008). Is there a cancer-prone personality? Cancer Journal for Clinicians 33 (3) 145-153