On May 6, 2017, Dawn Herring, LMFT, a survivor of Cushing’s, a licensed marriage and family therapist with twenty years’ experience providing trauma therapy and counseling to US marines, presented a quality of life webinar. Dawn started by quoting Mother Teresa – “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep adding oil.”
After doctors help with testing, diagnosing and treating, patients can use self-care strategies to keep our lamps burning. Self-care strategies, shock absorbers of stress, can maintain patients’ well-being during recovery from Cushing’s. Self-compassion is part of self-care and passionate pursuits are also important.
COGNITIVE SELF-CARE STRATEGIES
As patients care for ourselves, we can imagine wellness returning to our bodies. Positive self-talk can antidote negative automatic patterns which may include all-or-nothing thinking, shouldering or assuming that other people only react negatively to us. Dawn offered antidotes to recurring negative thoughts.
Other cognitive strategies include writing in a gratitude journal; imagining wise figures who consult and support during creative visualizations. Mental training can build muscle. Mindful awareness can help.
BEHAVIORAL SELF-CARE STRATEGIES
Exhaustion and fatigue from Cushing’s changes how we carry ourselves. How we feel impacts our body language and affects our hormones. Dawn explained that behavioral self-care strategies can include gentle physical activity with bilateral stimulation, e.g. walking, yoga or biking, which can focus breathing and be calming. She recommended eating a healthy diet, reducing sugar, avoiding alcohol and taking nutritional supplements, maintaining good sleep hygiene and monitoring medication compliance.
SPIRITUAL SELF-CARE STRATEGIES
If our experience of Cushing’s challenges our sense of purpose and meaning, spiritual self-care strategies can include: developing resilience by believing in a higher power; and having faith in healing, pausing to pray or spending time in nature when in doubt, angry, tired or stressed, and repeating the serenity prayer.
INTERPERSONAL SELF-CARE STRATEGIES
Connection with others can decrease pain; a support network can be online or in person. Caution – set boundaries with unhelpful people. Dawn recommended connecting with TESHD people who T = touch; E = make eye contact; S = see you accurately; H = hear what you say; D = delight in your company; and people who are A = available; R = reliable and P = prioritize you.
During her webinar, Dawn outlined members’ coping strategies:
Compensating for memory issues
- brain games, sleep, making lists, vitamin B12 injection, taking medication, foreign films, detox, college classes
Coping with depression / anxiety
- faith, pets, morning meditation, medication, counseling, yoga, walking, affirmations, mindful self-talk, grieving losses, the healing power of humor
Managing pain / fatigue
- diet, tough-mindedness, eating less sugar, avoiding alcohol, gentle exercise, kindness to self, schedule rest, spiritual practice, essential oils
After sharing ‘healing is a process not an event,’ Dawn reminded patients that passionate pursuits can give purpose, meaning, joy, contentment and a sense of accomplishment. They can make time fly. During recovery, Dawn encourages patients to engage in passionate pursuits as and when we can, be kind to ourselves, compassionate, creative and forgiving.
.Dawn ended the webinar by responding to members’ questions including:
- How can I wake myself up and get out doing things?
- Six months after surgery, my doctor says my expectations are too high?
- How can I return to work when I am still ‘cratering’ every day by 2 PM?
- Can natural remedies help with sleep and anxiety?
- After months of symptoms, surgery and recovery, when will I feel ‘normal’?
- My new ‘normal’ is different. How can I accept my reality?
Dawn’s compassionate answers are available in the recorded video along with references and websites mentioned during the webinar.
During her webinar about self-care strategies, Dawn shared her experiences as a patient with Cushing’s, empathized with the difficulties patients report and encouraged us to identify self-care strategies, create self-care action plans and make time for passionate pursuits.
Summary by Robert Sealey, BSc, CPA, author of Finding Care for Depression