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Transforming Yourself

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Posted by: Summer Katz, M.A., LMHC, Patient Advocate

While navigating the ups and downs of life, some of us reach a stage upon which we question our meaning or our purpose. We then ask, “What am I supposed to be doing?” along with, “Why am I supposed to be doing it?”

It is my belief, that these questions can lead us to incredible opportunities to ultimately transform ourselves into the people we truly wish to be. Of course, the concept of transformation can require a great deal of reflection and introspection on ‘where we have come from’ compared to ‘where we are going.’

One example may be those individuals who are observed to be ‘going through a mid-life crisis.’ However isn’t their experience something that really all of us go through in one way or another in an effort to address our own fallible nature?

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Making the connection for mental health and the tangible, physical experience has been proven to have significant correlation. Research shows, for example, that people with depression often have worse physical health, as well as a worse internal perception of health, than those without depression. Depression and other physical health conditions have separate, but additive effects on well-being. For example, the combination of heart disease and depression can cause twice the reduction in social interaction than either condition alone.

People with both depression and physical health problems are certainly at higher risk of increased symptoms on both fronts. The physical problem can complicate the assessment and treatment of depression by masking or mimicking its symptoms.

It can work the other way as well. People with any chronic physical disease tend to feel more psychological distress than “healthy” people experience. Poor physical health brings an increased risk of depression, as do the social and relationship problems that are very common among people with chronic illness.

I share all of this to emphasize the fact that those of us with chronic medical conditions are at two to four times the risk of our “healthy” counterparts of experiencing the undesirable effects of depression as well as anxiety. So, how do we wrap our minds around that and work to improve our own reflective insights toward creating a desirable life?

I believe it can become possible through increasing our emotional awareness. Practicing the ability to better ‘allow ourselves to feel,’ understand those feelings, and essentially participate in proactive coping techniques can aid in the creation of a positive transformation of the self.

Don’t get me wrong, as I have stated in many previous blogs, navigating life with the chronic medical condition will never be easy. There is a great deal of ambivalence that many of us will experience; we will have both positive and negative feelings about the condition and about our lives at the same time.

This is why it may be beneficial to participate in the concepts of positive psychology. Some may have referenced theories related to the law of attraction or positive thinking; however I understand that these rules can become a bit misleading. It is always up to you to decide which pieces of the various concepts work and do not work for you.

One thing I would like to say about the power of positivity is that practicing an optimistic view, even realistic optimism can benefit our perspectives. If we, ultimately, have an affirmative perspective or outlook, it can reduce our tendency toward depressive and anxious symptoms.

Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., author of Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life, has spent 20 years researching positivity, which she defines as moments of positive feelings. She says positive feelings tend to broaden our perspectives so that we notice the multitude of possibilities that are already there.

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So… while I love words like ‘manifestation’ and ‘energy,’ the concepts of positive psychology and positivity better specify that we must make an effort to engage in the life that we want to have as opposed to wishing or waiting for it to happen. With all of this being said, it is important to acknowledge that those of us with chronic medical conditions have a hefty responsibility right in front of us. The concept of transforming our lives into that which we will truly want seems daunting, if not impossible, because ultimately what we actually want is for all of the struggles, ailments, and/or distresses to go away.

I would like to encourage you to go back to those what, why, and how questions. But, don’t over-focus on asking the questions about the situation or about others; focus on you. Answer the questions based on your ideal image, and not necessarily the current status of your life as it includes those chronic or even situational struggles. Now… “What do I need?,” “Why would meeting that need be important to me?” and “How can I make an effort toward getting that need met?”

Consider the benefits of participating in your own transformation. Understand that the concept of transforming your life will not take away the things outside of your control or that have no cure, however it can help you live your life with joy, with acceptance, and with pride. Be proud of who you are and be excited about who you are working to become. That will lead you to understand your meaning and your purpose!

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Summer Katz, M.A., LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Cystic Fibrosis Pharmacy Patient Advocate

*Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only (including brief topic exploration or reflection) and should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health or medical treatment.

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