After a busy few weeks working in Europe, I have felt the effects of steadily decreasing energy levels, both physically and mentally. Yet after a couple of days of managing my symptoms, today I was back trail running in my beloved mountains at home in Spain. I managed to pump out a Half Marathon of solid hill running in this beautiful wilderness.
Being able to do this takes a different approach; especially for leaders who are Post Cancer – Adopting the Inside Out approach means doing the work within (Inside) before executing in your outer world (Out)
This article will focus on the INSIDE component.
For leaders who have experienced cancer, the long-term effects of sometimes aggressive forms of treatment can lead to exhaustion and fatigue, even under a normal workload. I still live with the after-effects of Chemotherapy which leaves my legs feeling like lead from poor circulation, and numb feet from chemo-induced “Neuropathy” (localised damage to the nerve endings in your extremities)
In my coaching role, these issues are not uncommon when working with leaders who have experienced Cancer. They often result in “a lack of energy” also described as:
“I feel a lack of motivation in my life”
“I feel exhausted”
“I live with fatigue every day”
Even on my own journey, a lack of energy is something I also struggled with in the years following my Cancer Treatment. On my worst days, I would convince myself my disease had returned because I felt so exhausted–this would plunge me into a cycle of anxiety, worry and fear. This would leave me feeling (you guessed it)…Exhausted.
Before I had the tools to manage my lack of energy, I would search for a solution outside of myself. Diets, coffee, energy drinks, supplements to name but a few (sound familiar?)
This is the classic “Outside In” approach – the act of seeking solutions in your external world. In leadership terms, it is the equivalent of attempting to execute a project and skipping the planning phase.
The “Inside Out” approach goes deeper, much deeper. It is the act of understanding the connection between mind and body, and how much of an impact it has on your energy levels.
Here are 3 simple steps you can implement today, as part of the Inside Out approach to regaining your Energy. These are not by themselves silver bullets, however, even if you get a 20% improvement – it’s a good Return on Investment for exercises that can be quick and easy to implement.
It is also really important to note that if you experience prolonged fatigue, keep your GP or specialist in the loop!
Don’t fight it!
Even the act of accepting that being fatigued is normal for people that are post Cancer can be a quick win. The act of resisting your fatigue, thinking that it shouldn’t be happening, or worrying about it; can all contribute to a mental load that carries an indirect cost – Sleepless nights are obviously not good for energy reserves (this was a really important step for me)
Experiment with mindfulness-based strategies
Yes, I said it; be mindful. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is no longer confined to the domain of the spiritual (as I thought it once was) – these are techniques shown to have a demonstrated reduction in Cancer Related Fatigue (CRF) post-treatment. This is all peer-reviewed research, and a good article is linked here
I have been actively meditating for the past two years and the direct effects on my well-being, and indirect payoff on my energy levels have been a game-changer for me – I simply cannot imagine life without it.
My daily body scan meditation where I engage in the act of becoming aware of my fatigue and relaxing into it produces a noticeable improvement when practised regularly.
Here is a good starting point if you are looking for some other examples of MBSR.
Try not to identify with it…
Another really quick win – but how does it work? – Do you find yourself saying terms such as “I am always tired” – amazingly, this can also have an indirect cost to your precious energy reserves.
To understand this better, we need to have a quick dive into our subconscious. This little powerhouse is seated in our Cerebellum at the rear of our brain.
Fun Fact – Although the Cerebellum only takes up 10% of our Brains volume, it contains a whopping 50% of our Neurons.
Continually identifying with your energy levels is literally programming your Sub-Conscious on what to expect. If you look in the mirror every morning and remind yourself how tired you expect to be, chances are your mind (and body) will follow suit
Your Sub-Conscious has its own language and is closely listening when you use terms such as “I am”. So when you look in the mirror in the morning, and you are feeling tired, acknowledge you were tired yesterday, but today is a new day – this can be an important step in breaking a damaging cycle of identifying yourself as someone who will always be tired.
So there you have it, some really simple strategies to experiment with as you take your first steps to feel your old self again.
Remember, this is just one piece of the puzzle, and unfortunately, there are no silver bullets in this game. Be patient, persistent and realistic.
Even a 20% improvement on your energy levels is a vast improvement, and I would love to know if you get there, or what else I can do to help you.
In the next post, we will explore the OUTSIDE component of the Inside Out Approach:For Leaders Struggling With Low Energy Levels After Cancer. Drop by again as i will discuss exercise, nutrition, habits and sleep – everything you need to get your Energy back in your career and life, after Cancer.
Stay in touch or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org