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Grow through what you go through: How to survive in survival mode

By: Stephanie Mitton

Is the arrival of 2020 daunting to you? Does everyone's New Year’s resolutions/goals cause pressure in your chest? I don’t know about you, but my reflections entering 2020 feel more like survival rather than something to celebrate and opportunities to lean into. Maybe you are in the same boat.


As many of you know I have been quite ill for months, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. As I start the New Year with ongoing medical tests and specialists, my greatest hope is for a final diagnosis and treatment! Sad… but true!



(Me trying to be positive waiting on an MRI to rule out a brain tumour, which have tragically caused the premature death of 2 of my family members)

As I have walked this journey, I have learned valuable lessons. One of the most important lessons I have focused on is maintaining a healthy mindset. I don’t know about you, but a positive mindset keeps me going, especially now when I feel like I’m in survival mode. Mindset is everything. I don’t think I could have made it through this past year without working intentionally to have a positive outlook and choosing joy, and it isn't easy, it is a battle I fight every day. I am incredibly grateful for the lessons I have learned from our WOMENdontDOthat podcast guests including Myrrhanda, co-founder of WOMENdontDOthat, through her journey losing her son; which she shares in podcast episodes 30 and 31. I have also drawn a lot from my conversation with Alida Steele, especially what she says about growing through what you go through.


Putting it into practice:


My husband and I recently celebrated our ten-year anniversary. We had planned a few years ago that we would do something special and I was REALLY looking forward to it, especially with my illness the past year. We had finally decided on a Caribbean cruise for late December and into the New Year. Then came the devastating news in mid December, my doctor recommended I don’t travel outside Canada due to my medical condition. I was devastated (first world problem, I know). I cried VERY hard and then I tried to turn my disappointment into action. We decided we would spend a few days in old Quebec City and a night at the ice hotel. Although I wanted to be on a hot beach, the ice hotel was magical.





(Packing my cruise ship to drive to Quebec City)









(Fighting a migraine in old Quebec City)








(Enjoying the experience of the Hotel de Glace with my husband, happy "cold" ten year anniversary!)


In addition to mindset, some other lessons from 2019 include:


1. Say no. Maintaining clear boundaries on your time is critical, especially when your energy is limited by illness. If you feel like you are going to puke you can’t help with the school fundraiser, right? Check out more on this in my blog post, “How to feel good about saying no”.

2. Ask your village for help. If you don’t have one, create one. Author Ann Douglas talks a lot about this in her interview with Myrrhanda. I don’t know where I would be this year without friends and family helping with my kids and house or sending constant positive vibes and prayers for my recovery. Don’t have any shame. We are made to live in community and support each other.


3. Accept where you are without guilt. I am a high performer and I like to slay my goals. It’s very hard to accept that I can’t always do that right now. I have had to cancel work meetings and interviews, I haven't seen many of my friends in months; this is beyond my control and I have needed to let go of feelings of failure and guilt. It’s not easy, but accepting where you are at will help you focus your limited attention on what matters most.


4. Maintain positive mantras. This is part of mindset work. Being intentional about catching your thoughts and turning them into something positive will not only help you wherever you are at but help you move forward. For example, this is so hard can be transitioned into, I can do hard things. Try it!


5. Don’t give up. There are so many days I feel ill and it would be easier to just rest and watch tv, trust me I want to, and sometimes my body is telling me I have to, but other days I need to keep going. If I don’t I fear I will stop moving forward and give in to how I actually feel. This is where the mindset work comes in. Pushing through helps me survive my current circumstances.


6. Focus on what you can do and let go of the rest. I do my best to support myself physically and mentally and the rest is out of my control.


7. Laugh A LOT. My mother lives with chronic illness and has taught me that laughter is the best medicine. Read books, listen to podcasts and watch shows that make you laugh.


Myrrhanda once told me, “It’s not all small stuff, as “they” sometimes say. Some things are big, and real and terrifying. But the truth is, my dear, you are bigger. You are greater than even the worst life can send your way. You are strong and made of love. If you can see that, you can persist, with peace, through anything.”


So here is to 2020. May you survive whatever it is you are going through so you can thrive! And when you are ready to thrive check out Myrrhanda’s post, How to get more of what you really want in 2020.


Until then, let's read some funny books, watch some Netflix and know that we can grow through what we go through.


Let’s learn and grow with each other:


Do you have anything to add to this list?

Do you have any funny book, podcast and show recommendations to share?

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