Wellness Journey Through Divorce and Breast Cancer

A wellness oriented lifestyle helps you live a life full of energy, vibrancy, creativity, patience, focus, and love. Wellness is by definition a personal endeavor. Everyone’s wellness journey looks different and evolves through phases of life. Today another wellness story unfolds! You get to meet Barbara Evans and hear how her self care practices have impacted her health and wellbeing.

Meet Barbara

Barbara and I were friends through high school. We fell out of touch until the Universe brought us back together so she could create the Zen and Vitality logo.

Barbara is already working to feel better not older but she is looking for suggestions to go deeper into her wellness journey.

If parts of her story sounds like yours, be sure to read my 6 wellness lifestyle suggestions at the end of the interview!

Barbara Evans immersing in nature for wellness
Barbara Evans at Wild Blackberry Studio specializes in design services to make your small business look as professional as it is.

Barbara’s Wellness Journey

Q 1: How many balls do you have in the air? — Describe your work and family life for the past year. What lifestyle struggles are currently at the forefront of your mind?

Barbara: I am a divorced mom of two, who runs her own graphic design business (and weirdly 2020 was my best year ever business wise). I also actively volunteer with Team Red, White and Blue, a veteran’s service organization. Both my kids are seniors; one in high school and one in college. We are approaching graduations and life transitions for us all.

In addition, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in July of 2020. I was blessed with great treatment and some incredible lucky breaks and am now in remission and did not need to go through chemotherapy. I’m an active person. I love to run and do so multiple times a week. I also like hiking, biking and stand up paddle boarding.

Lifestyle struggles on my mind are maintaining a healthy balance of self-care and care for the important people in my life while I keep my business thriving. I am adjusting to being on new medication to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring, and I’m committed to taking it, but wow does it have its ups and downs. I’m focusing on good sleep hygiene and mindful eating. After my cancer diagnosis, I made a pact with my body that I would stop being so tough on it (and me) and we are not ever doing diets ever again.

Q 2: Where does self care and wellness fall on your scale of priorities? — Below mowing the grass? Once your family and work are situated, then there’s time for you? Self care gets sprinkled in little bits all day long? All else can wait while I care for me first?

Barbara: I’ve actually improved in the self-care arena quite a bit. I schedule time for exercise. I meditate regularly (life saving). I leave my desk and go sit elsewhere to eat with no distractions. I make sure I have breaks and movement worked into my day so I don’t feel exhausted by the end.

Wellness is a high priority. I have a lot of things I want to do and see and I want to have the energy and ability to do them for a long, long time. I think self care is easier now my kids are older.

Q 3: What daily or weekly activities do you incorporate into your life to support your overall wellbeing? Feel free to include all the dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, environmental, social, occupational, and financial. What happens when you don’t make time to do these activities?

Barbara:

  • Physical ~ regular exercise, running, workouts with my trainer, mobility, adventure
  • Emotional ~ I see my therapist every other week. I am learning about better boundaries and communicating with my important people. I have regular social calls with friends and colleagues. I am learning to ask for what I need from my people.
  • Spiritual ~ meditating, writing, being out in nature
  • Environmental ~ I have room to grow here, but I am getting better at keeping my spaces tidy and nice to be in.
  • Social ~ volunteerism, time with friends, trying new activities
  • Occupational ~ I really love my work, and I have gotten better at identifying my ideal people to work with. I am learning to say no to projects or timings that are wrong for me or when I am overbooked – still a work in progress there.
  • Financial ~ budgeting with YNAB. Don’t get me started. This budgeting app saved my booty when I was going through divorce. I use it daily and know pretty clearly what is going on with my money and am aces at planning, saving and using money as a tool for fun/good.

When I lose my way, which happens to us all from time to time, things start to spiral and feel really stressful. So, just like with meditation, I notice it and get back to basics, do the things I know work for me and be nice to myself in the process. No judgement.

Q 4: What do you need in order to upgrade your personal wellness habits and create a healthier lifestyle for yourself?

Barbara:

  • I’m still working on my relationship with food and stress/emotional eating.
  • I have some chronic hip, low back issues that date way back to childbirth. I could probably use some help finding and strengthening muscles related to that.
  • As I mentioned above the new meds re: breast cancer basically bring on menopause symptoms like hot flashes and fatigue, which is awesome because I am the perfect age for menopause already. I know I still am processing some grief about this and feeling like my body is not getting to go through this change on its own schedule. But it’s also a choice I am making and I would love help about managing symptoms (which doesn’t include getting a little battery powered fan to carry with me. I literally read this online. ).

    Three months into the post breast cancer meds and I’ve had  a major mind shift.  It’s scary to have to take a med that affects your hormones. You’re afraid its going to change you and I was particularly afraid of suddenly getting old and not being myself. But. What I’ve come to realize is that most of what I was afraid of or was telling myself was happening simply isn’t true.

    I’ve been on the full dose of tamoxifen for just over six months and things have really leveled out. My hormonal highs and lows are less extreme. I’ll take it. Hot flashes etc are no worse than they were before I started. I get them very occasionally and I avoid what sets them off (alcohol, very spicy, too much caffeine). I am about as strong and healthy as I have ever been. So much for poofing into a wizened old apple of a granny (may we all live long enough to be one)! By the way, tamoxifen lowers cholesterol, prevents osteoporosis, oh and helps me not have breast cancer again. I’ll take it.

Q 5: Every day we make choices that either build up or tear down our physical, mental, and emotional health. This is particularly true when we have a personal crisis. How have your wellness habits affected you during a time of crisis?

Barbara: I really learned the power of prioritizing myself while going through divorce. I learned how essential the right support network can be.

I began practicing mediation. Loving kindness and breathing changed my brain in so many ways. I learned how necessary it is to me to get outside for an hour each day no matter what (and now I love running in rain, snow or sun). I know when I am struggling I can reach out to friends, family, my therapist, my dog and ask for help and support. I learned how much having my own hobbies, interests and friends made me a happier person. I also learned to value myself, love my body and talk to myself like someone who loves me.

All those learnings were hard won, but I practice regularly and come back to it when there’s a crisis. All my habits and practices have really been put to the test in the last year, but they keep on working for me. Do I execute perfectly? Hell no. But I know now that doing my best can look different every day.

Zoa’s Wellness Guidance

Barbara stated her three needs quite clearly above in Question 4. Let’s address each one in turn.

Chronic Low Back and Hip Pain

Chronic pain ranges from mildly annoying to debilitating, depending on the day, the person, and the source. I suggest two simultaneous approaches here:

  1. Barbara needs easy to use pain relief tools on the days she feels suboptimal that will support her business’ creative work. She could take a break and enjoy the heat from an infrared sauna. While she works or during a break, gentle fascial movement and use of the fascia stimulating props will make her more comfortable while sitting at the computer. Ensuring that her diet includes an optimal amount of magnesium daily will help reduce Barbara’s overall pain levels.
  2. To deal with the source of her pain, Barbara will want to work on correcting alignment and unbalanced strength/flexibility issues in the abdominal/hip/pelvic floor/low back areas. Carefully selected Pilates exercises to strengthen core muscles and to balance the muscle tension around the joints will make huge differences for preventing Barbara’s low back and hip pain.

    Pregnancy and childbirth are stressful times in a woman’s life and the physical recovery from that time period is underemphasized by too many pre/postnatal caregivers. My specialty training in childbirth and pelvic floor/diastasis recti corrective exercises enables me to observe, guide, train, and educate my clients dealing with pregnancy/birth related issues.

Stop Stress/Emotional Eating

Stress management and emotional self care vary so much from person to person however it is possible to shift from comfort foods to other comforting activities. The hardest part here is recognizing that you are eating because of stress/emotions rather than true hunger.

  1. Barbara already meditates but stress requires that we satisfy the demands of multiple different parts of our brain. Touch can really help; if a massage is not an option in the moment, doing some self fascial release can be amazing.
  2. For some people, chewing gum (with peelu, xylitol, or other beneficial elements) or crunchy things like carrots and celery will occupy the mouth so the need to eat is decreased. For others, identifying foods that please your mind without making you feel poorly later is key. Perhaps Barbara begins destressing by heading outside for a few minutes in nature with a cup of tea and something crunchy/salty like celery sticks with cream cheese and kelp. She can follow that by curling up with a book and a broken off piece of very dark chocolate on a beautiful plate so her mind can wander off into another world.

Handling Menopause Symptoms

Hot flashes, fatigue, and more symptoms make menopause unwelcome for many women. While Barbara is dealing with combined menopause and the effects of her breast cancer prevention plan, I want to encourage her to feel as good as possible.

  1. Plant medicine in the form of essential oils provide support for your entire body as hormone levels shift constantly. Clary Sage, Peppermint, and Bergamot can be particularly helpful as they support female hormone production, cool the body, and aid in creating emotional balance. By adding a diffuser to her work space, both Barbara and her business could thrive!
  2. Red/Infrared Light Therapy would be boon on days when Barbara’s fatigue is more limiting than she would like. For many people, the mitochondrial stimulation provided by a high quality red light system boosts your energy level both in the moment and for the rest of the day. The other huge benefit that red light therapy offers is the health improvement on the cellular level to prevent cancer.

How to Work with Zoa

If you would like to receive personalized advice and guidance about how to improve your own wellness lifestyle, I would love to meet you. During your Free New Client Wellness Consultation, you will get to tell me your story and hear how I can help you. We all need help at times in our lives. Is now the time for you to focus on leveling up your wellness practices?

If you are inspired to share your story and receive wellness suggestions from me, I invite you to answer my 5 wellness lifestyle questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

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