“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.”

Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962

One of the most common frustrations my clients talk about is the lack of energy and inability to do as much as they used to prior to their cancer diagnosis. The tiredness and lack of energy is part of the illness, and may also be the effects of treatment which are both unavoidable. This frustration often leads to stress and anger at themselves which can be overwhelming.

What do I suggest my clients do when they feel this way?

First, listen to your body. Start with small tasks and aim to do one thing at a time. It is important to take breaks in between and tune in to how you are feeling. If you notice that you are feeling tired, take the time to stop and rest. Pushing yourself will only make you feel more tired and frustrated with yourself. This can lead to increased levels of stress hormones in your body which dampen immune function – the system in your body that helps you fight diseases and heal.

Secondly, go softly, go lightly. Imagine a loved one is not feeling well, would you treat them harshly or would you treat them with kindness and softness. You are no exception. Breathe kindness and care into your feelings of tiredness, frustration and inability to perform tasks. It’s okay to feel tired and not to accomplish everything on your list. There is no rule that says everything must be done so quickly or so soon.

When you are holding things tightly and rigidly, you notice, you become worked up and stressed. By reframing and seeing things in a different light, where things are softer, brighter, more tender and gentler, it helps you get a different perspective on things.

Holding things lightly does not make the challenges go away but it helps you cope with them in a lighter, kinder and a more compassionate way.

I end with the rest of Aldous Huxley’s quote:

“… Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…”

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