Sunday, January 21, 2018

Emerge Stronger

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

You can gain mental and physical strength, even during times of crisis. Here’s how to power through …

As a society, much time is dedicated to physical health. Healthy weight, healthy skin, stronger abs, lower cholesterol. However, there is a key element essential to our physical health: mental strength. Without it, physical fitness and wellness goals—and all other ambitions—are impossible.

Brain Building

Everyone has an unlimited capacity to strengthen their mental muscle. Just like a workout on the Fitness Floor, you need to train your brain. You can regulate your thoughts, managing emotions, and respond to circumstances in productive ways. A healthy lifestyle, with healthy thought conditioning, lends itself to improved mental functioning. Fitness builds confidence and releases uplifting hormones, improves thinking skills and decision making, and increases energy. All these are needed to advance our mental strength.

Our diet affects our mental health as well. Just as we eat for weight loss or improved blood sugar, we can eat to help sustain a better mood. Replace junk food with brain-building nutrition and enhance your mental strength.

A personal trainer has expert insight on the best ways to sculpt a bicep or increase range-of-motion. A behavioral therapist offers equivalent mental training. You can learn how to advance your thought process beyond negative habits and personal weaknesses. Train your brain to strengthen your brilliance, and eliminate those weaknesses that make you want to hide under a blanket and avoid opportunities to grow (otherwise known as tough times).

Mental strength is harder to muster at different times in life. A shoulder injury can set back your ability to bench press. A bout of depression can do the same in your training for improved mental health. However, the ability to persevere can be the difference between full-body muscular atrophy and a small area to be worked after healing. Resilience can help rebound from the depression versus allow it to render you hopeless.

When Life Gives You Cancer

Michelle (right) with trainer Paulette.

You can still emerge stronger. One member’s story reflects the ability to power through, even after feeling betrayed by her body. Michelle was diagnosed with cancer at 35 years old. Her life was suddenly filled with months of physician visits and chemotherapy.

A schedule jammed with medical appointments did not leave time for her regular workouts. Michelle felt her muscle mass diminish as her body grew weaker. Refusing to become a victim to her condition, she joined the Center’s Cancer Wellness Program. One brave step led to the positivity needed to grow stronger—mentally and physically.

“During cancer treatment, this program reminded me my body was still good, strong, and capable of healthy things,” informs Michelle.

Michelle’s proactive response to growing weak would be considered a defining moment by behavioral experts. Mental strength allowed her to acknowledge fears, recognize the effects of her illness, and act positively. She did not resort to avoidance or a stoic façade, which would lead to suppressed, unmanaged emotions.

“I am grateful for this program. I doubt many can say they finished chemotherapy stronger than when they started. I can. I gained muscle mass and kept my sanity. That is priceless.” she emphasizes.

While healing her body from the harshness of cancer, Michelle remained accountable to herself. She had medical support from healthcare experts as well as the emotional support offered by her personal trainer, Paulette. “This helped me leave the house on days I may not have otherwise. It allowed me to laugh and make new friends,” she acknowledges.

Be your own hero.

“During cancer treatment, most appointments are filled with doctors and nurses reviewing your symptoms, and poking and prodding. My Cancer Wellness appointments at the Center only focused on what was good.”

Did Michelle plow through effortlessly? No way. However, her rough days were met with compassion, a response she learned from her trainer, along with the other strengthening exercises she practiced. The result: Michelle felt like a superstar, not a victim. Talk about strength!

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