Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, overcoming adversity

What Do You Focus On When Facing Adversity?

We’ve all heard about the fight or flight response and we see how it applies in our life during times of stress. It’s one of those things that is second nature and our body just responds as a means of survival. What would happen if you could choose what you focus on when facing adversity such as a chronic or life-threatening illness?

Robin Roberts, the cohost of Good Morning America faced breast cancer a few years ago and as a result of the treatment was diagnosed with MDS (Myelodysplastic syndrome), where the bone marrow doesn’t make enough healthy cells for a person to survive. Her doctors told her that the only way to cure the MDS was to have a bone marrow transplant. It’s a long and difficult treatment protocol and starts with finding a donor.

In Roberts book, Everybody’s Got Something, she shared lots of stories about words of encourage and support she received from current and former colleagues. Chris Cuomo, who has since moved to CNN, told Robin, “Focus on the fight, not the fright”. Those were magical words and as told in her book she chose to focus on the fight. Currently, Roberts is strong, healthy, and an inspiration to many facing challenges in their lives.

How do you choose to focus on the fight and not the fright? It takes practice. It requires that you understand that fear and anxiety will naturally arise when faced with a health challenge, but the real test comes when you have to decide what will drive your internal engine. What will you consciously choose to motivate you or move you to action as you go through treatment or face some other aspect of the health and healing journey?

When you choose to focus on the fright your decisions are often made by emotionally charged energy. It’s limited in its ability to understand all the alternatives and options available for providing the best outcome. You may move on what may give immediate relief when selecting an option that would provide long-range relief or healing is a better choice.

It’s important to look at how you’ve made important decisions in the past. Are you driven by emotion and immediate gratification or do you weight the pros and cons and ask lots of questions allowing you to make informed decisions. There are times when the emotional decision and the informed consent decision will be the same, but that’s likely to be the exception, not the rule.

Focusing on the fight puts you in the driver’s seat. It gives you a sense of control over your own health and healing process.   You limit your sense of victimhood when you focus on the fight.   I believe phrasing it as focusing on the fight is mainly used because it rhymes with fright. You could equally say, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” The idea is to stay away from what from what cripples you emotionally or spiritually, and pay attention to those things that nourish and invigorate your body, mind, and spirit.

How will you choose to focus on the fight and not the fright? What can you do today to short circuit the fright? For education, inspiration, and support when facing a health challenge visit,

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