Fighting cancer is a battle on many fronts. Not only is your body physically fighting the disease and the treatment side effects, your emotions are heightened. You might be feeling scared, nervous, depressed or too tired to even figure out how you feel. No matter how your treatment is going, you are bound to have a large amount of stress and anxiety. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress and cancer treatment is paramount to your mental and physical health. In fact, the National Cancer Institute notes that cancer patients with healthy coping skills during treatment have been found to have lower levels of depression and anxiety, and even a lower incidence of symptoms.
In order to keep your sanity and keep yourself as healthy as possible, managing your stress and cancer treatment is a valid part of your plan. However, each patient responds to different coping skills uniquely. If you aren’t quite sure how to start your relaxation, take a deep breath and consider trying a few of these tips.
Depression is a real concern during cancer treatment, and can be aggravated by social isolation. While you may not feel well enough to keep up with a busy social calendar, resist the urge to stay at home alone for the duration of your treatment. Instead, find a core group of close family and friends who can stop by for short visits to keep you connected and encouraged. Invite your book club to your home, or watch a favorite television show curled up on the couch with your best friend. Peer support and connected friendships will be a source of love and light for you during this stressful time.
The American Journal of Public Health published a review highlighting the connection between creative outlets and health, according to which, there is certainly a case to be made for the positive effects of any type of artistic expression and healing for chronic and acute conditions. Even if you don’t fancy yourself an artist, anyone of any creative ability can benefit from the artistic process. Try painting, singing, crocheting, journaling, drawing mandalas or even coloring. The stress relief isn’t found in the finished product, but in the escape of the process. You can look forward to enjoying a task that you can control the outcome to, and a process that isn’t dictated by cancer. At a time when everything in your life revolves around your treatment, having time away from the disease can be precious.
Remaining calm in the face of anxiety can reduce your stress level. Experiment with listening to mindfulness or meditation podcasts or recordings, take a breathing class, pray or try a modified version of yoga that best suits your current abilities. These practices connect you to the moment and to your breath, giving you respites of peace even in the midst of nervousness.
Your body needs all the help it can get for enduring your treatment schedule. Be sure you’re giving your mind and emotional state a break from all the stress of cancer by actively working on calming practices.
UVA offers psychologists, social workers and patient navigators who can connect you with support groups and other resources.Learn More