Emotions of Cancer
Cancer and Stress
Living with cancer is an extremely stressful experience to go thorough. With the added challenges of the changes to family life, work, treatments and financial concerns, it is no wonder why the experience of cancer is stressful. While stress does not cause cancer, those living with cancer who experience chronic stress may find that their immune system is weakened by it, causing further health concerns, so it is important to reduce stress as much as possible.
How to reduce stress
It is important to reduce “stressors” – the cause of stress – from your everyday life. Small changes in your daily schedule can help to do this.
- Ensure that you do not surpass your physical and mental limits. It is okay to politely decline a request that somebody puts onto you. If you do not have time, interest or the energy to complete the task do not push yourself, this will cause you to burn out.
- Make sure you ask for help. Your family and friends are likely to support you in any situation, so don’t be shy to ask for help with small tasks like food shopping or help getting to and from appointments.
- Prioritize your schedule. Make a list of everything that you need to accomplish in a day, week or month. Use this list to ensure that you prioritize what needs to get done, and what can wait. It is important not to overfill your days and take your time completing tasks.
- If you are concerned that your schedule is too full, try breaking large tasks into smaller, more manageable sized tasks. For example, if you have a lot of errands to run, perhaps prioritize the most important one or two, and save the rest for another day. This will help to preserve your energy.
- Seek help for your financial concerns. Consider speaking to an oncology social worker. They have a vast array of knowledge on how to get help with your financials in this particular situation. In order to reduce stress, you should do this straight away to get on top of things.
While you cannot control everything in your life, you can control your reaction to things that are out of your control. By learning stress management techniques, you will equip yourself with the tools needed to lower your stress levels and feel more in control of a situation. Try the following:
- Make sure you spend time with your family and friends. They can help take your mind off of things. Remember, laughter is the best medicine!
- Head outdoors! No matter where you are, spending time outdoors has proven to help lower levels of anxiety, stress and depression, so head outside and breathe in some fresh air!
- Make exercise a priority. After getting the okay from your doctor, try moderate exercise such as light walking to help clear your mind – and if you walk around the block, your killing two stress birds with one stone!
- Sleep! Sleep is one of the most important things that you can do for your body, so make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. If you are suffering from sleep difficulties, speak to your doctor sooner rather than later.
- Eat! A healthy, well balanced diet can do wonders for your body. Not only will you feel better for it, you will have enough energy to focus on the more important things in your life.
- Do things that you love! Make time in your week to do something that you love. Head to a café with a friend, buy a new book, curl up and watch a movie – whatever it is that makes you feel as relaxed as you can.
- Seek support. There are countless support groups to help individuals on their journey with cancer. By finding support from those with experience, you can make connections and help support one another.
Techniques for relaxation
By actively engaging in relaxation techniques, you can lower your levels of stress whilst boosting your overall mental health at the same time. Ask your oncology team, counselor or mental health specialist about how to practice mindfulness and everyday relaxation techniques more fully. Some of these techniques can include:
- Deep breathing that involves actively guiding the breath into your lungs and back out, relaxing your mind and your muscles.
- Meditation – guided or not – can help take you out of your physical space and into a sense of inner calm. Try pairing meditation with mental visualization for full effect.
- The technique of progressive muscle relaxation is the thoughtful process of tightening your muscles one at a time, often moving up the body from your toes, and releasing them one by one. This helps to actively focus on every muscle in your body for full relaxation.
- Yoga is a well known practice that has proven benefits to both the body and the mind. It focuses on breathing and overall body posture to help find inner peace and calm.
By practicing one or more of these techniques at times of high stress, such as during treatment, you will be able to lower your body’s levels of stress and be able to become more in control of your mind and body.