4 Strategies to Ease Stress During Cancer Treatments
After diagnosis, many people experience feelings of overwhelming stress. In fact, about 40% of people with cancer experience moderate to severe anxiety. To ease the stress during cancer treatments, you may find it helpful to think about your treatment as a journey rather than a series of events. This outlook can help you look forward to what your future holds rather than focus on the unknowns surrounding your current situation. But stress that persists for long periods or increases continually can be harmful and even dangerous to our mental health and well-being. Stress from an illness can also cause unnecessary worries and fears that can further increase stress levels. Here are some helpful strategies for dealing with stress during treatment:
It’s important to stay informed about your condition, treatment options, and results of any tests so you know what’s happening and why. You may also want to read up on other people’s experiences with cancer to get a better sense of what others are going through. Research studies and articles on the internet can provide valuable information, but be careful about what you read and how you interpret the information. Talk to your doctor or get advice from a patient support group, if one exists in your area. Ask if you can record or take notes while you visit with your doctor. When you meet with your oncologist, make a note of what you discussed so you can refer to it later.
Physical exercise has many health benefits, including helping to relieve stress. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly tend to have lower levels of stress hormones and are less likely to develop stress-related health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. Exercising regularly can help improve your mood and also increase your sense of well-being. You may want to try yoga, tai chi, gentle walking, swimming, or other activities that make you feel calm and relaxed while you’re doing them. If you’re especially stressed out, you can incorporate a breathing exercise or meditation into your routine. Make sure to schedule regular exercise into your daily routine so it doesn’t become a “stressed-out” activity. Incorporating it into your routine will make it less stressful and help you stay healthier and in better shape.
Learn relaxation techniques
Practicing simple relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, can help you lower your stress levels. In addition to lowering blood pressure, maintaining a regular breathing pattern has been shown to help boost immunity and reduce stress. There are many relaxation techniques for different moods and feelings. Try one that is calming and that feels right for you, or experiment with several until you find one that works best for you. Consider getting a quality meditation audio or book that you can use to focus your mind and relax. You can also use relaxation exercises like massage or imagery to relax and soothe your body. Additionally, Avoid using alcohol or other drugs to induce relaxation as this will only make you feel more anxious.
Eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest
A healthy diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat protein-rich foods, can help to calm your digestive system and reduce stress in your body. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help to reduce stress due to the extra pressure on your body if you are significantly overweight or underweight. Maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging during cancer treatment, especially during the treatment-related changes to your body that cause feelings of anxiety and loss of control. It’s important to find ways to address these feelings and improve your mood, such as eating a healthy meal or snacks that are low in sugar and high in nutrients. It is also important to get enough sleep so that you are not experiencing any mood changes as a result of lack of sleep.
Negotiate with loved ones
Try to negotiate with your loved ones rather than accepting “no’s” and “not nows” as your only options. You may be pleasantly surprised by the ease at which you can agree with a loved one who is unwilling to help you with a financial or other commitment. While cancer treatments can be expensive, some treatments may be covered by Medicare or other health insurance plans. Keep in mind that the earlier you begin treatment, the less expensive it will be. Also, it’s important to remember that there may be other benefits, aside from financial assistance, to choosing treatment earlier.
Do something you enjoy regularly
Spending time with friends and family can help to relieve stress and improve your mood. If you have children, try to spend time with them even if they’re not feeling well. Children may be particularly affected by your mood and the way you interact with them. Try to be patient with yourself and try not to judge how you feel. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages or eating sugary snacks, which can make you feel particularly stressed out. Try to avoid bringing your stress home with you by taking a few minutes to ground yourself in the present and refocus on something, like a photo, your surroundings, or a favorite object. Try to center yourself so that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and so that you can better enjoy your time with your friends and family.
Help others by volunteering or donating your time
A cancer diagnosis can often feel like a huge burden that you must carry alone. You may want to volunteer at a local hospital or help an elderly neighbor by walking them to the grocery store. These “little” acts of kindness can provide much-needed support and help to a friend or family member who is facing a difficult situation. Volunteering or donating your time to an organization that helps others can also help to relieve some of the stress you may experience as you try to balance work and family responsibilities. Being active physically, participating in a social activity, or doing something hands-on with your hands can provide a sense of accomplishment and help to keep you grounded at the moment.
These may not seem like the most glamorous things to do while you’re going through cancer treatment, but they can help you to relax and stay focused while you’re sick.