The journey of a cancer patient can be turbulent and emotionally draining. Treatments can sap your energy and fear can bring on depression and despair. While you are focusing on your physical well-being, it’s easy to forget that your mind and spirit need care and nourishment, too. It’s time to take care of your inner self.
Taking Time to Care for Yourself
Cancer diagnosis and treatment bring a lot of stress. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is bad for your body as well as your mind. It can even exacerbate existing health problems. How can you combat this? By taking the time you need for self-care. Here’s how you can reduce your stress:
- Get enough rest.
Make sure you are sleeping well and relaxing as often as you can. Talk to your doctor if you need help sleeping.
- Proper nutrition.
Eating healthy doesn’t require a lot of hard work. Simply minimize unhealthy fats, sugars, and bad carbs and increase your intake of fruits and vegetable. You can also work with your medical team to create a nutritional therapy plan that supports your treatment. In 2019, many Medicare Advantage plans added coverage for nutritionists, so if you’re enrolled in one, check your policy to see if this specialist is covered.
- Exercise, if allowed.
Again, you’ll need to ask your doctor, but the right exercise in proper amounts can actually give you more energy. It can also help you sleep better at night.
- Go outdoors.
The benefits of nature on health and wellness have been clearly researched. According to the American Public Health Association, “access to nature has been related to lower levels of mortality and illness … restoration from stress, a greater sense of well-being…” Simply being around nature, even in your own yard, can have benefits.
- Get enough rest.
Work On Your Spiritual Wellness
A 2015 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer suggested that religion and spirituality are associated with better physical health as reported by the cancer patients themselves. If you’re not particularly religious or you are experiencing doubt in your spiritual walk, here are some ways to improve your spiritual wellness:
- Speak with an experienced member of your faith or its clergy, or a faith-based counselor.
- Meditate with deep-breathing exercises or pray regularly.
- Journal your feelings or create a daily list of things you are grateful for.
- Join a cancer support group to get much-needed community and emotional support.
Minimizing Stressful Treatment Difficulties
Cancer treatment itself can be taxing on the body and pose other stress-inducing problems. Address these as soon as possible.
- Managing Side Effects
Speak to your doctor or medical team right away if you are feeling unpleasant symptoms, pain or discomfort that you were not expecting after a treatment. For example, “chemo brain,” which is when your brain feels cloudy or fogging after a chemotherapy treatment, is not uncommon. However, if it continues and worsens, tell your doctor right away. Exercise and cognitive treatments can relieve this issue.
Finally, be sure that you know the side effects of the drug. Talk to your doctor if anything you are experiencing is causing you undue stress.
- Preventing Opioid Addiction
Pain treatment may be a necessary part of your treatment, but you shouldn’t fear opioid addiction. Write down any questions and discuss your concerns with your doctor. Make sure to tell your health team if you or someone in your family has a history of substance abuse or addiction.
Once your doctor has given you a script, be sure to fill and take it only as directed. Keep it safely stored away from anyone else in your family and never share your prescription. When you are done with the prescription, find out locally how to safely dispose of the drug.
If your pain is not reduced, your doctor may need to change your prescription or adjust your dosage.
During cancer treatment, you need to care for yourself. Tending to your spiritual well-being and managing stress can support your journey to health.