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5 Tips To Reduce Stress As A Cancer Patient

Publication: Austin Medical Times, Houston Medical Times

What’s going to happen to me? How can I manage all these appointments? How can I keep up with so many medications? Your mind is racing with questions, and facing all of the unknowns that come with cancer is understandably stressful. From diagnosis to prognosis, cancer patients experience a whirlwind of emotions and face an overwhelming number of decisions regarding their treatment journey. 

Adding to the stress, cancer patients often worry more about the wellbeing of their loved ones than themselves. In time, mental stress can negatively impact a patient’s physical health.

While excessive stress is detrimental to everyone, it presents additional challenges for those who are immunocompromised, such as cancer patients. So how can patients make themselves a top priority and reduce stress while battling cancer? 

Here are five ways to help reduce stress as a cancer patient.

Lean on others.

You are not alone in your cancer journey. Asking for and receiving help will benefit you as well as your inner circle of friends and family who want to support you. Indeed, the entire cancer community is committed to patient support. Whether they are fellow cancer patients, survivors, or healthcare workers, a community of support is available to you in your fight to beat cancer. 

Seek out a support group. Research patient advocacy organizations to join. You will discover that not only do these groups provide you a safe space, but you are also likely to find a lifelong friend in the process of getting involved. 

Take it easy.

Taking it easy is not always easy, especially for people who are used to caring for others. However, it is not impossible. Keep things simple and take your schedule day by day or week by week. Avoid added stressors by sticking with your top priorities to create a routine that best resembles your new version of ‘normal.’ Enjoy the freedom of editing out unnecessary activities and commitments.

The internet is not your physician.

It’s no surprise the first thing patients want to do is start searching the web for more information, but take care to avoid going down internet rabbit holes that lead to more fear and added stress. Rely on your cancer care team to answer any questions you may have. They will be straightforward and honest, and will provide you with expert advice rooted in science and medicine and balanced by experience – not algorithms that don’t take the individual into account.

Breathe. Stretch. Walk. Meditate. 

Sometimes worrying about the big things can make patients forget the little things when it comes to health, even when their bodies are fighting an epic battle. The simplest activities – including deep breathing, stretching, walking, and meditating – are beneficial as stress relievers and improve overall physical health. 

Even if you’re too exhausted to do much beyond getting out of bed, simply taking one to five minutes to quietly observe the cadence and depth of your own breath, the sound of wind through the trees, or the pattern of light through the clouds can serve as a moment to release tension and not let stress get the best of you. 

Realize remission.

Some patients may be in disbelief when hearing they are in remission. Rather than embracing the positive, a fear of recurrence or other worst-case scenarios can cause stress and anxiety. You may be surprised to suddenly find yourself experiencing negative emotions when the news is good. Some feel guilty, because they can’t help but think of others who don’t have a similar outcome. Others have been holding in so many emotions that come flooding out once the treatment is concluded. After the ordeal of treatment, some patients simply have difficulty accepting their new reality and feel that somehow remission is too-good-to-be-true.

Fortunately, there are tools available to patients to learn to cope with being in remission, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), designed to help patients reduce the severity of their fear of recurrence. Cancer patients in remission have reason to celebrate and realize their outcome for what it is – hope for the future.

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