Here’s a real shocker: life is stressful. When you add in a cancer diagnosis and going through treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, this is sure to make anyone’s stress level skyrocket. During these times, stress is completely normal. However, there are some tricks you can try to ease your anxieties and figure out how to cope during such a difficult time. In other words, here are our top tips to manage stress during cancer treatment.
Method 1: Be Prepared
One method to nipping any stressors in the bud is to identify them before they start feeling larger than life. We’ve included a list below to help you map out your stresses and daily to-dos.
Step 1: Do Your Research
The first thing you'll want to do is to figure out exactly what's going on; knowledge is power, and there's nothing more stressful than the unknown. Research what you should expect from your cancer treatments, and be sure to ask your doctor any questions you might have.
Step 2: Gather Your Toolkit
Every great start begins with having the right supplies. The type of supplies you need completely depend on the individual’s choice.
- Love jotting down notes? A planner should be your go-to! We recommend going with one that offers plenty of blank pages for notes and large spaces for jotting down plans for each day. Add colorful pens into the mix for an even more in-depth planning experience. If you’re a creative type, you may enjoy bullet journaling. This method of journaling involves purchasing a bullet journal, which is basically a grid of dots on each page, allowing you to design your own pages. Some pages you may choose to create are how many treatments remain, books you wish to read during chemo, or a page dedicated to things you are grateful for.
- For the cybernauts out there, an online planner, calendar, or list app will be right up your alley! The majority of people have their phones within arm’s reach 24/7. Check out your app store for a highly rated app that offers many options, such as being able to make list, plan out your days, give you reminders, etc. Many online calendars allow you to streamline the information you input to multiple devices. This is a wonderful option if you have someone driving or accompanying you to appointments or chemo, as you can share your calendar with them or vice versa.
- If you expect to experience hair loss, pick up a couple hats to cover your head. This is a great way to regain some control over the situation. We recommend getting at least two hats: one to wear at night, and one to wear during the day.
Step 3: Be aware of your limits
Chemotherapy and different medications may take a lot of out of you. Going in aware of this allows you to plan more readily and not overdo it. Know that you may not be able to handle as many tasks as you usually do, and make plans accordingly.
Method 2: Prioritize Your Tasks
Sometimes we have so much on our plate, we have to prioritize it all. For larger, daunting errands, we recommend breaking them down into smaller, more doable tasks. This allows you to complete a task in steps rather than feeling overwhelmed. Knocking out the bigger tasks first is another way to make your workload feel less scary.
Method 3: Don't be afraid to ask for help
Have an important task of your list but can’t find the time or not feeling up to it? It’s ok to drop a line asking for assistance! Doing so does not make you seem weak or lazy, it only shows your determination to get something done.
Method 4: Find an Outlet to Manage Stress During Cancer
You’ve planned your day and everything is going according to plan - until it isn’t. Your car has a flat tire, you forgot about a doctor’s appointment, and so on and so forth. You begin to feel your stress levels rising. Dealing with cancer and the ongoing treatment is bad enough; now this just feels like icing on the worst tasting cake ever. Where do you go from here?
The first step is to forgive yourself and create a plan of action. Things happen. A tire can be repaired or replaced, doctor’s appointments can be rescheduled. Even the most diligent and organized planner can have a bad day.
The next step is to find what helps you cope. Cancer and chemotherapy may be taking a toll on your emotional and physical health but it needn’t stop you from living.
Below are some ideas for ways to decompress when life gets a little too crazy:
Take a deep breath
Even just taking a breath to ground yourself is a great way to release to stress.
Working your muscles is a known stress reliever as it releases endorphins and adds a sense of accomplishment while working to effectively clear your mind.
Take a walk in the great outdoors. Being amongst nature is a wonderful way to put your worries aside and just….be. Find a tree to sit under, bird watch, take your dog for a walk. Bonus points if you leave your phone at home.
Attend social activities
Don’t shut yourself off from the world. Keep up with friends and family, plan game nights, etc. Going out gives you the opportunity to catch up with people who care and focus your energy on something positive and fun.
Take up a new hobby
Finding a new hobby and dedicating time to it in your downtime or when you get stressed is an ideal way to decompress. Using your time to create or hone a new skill is never time wasted! Activities like coloring and knitting are great stress relievers.
Schedule a time to relax
Interestingly enough, some people do not know how to relax. This is not necessarily a bad thing - Go-getter types thrive on a sense of accomplishment and see downtime as a waste. We recommend teaching yourself how to sit back and read a book or watch TV without seeing as time wasted. Your body is being put through the ringer right now - A bit of time off your feet may be just what the doctor ordered!
Keep a journal
Have we mentioned journaling already? Well, it’s worth mentioning again. This time, we’re delving more into the act of writing itself. Writing works as a release. Write about your day, list things stressing you out, or just draw a picture. Sometimes jotting these thoughts out helps us decode why we’re upset.
Undergoing treatment for cancer can leave a person feeling stressed, uncertain, and overall scared. We sincerely hope these tips help you find the right coping mechanisms for you to feel more relaxed. What helps you feel better when you’re stressed out? Let us know in the comments below!