For most people, a diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing event that commonly evokes feelings of shock, fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, and stress. The diagnosis is just the beginning of a challenging journey in which patients and loved ones find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Furthermore, many people who have survived cancer and completed their treatment are afraid their cancer will return, which causes ongoing stress. Every person has slightly different coping mechanisms they develop to deal with the roller coaster of emotions. Typically, people approach problems by actively working on them or by brushing them aside. The first tactic works better and is healthier, even though it may feel overwhelming at times to deal with emotions.
Stress Coping Tips During Treatments
Acknowledge The Need for Support: You may feel alone and find it difficult to communicate with people in your life during this time. Do not be afraid to acknowledge the need for outside emotional support. Local cancer support groups can be very helpful for those who are willing to share feelings in a group environment. In addition, you may find it very stressful to juggle everything in your life during this time. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help with housework, cooking, shopping, and transportation to your doctors’ appointments.
Seek Financial Assistance: The costs associated with cancer treatment and follow-up care can be a financial strain for some people and their families, even with health insurance. If you are uninsured or unemployed, paying for treatment may add to your stress.
Most hospitals and treatment centers have financial counselors and patient navigators. They can assist with the details of insurance paperwork and give you an estimate of your treatment cost. In addition, there are national organizations that offer financial assistance for cancer medications and care, as well as local groups that offer financial help for practical things like transportation, food, and childcare. Ask your physician or hospital for a list of these organizations.
Explore Your Feelings: Allow yourself to feel grief over the diagnosis – crying is normal, unless it leads to serious depression. The feelings of despair and not being in control of your body can be long term and intense. However, working through your feelings is usually better than lashing out at those around you unexpectedly. Journaling can be a highly therapeutic way of dealing with stress and anxiety during treatment.
Go to Counseling: Mind-body therapists can help you individually or you can go with family members. Counseling empowers patients to tap into their inner strengths and explore ways to enjoy life despite a cancer diagnosis. This can be a good option for more reserved people who don’t feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with strangers in a support group setting.
Practice Integrative Therapies: A combination of therapies can help you and your caregivers manage stress. These include massage therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and acupuncture.
Engage in Gentle Exercise: Gentle exercise during treatment, such as walking, swimming, or yoga can help ease cancer-related stress and the mental and physical effects of chemotherapy. Try to exercise moderately at least 30 minutes a day.
Try Relaxation Techniques: You can learn these techniques in one or two sessions, either one-on-one with an instructor or in group classes. Among the techniques that can help alleviate stress are relaxed or deep breathing, mental imagery or visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and biofeedback.
Of course, these are just a few techniques, what are some tips you’ve used to successfully manage stress while undergoing cancer treatment?