The diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing event, accompanied by much stress. But, unmanaged emotions can worsen an oncology patient’s prognosis. So, what should one do to manage the stress that occurs with cancer? Follow on for Cancer: 5 of the Best Techniques to Manage Stress Levels.
1. Maintain Control of Your Schedule
With cancer comes exhaustion. Whether it be from chemo, radiation, or the disease itself, cancer patients find themselves drained of energy. Appointments can be taxing – it’s important to schedule your doctor visits when it works best for you. This can help you maintain a proper sleep schedule, and maximize your time with loved ones. Doing so will not only strengthen your sense of autonomy, but significantly lessen your level of stress.
2. Keep Exercising
As I’ve described in my previous articles, exercise is an essential part of keeping in good health; and cancer patients are no exception. Not only does exercise have a symbiotic relationship with cancer treatment, but it’s also well known to have stress-lowering effects.
Stress is known to increase cortisol, the hormone released when your natural instincts go into fight-or-flight mode. Luckily, exercise can be used as a tool to help your body develop a healthy relationship with cortisol, while also helping your immune, digestive and cardiovascular systems.
It’s recommended to aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (such as running, or any cardio activity) each day to benefit from its stress-reducing effects.
3. Keep a Healthy Diet
Not only are antioxidants known to decrease cancer risk, an antioxidant-rich diet can also be beneficial in managing cancer-related stress. Antioxidants are those substances that work against free-radicals (chemicals related to stress at the cellular level which, in excess, can lead to cancer and other chronic diseases).
The more antioxidants in your diet, the less stress you’re likely to experience. Some examples of antioxidant-rich foods are dark chocolate, goji berries, kale, spinach, and beans. There are so many colourful recipes to incorporate these ingredients into too!
4. Join a Support Group
While friends and family mean well, having people that can relate to you and your diagnosis is extremely helpful. Socialization in general is known to improve general well-being and lower stress, but support groups can be especially helpful to work through challenging emotions and develop healthy coping tactics. If you are unsure where to start in your hunt for the right group, speak with your Social Worker.
5. Practice Meditation
Meditation has gained a lot of popularity as of late, and for good reason! In addition to its immune-boosting, blood-pressure lowering, and pulse-slowing effects, meditation is perhaps best known for its ability to relieve stress.
It does this by de-cluttering thoughts, creating a deep sense of relaxation and tranquillity. Even adding a 5-10 minute meditation into your daily routine can produce immense benefits to your level of stress.
In my nursing practice, I’ve seen patients become visibly less stressed when using the meditative music our facility provides, midst receiving treatment.
We encourage you to try the quick meditation linked above and let us know what you think!