(Editor’s Note: LUNGevity is one of our esteemed partners. This leading organization has for mission to make “an immediate impact on increasing quality of life and survivorship of people with lung cancer by accelerating research into early detection and more effective treatments, as well as providing community, support, and education for all those affected by the disease.”)
Stress affects all of us in one way or another. By definition, stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
A new year presents new challenges for people on top of everyday stressors. Whatever your life challenges are, there are ways to manage your stress so that it doesn’t become harmful to your health. This is especially important for those of us who have had cancer.
Some experts say that is the link between cancer and stress—if stress decreases the body’s ability to fight disease, it loses the ability to kill cancer cells.
Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally,” says Jay Winner, MD, author of “Take the Stress Out of Your Life” and director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, Calif. “It can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.”
Stress may worsen or increase risk of obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression and heart disease as well. People fighting cancer may feel stress about what their bodies are going through, what their families are going through, uncertainty about cancer treatment, financial and emotional concerns.
Here are 5 things people who have had or are living with cancer can do to reduce their stress.
1) Get Informed
Becoming well educated about your health conditions, treatment options and symptom management may reduce stress. While too much information may feel overwhelming to some, knowing your disease, recognizing your symptoms and where to get help for your side effects may help you feel more secure and supported in your cancer treatment.
2) Express Yourself
Talk about how you’re feeling. Join a support group. Talk to family members and friends. For some who aren’t great talkers—write about your feelings in a journal or express yourself in artistic ways. Expressing to others about how you’re feeling may reduce tension and stress
3) Get Moving
Exercise can help reduce stress. Activities such as walking can also help to relieve pent-up energy. For those who have physical limitations, light movement of arms and body can also help with circulation and reduce stress.
4) Be Kind to Yourself and Others
Take breaks when you can. Eat nutritious foods, get plenty of sleep, and be kind and gentle on yourself—you deserve it. Helping others can also make you feel good about yourself. Survivors in our LifeLine Support Program have reported that helping patients who were newly diagnosed actually helped them to feel better about themselves and what they had to go through with cancer.
5) Ask for Help
There are resources available that can help you with practical and emotional issues surrounding your cancer. Start with your doctor and patient navigator. Sometimes an oncology social worker is the one who has a list of resources available in your area. Ask for help from family and friends who can step in to help with practical needs. If you have a hard time asking for help, designate a caregiver or advocate who can find you the help you need.
Content courtesy of LUNGevity