For our 35th anniversary year, as part of our Fall Cancer Awareness campaign, the Cancer Support Community would like to highlight how to manage stress so that you or your loved ones are “empowered by knowledge!”
Stress is an inevitable part of life, especially after a cancer diagnosis. Excessive amounts of stress can harm both your physical and psychological health, and in a time when your body is already vulnerable, it’s vital to learn how to manage those feelings.
Studies show that practicing mediation decreases stress and anxiety, regulates emotions and promotes a positive mental wellbeing. It is not about turning off the mind, but rather learning to control it. Practicing even 10 minutes of meditation every day can give you the ability to find joy through mindfulness and manage the emotions brought on by stress. In her book, A Signature Life, Fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg writes that she used mediation during her treatment for a cancerous malignancy on her tongue to heal herself of the mental and physical scars of radiation.
How to practice meditation: Some people like to sit in a quiet room, set a timer and meditate on their own, while others prefer instructional sessions. Meditation apps like Headspace offers 10-20 minute guided sessions geared towards specific emotions such as kindness, patience, depression and stress. It even has a pack dedicated to using meditation to cope with cancer.
- Eat healthy
When people stress, they have a tendency to “eat their feelings.” Stressful events raise cortisol levels, which causes cravings for carbs and sweets. Nutritionists argue that food and emotions work in direct correlation: the better you eat, the better you feel. Calming foods like avocados, berries and even dark chocolate release nutrients that help lower stress and anxiety in a way that your typical “comfort” food could never do.
Staying active improves physical fitness, fights disease and enhances mental health. Because stress affects the brain, it causes nerve damage that can travel throughout the rest of the body. Engaging in even five minutes of aerobic exercise every day can decrease stress, elevate your mood and promote better sleep.
A cancer diagnosis significantly impacts quality of sleep, which is harmful because sleep is a chance for our bodies to relax, recharge and repair muscle tissue. Try to exercise in the morning, avoid naps, and try to keep sleep cycles consistent. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t recognize the difference between a Monday and a Saturday morning, so going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning creates an internal rhythm that makes it easier for your body to function throughout the day.
If issues like nightmares or insomnia keep you up, check out these tips for overcoming those obstacles.
- Express gratitude
Expressing gratitude releases a slew of toxic emotions such as envy and resentment. By focusing on the good in your life, you actively choose to let go of the stressors, even for a few minutes. Try keeping a Gratitude Journal. Set a goal to write five gratitudes every morning and reflect on them throughout the day.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to manage your stress. What matters is that you don’t let it take over your life. Try these out, and if one doesn’t work, don’t stress about it! Just move on to the next.
We thank you for joining us for our 2017 Fall Cancer Awareness Campaign for the months of September, October, and November. Stay tuned to our blog for more!