Dealing with cancer is extremely hard on the body, but it can be difficult to understand just how hard it is on the mind and spirit as well until it happens to you or a loved one. Cancer patients regularly experience a roller coaster of emotions and psychological effects, with feelings of anger, despair, and fear mingling with hope, gratitude and love. This constant emotional whirlwind can be taxing on your mental well-being. In order to address this, you need to take time to make self-care and spiritual wellness a priority.
Spirituality means something different for everyone. For some, it is their connection with their faith and their God. For others, it is a vague sense of a higher power and shared humanity. And for some, it is their relationship with themselves.
Whatever spirituality means to you, make sure to bring it into focus during your cancer treatment. Studies have shown that cancer patients with higher levels of spiritual belief tend to have fewer or less painful symptoms. Somehow, it would seem that a developed sense of spirituality is such a strong source of psychological and emotional relief that it can physically alleviate pain and discomfort.
If you are not a spiritual person, do not worry. You can cultivate spiritual wellness by reinforcing your connection with your mind and by practicing mindful and purposeful self-care.
Meditation and Mindfulness
People diagnosed with cancer are often trapped in a perpetual cycle of worry. With an uncertain future ahead, it can be difficult to appreciate the present and live in it. This is exactly what the practice of meditation enables you to do, which explains why a 2011 study found that a meditation program was effective in reducing stress amongst cancer patients.
Meditation doesn’t have to be a complex spiritual ritual of enlightenment – it can just be taking a few minutes to sit in silence and practice mindful breathing. If you are having difficulty focusing and clearing your mind, you may benefit from a guided meditation app like Headspace.
It is important to not let your cancer diagnosis keep you away from the things you love. While this of course means spending time with your friends and family, you should not neglect what makes you happy when you are alone.
Make sure you keep up any hobbies that relax you or make you feel better. Many hobbies have meditative effects themselves, meaning they take your mind of everything else and force you to focus on the task at hand. This can be a huge source of relief for cancer patients, who don’t often have an opportunity to forget about their illness.
Clean Air, Exercise, and Diet
Although a part of your body is sick, that does not mean you should give up on your physical health. Self-care includes taking care of your body, and you will feel better throughout your treatment if you continue to do just that.
One of the first things you should do for your body is improve the air quality in your home. Air pollution can aggravate the respiratory system, making it more difficult to breathe. It can also increase the chance of developing an infection. Regularly change your air filters to keep out harmful particles, including dust, mold, pollen, smoke, and dander. When you shop for filters, make sure you choose the right size.
According to Cancer Research UK, cancer patients have the same recommended exercise guidelines as everyone else. Even if your cancer affects your bones, a low-impact exercise like yoga is safe and beneficial. Yoga also has the advantage of encouraging mindfulness and relaxation.
As for your diet, you should focus on eating well, despite any feelings of nausea or loss of appetite caused by your treatment. The American Cancer Association has a thorough guide on nutrition for cancer patients, including how to cope with treatment side effects and continue to eat a balanced diet. If you’re too tired to plan meals, consider using meal delivery services. They can help take the guesswork and planning out of the equation and you can customize plans to fit your needs. Some plans even start at $8.99 per service for a family of four.
Self-care and spiritual wellness are not a cure to cancer. However, they can make dealing with cancer easier, and relieve some of the emotional burden of a diagnosis. As you work on your treatment, make sure you are accompanying it with a routine of self-care and self-love, as well as taking the time to appreciate the things that bring you joy.
This blog was submitted by Scott Sanders, Creator of cancerwell.org