Anxiety and cancer seem to go together. I don’t know of anyone who’s had to face cancer who didn’t also have a battle with anxiety at some level or another. Studies have confirmed this is the case, and worse, that depression and anxiety can depress the immune system-definitely not what we want when battling cancer.
To help you handle any anxiety you may be facing, I’ve gathered several tips below. The one thing you don’t want to do is just ignore it and hope it will go away. It won’t. Taking action to process your feelings can go a long way toward easing your stress and helping your body to remain strong.
1. Write about it. Write down everything that’s bothering you, from the huge (I’ve got cancer!) to the miniscule (I don’t like my new couch). Somehow the process of getting it down on paper makes it more manageable. Once you have everything on paper, make yourself two lists. Title one “things I can change” and the other “things I can’t control.” Divide your list of concerns accordingly. For those things you can change, sketch out a quick plan to do so, and commit to doing something toward those goals every day until they’re accomplished. For those things you can’t control (like “I have cancer” and many other things), get support. Join a support group, talk to a friend, go to a counselor, talk to your pastor-whatever will help you feel better.
2. Do something you enjoy! When we’re anxious, we have a tendency to wallow in those anxious thoughts. The last thing we think about is doing something fun, so do just that-ask yourself what sorts of activities you enjoy, then do one of those activities. Go out with friends, play a round of golf, take a drive, spend a weekend away, whatever will stoke your “feel good” fires. Once you have a few more positive emotions pulsing through you, you’ll feel more capable of handling your anxieties.
3. Exercise. Even if you’re exhausted and wrung out from chemo, doing something rather than lying on the couch stewing in worry soup is bound to help. Go for a short walk in a pretty location. Watch a favorite movie while walking on the treadmill-even if it’s only for 10 minutes. If you just can’t pull yourself out of bed, sit up and stretch your hands, your arms, and your neck. Getting your circulation moving will spawn other changes in your body that will help you feel better.
4. Get answers. Most of the time we are anxious about the unknown. This is particularly the case with cancer and cancer treatments. We don’t know how these things are going to affect us, or what to expect, so do your research. Make a list of questions to ask your doctor or oncology nurse. Research on the Internet. Talk to people who have experienced the type of cancer you have. (Imerman’s Angels can hook you up with someone for free.) The more knowledge you have, the more you can come up with ways to deal with your situation, which will help ease anxiety.
5. Ask for help. This is a hard one for many people. Most of us like to be independent and believe we can take care of ourselves, but cancer isn’t something to be faced alone. Ask for help. If you have people offering to do things for you, accept. Remember that helping you will benefit them as well-it’s healthy to give to others. And if you’re getting help with meals, pet care, or transportation, that’s less that you have to worry about.
6. Believe in a power greater than yourself. The amount of anxiety I experience is directly related to the distance between myself and God. Turn over all your fears, worries and anxieties to whatever higher power you believe in so you can let go of worry and trust that everything will be as it should be.
How do you deal with anxiety? Please let us know.
Photo courtesy clarita via morguefile.com.