With summer coming to an end, you may notice your stress levels rising. Schools are back in session. You may have kids with a full schedule of extracurricular activities, you may have noticed your morning commute taking longer, or you may even be a student yourself. As a cancer survivor or a patient still in treatment, you may find yourself feeling stressed or anxious. Stress management is an important part of maintaining a good quality of life. Here are some tips to help you get your stress levels under control.
Plan ahead and get organized.
Think about what causes you the most stress on an average day. Is it getting out the door in the morning? Making dinner? Remembering to take your meds? Think about ways you can make your daily routines simpler.
- Buy a planner or use an app on your cell phone to keep track of your appointments.
- Make to-do lists to keep track of tasks.
- Pick your clothes out at night for the next day.
- Try a meal delivery service to simplify lunch and dinner.
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take medication.
Exercise can be a great way to lower stress levels because of endorphins released in the brain. Begin your day with a walk or run. Try a new class such as yoga or boxing. Exercise has other benefits as well such as managing side effects and maintaining a healthy weight. Remember talk to your healthcare team before staring an exercise program.
Make time for yourself every day.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, you may forget to take time for yourself. Prioritize your mental health. Set aside some time for yourself every day. Do something you enjoy such as reading or working a crossword puzzle. Use the time for meditation, guided imagery, or deep breathing exercises. If you are a caregiver or parent, you may feel guilty taking time for yourself, but you shouldn’t! You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Address fear of recurrence.
If you’re finished with treatment, you may worry about the cancer returning. Fear of recurrence is common among cancer survivors. You may find that your fear is worst around scans and check-ups. Visit My PearlPoint to learn strategies for managing fear of recurrence.
Don’t use smoking or alcohol to manage stress.
When you’re feeling stressed, you may feel tempted to smoke or drink. While this may make you feel better in the moment, smoking and binge drinking are bad for your health. Smoking increases your risk for many types of cancer and lung disease. Alcohol may contribute to dehydration, can lower the abilities of your immune system, and provides no beneficial nutrients. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men. (One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.) Discuss alcohol intake with your healthcare team. Depending on your treatment or medication, you may need to avoid alcohol entirely.
Talk to your healthcare team.
If stress and anxiety is making it difficult for you to function in your daily life, you may benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health so don’t be afraid to ask for help.