Besides its effects on physical health, cancer takes a huge toll on the mental state of an individual as well. If you are a cancer survivor, then you would probably know what it’s like to feel sad, afraid, angry or all three emotions at once while battling cancer. What you may or may not know is that these emotions could sometimes remain with you forever. Some of you may have spent a lifetime battling the disease, cycling through various remedies and treatment processes to alleviate your suffering. And while you can make lifestyle modifications such as following a strict dietary plan or engaging in physical activity to prevent cancer from recurring, it is much more difficult to break through the mental hurdles that may come your way daily. Here are 5 steps that you can take for improved mental health and staying mentally sound as a cancer survivor.
At times when you feel like you are suffering alone, take comfort in knowing that there are thousands of survivors out there who have fought the battle against cancer just like you. Initially, it will seem extremely difficult to share your apprehensions and express your innermost feelings. But as soon as you allow yourself to open up and communicate your struggles, you will instantly feel liberated, as if a burden has been lifted off your shoulders. It is also important to remember that there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ feeling. Speak to friends or family members, or seek counsel from a professional therapist. It is also recommended to open up about your experience by joining cancer survivor support groups where everyone bonds with only one goal in mind - to survive and thrive!
Patience is Key to Complete Mental Health Recovery
And while the fight against cancer has been won physically, it may take a little longer to get used to routine daily life. Take each day as it comes and be patient. Even if you have to reach out to a friend for financial help or a family member for emotional and moral support, keep in mind that your main focus should be on achieving complete recovery of the mind, body and soul. And though this may be a gradual, time-consuming process, recovery must not be forced, but instead be eased into. Embrace the new ‘You’, your new ‘normal’ and keep going.
Exercise Your Way to Better Mental Health
The term ‘chemo brain’ is a common term amongst cancer survivors to describe problems with thinking, cognition, memory and attention. These problems are direct side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which typically affect various parts of the brain. It also leads to mental health-related disorders such as depression, stress, anxiety and insomnia. Soon, you begin to find it difficult to perform basic functions such as thinking, recognising people or places, remembering important dates or appointments, or learning new skills. To combat these ill-effects, try including time for mental exercises such as memory games and sudoku puzzles into your daily routine. You should also seek consultation from an expert who will be able to provide you with specific exercises to boost mental skills.
Eating Your Way to Mental Health Recovery
As a cancer survivor, your body would have undergone a lot of physical and mental changes as a result of chemotherapy and other treatments. Thus, eating healthy is necessary in preventing a recurrence of the cancer and aiding in mental health recovery. A balanced anti-cancer diet should include whole grains, lean meat, high-protein foods like beans, legumes, fish and low-fat foods. The consumption of green tea, which provides a boost of amino acids that improve attention span and your ability to focus, is recommended as well.
Stretch and Flow towards a Healthy Mind
Physical activity is equally important as nutrition and sleep in maintaining a healthy mind. Some of the best programs to keep physically and mentally fit include Core Glow Yoga, FItball Core and Gentle Flow Yoga. Exercise releases endorphins, which makes you feel really good about yourself and boosts your overall mood, and is one of the best ways to alleviate mental health issues as it keeps you in high spirits constantly.
A battle against cancer is arguably one of the hardest challenges anyone could face in their lifetime. But if you, as a survivor, can fight for your second chance at life and win, then nothing should stand in your way of living your best life, least of all mental health issues.