Cancer not only affects you physically, but also takes a huge toll on your mental health as well. If you have previously suffered from cancer, then surely you know that feeling sad, afraid or angry are common emotions to feel during the road to recovery. What you may or may not know, however, is that these emotions don’t necessarily go away once the physical battle with cancer has been won. Some patients spend a lifetime battling the disease and have been constantly preoccupied with the notion of alleviating suffering. Therefore, it is important that every cancer survivor continues fighting to improve their mental health, long after recovering physically. Antidepressants are merely a temporary solution and should not be used in the long run. Here are five ways to improve your mental health post-cancer.
The term ‘chemo brain’ is often used to describe cancer survivors who experience problems with thinking, cognition, memory and attention. They are caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments which typically affect various parts of the brain, and could cause mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress and trouble sleeping. As a result, you may find it difficult to perform basic functions such as remembering, thinking, recognising faces or places, and learning new skills. A great way to keep the mental wheels spinning would be to try out mental exercises such as memory games and solving puzzles. To ascertain the areas of deficiency that require improving, consult an expert who can provide you with the types of activities required and how to incorporate them as part of a daily and weekly plan.
2. The Road to ‘Normal’ is a Patient One
The physical fight may be over, but the battle continues as life after surviving cancer will not be the same. It may take some time before you are ready to finally get back to work or perform daily activities. The key here is to be patient. If required, do not hesitate to reach out for the support you need, even if this means seeking financial help from a friend, or a family member to help with the preparation of daily meals. Take each day as it comes. Recovery is a gradual process that must not be forced, but instead should be eased into its own intended path. The decision solely rests on you, so be sure to stay strong in embracing your ‘new normal’.
3. Silence is Not Always Golden
If you feel that you are alone in your suffering, take comfort in knowing that there are thousands more out there who are just like you. And until you decide to share your apprehensions and innermost feelings with someone, you may not be able to get over these negative emotions clouding your every thought and action. You may find it a little difficult to talk about your struggles initially, but once you allow yourself to open up and share your deepest emotions, liberation from the chains of these thoughts is guaranteed. It is important to note also that there is no such thing as ‘wrong’ feelings. Speak to a family member or friend, or even therapy from a professional. Another alternative outlet for sharing would be cancer survivor support groups where everyone present is bonded by the common goal of survival.
4. Focus on Eating Healthy
Eating healthy is necessary for a cancer survivor. Your body has undergone a lot of stress as a result of treatment, hence providing it with proper nutrition is ideal in dealing with cancer anxiety. Work out a healthy and balanced diet consisting of whole grains, lean meat, high-protein foods such as beans, legumes, fish and low-fat foods. Green tea is also a recommended addition to your diet as the amino acids present in the tea help improve your attention span and ability to focus.
5. Take Time to Exercise for an Overall Mood Boost
Physical activity is as equally important as food and sleep are for a healthy mind and body. Consider joining a fitness class such as Gentle Flow Yoga or Pilates. Exercise induces endorphines, better known as ‘happy hormones’, that make you feel really good about yourself and give your mood an overall boost. This is one of the best ways to alleviate mental health issues as it keeps you constantly in high spirits.
A cancer battle is arguably one the hardest things anyone could face in their lifetime. Just remember, your second chance at life was not a given, but rather fought for. And if you can fight off cancer, then nothing else should stand in your way of living your best life, least of all mental health issues.