Being affected with cancer not only takes a toll on you physically, but also results in drastic effects to your mental health as well. If you are a cancer survivor, then surely you must have felt sad, afraid or angry at one point or another on the road to recovery. And while these emotions are completely normal to be felt during cancer treatment, what you may or may not know, however, is that these emotions don’t necessarily go away all at once. Some patients spend a lifetime battling the disease and have been constantly preoccupied with the notion of alleviating suffering. Most of them never really break away from this mental struggle, and therefore it is important that every survivor continues the fight to improve their mental health. Here are five ways to improve your mental health post-cancer.
1. Communication is Key
At any given time that you feel as if you are suffering alone, rest assured 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 see past the negative emotions playing out in your head. You may find it a little difficult to talk about your struggles initially, but once you do, you will slowly realise that sharing your deepest fears and innermost feelings was the best thing you could have done for yourself.
It is important to note also that there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ feeling. Speak to a family member or friend, or seek therapy from a professional about how you feel. Alternatively, you could look at the option of joining cancer survivor support groups where everyone present is bonded by the common goal of survival.
2. Take All the Time You Need
And though the physical battle against cancer may have been won, the actual battle for your mental health is only beginning. Life after cancer is never the same. It will take some time before you can get back to your regular routine of working and managing daily chores. Being patient is key. Learn to wait and understand what your immediate needs are. Focus on them by formulating short-term and long-term goals which you can slowly fulfil. Take each day as it comes and consider it a step towards compete recovery. Even if it means reaching out to a friend for financial help, or a family member to help with preparation of daily meals. Recovery is a gradual process that must not be forced, but instead eased into its own intended path. The decision solely rests on you, so be sure to stay strong in embracing your ‘new normal’.
3. Stimulate Your Cognition into Gear
Cancer treatment involving chemotherapy and other forms of radiation therapy affects your brains in ways that only a cancer survivor can understand. You start developing memory issues, and problems with thinking, cognition and attention. These are called ‘chemo brain’ effects, which causes your brain to experience mental health-related 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. This is completely normal for cancer survivors. A great way to keep those mental wheels spinning is to practise mental exercises such as memory games and puzzle solving. You should also consult an expert, who could advise you on the recommended types of activities catered specifically for your areas of deficiency.
4. Be Mindful of What You Put in Your Body
As a cancer survivor, your body has undergone immense amounts of stress caused by treatment. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that it receives proper nutrition during the mental recovery process. Consume a healthy and balanced diet consisting of whole grains, lean meat, high-protein foods such as beans, legumes, fish and low-fat foods daily. Additionally, green tea would also be a positive addition to your diet as the amino acids present in the tea helps in improving your attention span and ability to focus.
5. Use Exercise as a Tool to Alleviate Mental Struggles
Apart from a balanced diet and adequate rest, engaging in physical activity is also important for a healthy mind and body. Not only does exercise induce endorphines, the ‘happy hormones’ responsible for making you good about yourself and giving your mood an overall boost, it is also one of the best ways to alleviate mental health issues as it keeps you constantly in high spirits. Consider incorporating a fitness class that promotes mindfulness such as Core Flow Yoga, Gentle Flow Yoga or Pilates as part of your routine.
A battle against cancer is arguably one of the hardest things anyone could face in their lifetime. Just remember, you had to fight for your second chance at life. And if you can come overcome cancer, then nothing should stand in your way of living your best life, least of all mental health issues.