Anxiety is normal. Most of us experience it, from time to time. It’s not often a cause for concern if it does not cause you significant distress or interfere with everyday life. However, that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. Cancer is especially stressful. Going through cancer treatment can cause a large amount of anxiety for many people. When you are anxious, there are many ways you can handle it. Ideally, your coping mechanism is something that is good for your mind, body, and spirit. The next time you feel your anxiety increasing, here are six simple, healthy activities we recommend you try.
Take a Deep Breath
If you take quick and shallow breaths, it may make your anxiety worse. It is possible to focus on breathing slowly and use it to your advantage. Noticing and controlling your breathing is the quickest and most effective way to calm your nervous system. Focus on abdominal (or belly) breathing instead chest breathing.
Taking a deep breath helps you:
- Lower blood pressure
- Slow heart rate
- Relax tense muscles
- Reduce cortisol (stress hormone)
- Calm anxious thoughts
By paying attention to your breathing, you can shift from a mindset of agitation to one of calm. Intentionally take deeper, longer inhales and slower, extended exhales.
Are you ready to give deep breathing a try?
Exhale 1… 2… 3… 4…, Hold 1…2…3…4…, Inhale 1…2…3…4…, And repeat.
Practice Meditation or Yoga
Going a step further, meditation and yoga are two organized activities that also incorporate deep breathing.
Mindfulness meditation is the very simple process of sitting still and focusing your attention on your breathing. By carefully noticing each inhale and exhale, your scattered thoughts quickly become focused on your body. This allows your nervous system to relax.
Yoga combines meditation with movement. Any age group can enjoy yoga’s benefits, provided your doctor recommends it. It helps ease physical and mental discomfort. It also enhances your overall mood and sense of well-being.
Would you like to try meditating, but aren’t sure how to do it? Mary Bird Perkins offers free recordings that can help.
Maintain a Routine
Routines give us a sense of accomplishment. They are also important to mental health, particularly during cancer treatment. Strive to keep some level of normalcy in your everyday life by continuing to do the things you usually do while at home. Engage in extra measures to take care of your body. Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercise daily, and get plenty of sleep.
Connect With Friends
Feeling disconnected from your social life can be overwhelming. This can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Connecting with your friends and loved ones can help. When in-person isn’t possible, try spending quality time with them through technology. Give them a call or FaceTime, chat over text, or connect via social media.
If you experience extreme effects from isolation and feel overwhelmed, you can call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at (800) 985-5990. This helpline is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling helpline to support people experiencing emotional distress and can link to resources. Also, feel free to contact with any questions or support needed. We care and we can help.
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Work on a New Project or Hobby
Distracting yourself from your anxiety is another helpful practice. Engage in interesting hobbies and projects. This can be extremely helpful to reduce anxiety during a stressful situation.
Creating art has been shown to have a powerful effect on calming the body and focusing the mind. It can also help express feelings that are too difficult to put into words. Try any activity you enjoy, such as doodling, journaling, reading, singing, etc. Bringing fun into your life is great for your mental health.
Create a Safe Space
Your imagination can make anxiety worse. But if used properly, an active imagination can help bring relief. To create a safe personal space, find a quiet spot and picture yourself in a special location. Think about what brings you comfort, whether imaginary or real. Notice what you hear, see, and smell in this place. Allow yourself to become fully engaged with the image you’ve created in your mind. Enjoy the safe, comfortable feeling it brings you. Immerse yourself in this safe space whenever needed.
It’s OK to Ask for Help
In life, we are presented with many challenges and causes for stress. If you would like additional resources, our caring team at Mary Bird Perkins offers many support services. We are happy to help calm your anxiety during your journey through cancer.