Being diagnosed with cancer is a life-altering event, a moment that shifts everything on its axis – emotionally, mentally and physically. For many, hearing the initial diagnosis, going through treatment and experiencing the (sometimes intense) side effects are going to cause deep feelings of sadness, frustration and anxiety. In addition to that, we are now living through a public health crisis that has uprooted our lives in so many ways. The fact is that none of us know what the future holds, but for those living with a major medical diagnosis, that future can seem even more tenuous and unknown now. When stressful thoughts start to arise and take over, focusing on your mindset, centering yourself and practicing mindfulness techniques can be extremely helpful.
Oncology Nursing News published an article examining the benefits of practicing mindfulness for cancer patients, but it can definitely be applied more broadly as we all try to adjust to living during a pandemic. One definition of mindfulness is, “The practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” With that in mind, below are key takeaways that can help reinforce our mental and emotional fortitude during challenging times:
Figure out a daily task to practice mindfulness: Start by choosing a simple activity that allows you to focus only on the present moment without distractions. Although living under shelter in place orders might have changed your day-to-day routines, there are still plenty of tasks you can choose from. Maybe it’s doing the dishes, stretching for 10 minutes every morning or drinking a warm cup of tea while gazing out of the window – just find something that calms your mind and allows you to focus on the here and now.
Recognizing the importance of gratitude: It can be easy to forget how powerful the act of gratitude is, especially when we feel overwhelmed and stressed. Even during difficult times, there are things to be thankful for, like a good night’s sleep or a warm, sunny day. Focusing on things you appreciate can help take power away from stressful thoughts and occurrences. It’s even possible to find gratitude when you think of challenges you’ve faced or are facing, like finding the gratitude for the compassion you were able to show a friend who was having a particularly hard day, even if you were personally feeling down that day.
Be kind to yourself: It is inevitable that you’ll sometimes have distressing thoughts or feelings, but try to encounter and process them in a non-judgmental way. Finding tools to use in those moments , like stress-reduction techniques, can make a huge difference. One of our recent blog posts, ‘Your Physical and Mental Health During COVID-19’ also offers free, at-home resources that can help you practice peace of mind and stay active.
To read the full article on Oncology Nursing News, click here. And for more guidance on incorporating self-care during this time, check out the following resources from CAC:
- Ask the Experts with Julie Larson, LCSW - Thursday June 4th at 1pm ET / 10am PT
- Ask the Experts with Kathy Flora, Career Coach – Tuesday, June 30th at 1pm ET / 10am PT
- National Conference on Work & Cancer (virtual event) – Friday, June 19th starting at 8:45 am
- Recording of our Managing Long-Term Stress webinar