I suffered from anxiety from as long as I can remember. So long, I guess, that I actually thought it was normal. I tried many, many therapies from psychologists, self-help, group programs, counselling, medications, etc. Nothing seemed to work and the medications had side effects (for me) that were far worse than the anxiety symptoms themselves.
THEN CAME CANCER …
Well that put me completely over the top since I already had pre-existing anxiety. After my initial diagnosis, I was lost inside my mind much of the time – so many decisions, life regrets, fear of what was to come for my body, fear of leaving my loved ones behind, and merciless, unrelenting negative thoughts. I knew that I absolutely had to cope with the new level of anxiety and stress that cancer brought. I was not functioning well and my body was showing all the signs of tension and stress.
Imagine this!! My hair even starting falling out … WITHOUT CHEMO!
That’s one example of my body’s stress responses but there were so many from feeling I was being choked, shortness of breath, fatigue, racing thoughts, cuts not healing well, tense body parts, diarrhea. An Endless list really.
I started asking myself questions:
- What role has my anxiety had on my health (and my life really)?
- So if anxiety was increasing my health issues, was it POSSIBLE that reducing my anxiety could decrease my health issues?
Thankfully, I FOUND the answers that worked for me. Remember, we are each unique and so are our treatment plans. We need to trust the decisions we make for our health and take our role in returning to health very seriously. We need to honestly try things to see if they work. Nobody tells us this!
If you are sick, in pain, anxious or any combination of these, you NEED to get help. You do not need to feel helpless. There is a plan that will work for you if you really want to find your best options.
Here are a few things I would recommend to get started on getting help:
1) Self Care – practice paying attention to yourself every single day.
- Eat what feels good to your body (i.e. doesn’t create negative feelings such as guilt and nourishes the body). Try Buddha bowls for one meal a day
- Get your sleep even if that means taking medication or a natural sleep aid like Melatonin (check with doctor, of course)
- Check in with yourself mentally several times a day – journal, write list of things that Feel Good Today, listen to a video on mindset to reinforce healthier thinking habits. We have so many excellent online tools available now.
If a self managed plan is not effective enough or not going as quickly as you need, add some resources outside yourself. Just remember that regardless of path you choose, YOU still need to play the greatest role. Without you (the committed one that wants to be healthy again), no treatment plan works.
2) Seek outside resources such as therapists, counsellors, support groups, coaches, etc.
3) Take medication (guilt free) if that is what the doctor recommends. Medication has its place and can be a short term solution when supplemented with good self care and other resources. It may end up being a longer term need but the key is not to rely ONLY on the medication.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to cancer and is an everyday reality for many people. We need to talk about it to shine a light on the solutions. There are solutions.
Take your anxiety seriously and you can make it almost disappear completely. I know, because I have done it even with cancer. I help others do the same.