Going through cancer treatment, or any illness, sucks. There’s no fluffy way of writing it. Many people get so caught up in managing treatment and then it’s over. Worries about the disease returning, side effects, relating to others and more can cause anxiety. The trick is to not let it overtake your life and make you feel stressed about everything related to cancer or otherwise. As a three-time cancer survivor, I’ve had some experience adjusting to life after treatment so I wanted to share some tips on managing post-cancer anxiety.
5 tips for managing post-cancer anxiety
Have a plan. Stay up to date on follow up tests and visits with your doctors. Develop a survivorship care plan with your oncologist. What tests will you need post-treatment? Should you follow up with a specialist? With three cancers behind me, I have a team of specialists helping me be proactive. For example, I’ve seen a cardiologist since bone cancer treatment as I took the max dose of a chemo that can cause heart issues. As time-consuming as it can be seeing these doctors annually or more, I feel comfortable that my health is being appropriately monitored. In fact being proactive is what caught my breast cancer so early.
Be aware of where the anxiety comes from. Is it even yours? Sometimes I start second-guessing a decision I once felt very confident about. And then I realize I’m second-guessing this decision based on another’s opinion or story. Be aware that even the best intentions of others may not benefit you. If it is yours, figure out where it comes from or what may be causing it so you can address.
Relax. Many people find calm in a variety of activities such as meditation, yoga, guided imagery, reading and journaling. I enjoy those activities, and also find that being physically active helps calm nerves, clear my brain of unnecessary thoughts and makes my body feel healthy. You know cycling and hiking are my loves, and I also enjoy Zumba, strength training and simply walking through the neighborhood.
Take a break. Going through cancer or any illness can be mentally, emotionally and physically draining. It’s ok to call a time out for a few hours or even a few days. Turn off social media. Enjoy a sunset. Take a day trip. Do something that distracts your thoughts. I’ve even gently let friends and family know that I prefer not to talk about cancer in that conversation. I focus on some ‘you do you’ care tips that help me.
Seek support. There are great resources for support during cancer treatment and beyond, from individual counseling to groups. Online support groups are also popular and easy to find (I joined an awesome Facebook group for cold cap therapy support and tips for saving my hair during chemo). It really depends on individual preference. After bone cancer treatment, I enjoyed a young adult support group for sharing many of the same post-treatment challenges that only someone in their 20s may understand (dating, college, jobs, fertility, etc). I found great support in seeing a counselor during my breast cancer treatment. It was helpful to have an objective person to not just listen, but share strategies, advice, encouragement and even laughs.
What strategies do you use for managing anxiety? I’d love to hear your tips – share in the comments!