It can be tough trying to navigate the coronavirus pandemic as a cancer patient. For some patients, the virus can seem like another setback toward focusing on your health and mental well-being. Despite this tumultuous time, there are many ways for you get back on track.
Tips to managing anxiety specific to cancer patients
• Meditation: Having cancer can evoke thoughts of worry, and often, thoughts that are unhelpful. Meditation is a great way to combat those distractions. Setting aside some quiet time in the form of meditation, prayer, deep breathing or a quiet activity can help manage cognitive anxiety.
• Exercise and healthy eating: Work on being intentional with how you move your body and the food you eat. Exercise is a great way to boost your mood while working toward a small goal. Eating balanced meals can help you feel good about the nutrients that are fueling your body. For guidance on what are the best foods to eat, consult with a nutritionist or a hematologist.
• Medication: Speak with your doctor if anxiety is taking a toll on your daily life. There are also long-term and short-term medications to help manage anxiety.
• Reach out to a friend: Take this time to lean on friends or family for emotional support. If you feel like you need extra help, seek out additional help from professionals.
Tips for managing stress and anxiety during quarantine
• Establish a routine: The best thing you can do during this chaotic time is create some type of structure at home. Make sure you are scheduling time to work, exercise, relax, eat and sleep. Stick to the schedule as best as you can.
• Limit news and social media intake: News and social media are saturated with COVID-19 information. I recommend only getting a daily update of no more than an hour from a reputable news source.
• Include time outside: While social distancing, try sitting in your backyard or front porch to break up the monotony of being inside. The moderate sun exposure is a good source of vitamin D, which helps your body absorbed calcium for bone health. Just don’t forget to put on sunscreen with a high SPF.
How can family and friends help support their loved ones with cancer during this time?
• Be encouraging: Actively help your loved ones to continue live life even with having cancer.
• Forget about cancer: Sometimes your loved one with cancer just wants to spend time talking to you without discussing cancer. In times of social distancing, the best thing you can do is pick up the phone to chat or FaceTime.
• Lend a helping hand: Help loved ones with cancer by assisting with regular day-to-day tasks if needed.
• Listen: Take time to listen to their needs and feelings. Encourage loved ones to listen to the needs of their bodies.
• Take care of yourself: Remember that you are only as helpful as you are healthy. Take care of yourself so that you can provide for your loved one. Seek out behavioral health treatment if you feel you need it.
What behavioral health resources are available to cancer patients?
• Mindful exercise: There are guided meditations on the internet, like this mindfulness exercises with Jessica Huneycutt. You can also use a mindfulness app like UCLA Mindfulness. This app gives a great introduction to the concept of mindfulness and has several exercises. The app is compatible with both iPhone and Android. Or, visit marc.ucla.edu.
• Setup a virtual visit: Ochsner hematology/oncology psychologists, Dr. Michele Larzelere and Dr. Tracey Murry, currently offer appointments individually and with families through virtual visits. Any medical provider in hematology and oncology can provide a referral to our department and our receptionist can schedule an appointment. We offer treatment for anxiety, depression, sleep issues, pain, grief, caregiver stress, adjustment, stress management and developing goals for patients and families from initial diagnosis to survivorship and beyond.
• Support groups: We offer support groups for cancer patients and families. Schedules can be found on the Ochsner.org community calendar.
The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.