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Coping with Cancer Treatment: 10 Strategies to Avoid Overwhelm

Sun peeking though the trees

Every person's experience with cancer is unique, and it is completely natural to have a wide range of emotions. Cancer diagnosis and treatment can be physically and emotionally exhausting, with no 'right' or 'wrong' way to feel. Your feelings and responses are valid. I am pleased to share valuable insights that have emerged from my discussions with clients, which have proven helpful to many individuals. These tips are offered with utmost compassion and understanding, and my hope is that they offer guidance and support as you navigate this period. Remember to prioritise your needs and be guided by what genuinely helps and serves you. Here are some of my tips – I hope you find them beneficial.

1. Set Realistic Goals:

Don't try to do too much at once. Break down your goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. Take things one step at a time and be kind to yourself in the process.

2. Prioritise Your Tasks:

Recognise that your to-do list may feel overwhelming, especially with the added responsibilities you might have. Prioritise the two most important tasks for today and focus on those first. Anything else you can accomplish is a bonus. Do not put too much pressure on getting everything done perfectly. Give yourself grace and understand that self-care and healing might look different for you right now.

3. Delegate Tasks and Ask for Help:

If you can, delegate tasks to others. This will free up your time so you can focus on the things that are most important to you. If you find that friends and family are offering help but are unsure how best to support you, consider suggesting specific actions that would be helpful for you. People who care about you often want to be there for you but may not know the best way to do so. By sharing specific tasks or support you need, you not only ease the burden on yourself but also empower them to provide meaningful assistance. Whether it's a lift to your hospital appointment or help with daily errands, knowing they can make a difference can strengthen your support network and foster a deeper sense of connection.

4. Take Walks in Nature and Practice Meditation:

Spending time in nature can calm the nervous system and provide a sense of peace. If you can't get out of the house, try sitting by an open window. Additionally, consider incorporating mindfulness practices into your routine, like 10 minutes of meditation using apps like Calm, Headspace, or Buddhify.

5. Set Boundaries and Learn to Say No:

Saying no can be challenging, especially if you're not used to it. However, it's okay to decline requests if you don't have the time or energy to fulfil them. Don't feel guilty about setting boundaries. Avoid "energy vampires" and prioritise spending time with people who uplift and support you. Taking care of yourself first means you can show up as your best self for others.

Man raising his arms towards the sun

6. Stick to a Routine as Much as You Can:

Your body loves routine and sticking to one can help buffer the rollercoaster twists and turns of treatment side effects. Developing a wind-down routine in the evening and anchoring in the same sleep and wake times can be especially helpful.

7. Nourish Yourself with Good Nutrition:

Taking care of your nutritional needs is important during cancer treatment. Ensure you stay well-hydrated and focus on consuming nourishing meals and snacks to support your body's healing process. If you drink alcohol, limiting your consumption is beneficial, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed, as it can interfere with your treatment and recovery process.

8. Take Things One Day at a Time:

It's okay not to have all the answers. Focus on getting through each day, and if that feels overwhelming, take things hour by hour, or even 10 minutes at a time. Find the pace that works best for you.

9. Seek Financial Support if Needed:

The last thing you need at a difficult time is to be concerned about finances. Your Clinical Nurse Specialist can signpost you to benefits advice, and there are excellent charities like Macmillan Cancer Support that offer advice and support. Many hospitals have special funds available to help in various ways. For instance, I was able to help one of my patients access funds to purchase a hand stick blender, which made blending meals easier during their recovery. If you are facing financial challenges, please do not suffer in silence; don't hesitate to seek available support and resources that can make a significant difference in your well-being.

10. Embracing Your Emotions and Finding the Right Support:

It is normal to feel a range of emotions during cancer treatment. Take care of your emotional health just as much as your physical health. Allowing things to "hit the air" can provide a huge sense of relief. Find the support that is right for you. You can access counselling through your treatment centre, and charities like Macmillan Cancer Support and Penny Brohn UK offer counselling services too. Many people find support groups helpful as they can see themselves in others. Additionally, Cancer Care Map is a simple, online resource that aims to help you find cancer support services in your local area wherever you are in the UK. Be cautious with social media, as it can be a double-edged sword. If it contributes to feelings of overwhelm, consider disconnecting.

Remember that you are not alone in facing these challenges. Prioritising self-care and seeking support when needed can make a significant difference. Take each step at your own pace and know that there are people who genuinely care about your well-being and are here to offer support.

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