Tig Notaro’s recent diagnosis of cancer has shown how a well-known celebrity deals with cancer: she talks about it. She has opened up and received support from friends and the world at large. Not all of us have the ability to receive such widespread support, however, there are equally healthy ways that all people afflicted with cancer can cope and maybe even thrive.
Physical symptoms of cancer treatment, usually chemotherapy and radiation therapy are: fatigue, pain, nausea and vomiting, constipation and diarrhea, nutrition and eating problems, hair loss, confusion and memory problems, skin changes, and loss of libido. Many of these symptoms are heightened by stress and anxiety. In this article we will first deal with fear about cancer and the stifling effect this has on your ability to confront it. We will talk about a treatment called neurofeedback, that might help you feel safe enough to then explore four techniques, aside from medication, for dealing with the symptoms of cancer.
Pain, fatigue, and the fear of what cancer is doing to you can lead to a great deal of stress and depression. The emotional weight of living with cancer can negatively impact many areas of your life, especially social relationships and your willingness to take risks to make your life happier and healthier.
A key component for dealing with stress and anxiety for cancer patients can be neurofeedback therapy. You can use this non-invasive therapy to decrease your stress levels so that you are inclined to take advantage of other non-invasive pain management techniques. Since each person is unique in their tolerance for pain and what works best on their body, you may need assistance getting to a place where you feel confident enough to explore various techniques before finding the best method. Neurofeedback often relieves anxiety so that you can really explore all possibilities.
Once you conquer your anxiety enough to venture out of your comfort zone, you might like to try one or all of these four effective alternative techniques for dealing with symptoms of cancer: breathing exercises, guided imagery, developing a new hobby, and meditating on positive daily affirmations. All of these techniques require patience and persistence before positive results occur. In other words, give yourself a break and try to enjoy the process.
Breathing techniques are very effective for dealing with pain. This is where you take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, while counting to three. Then hold the breath for up to three counts, if you can. After that, you let your breath out for a count of three. Next, keep your lungs empty of air for up to three counts, again, if you can. When you first begin this exercise, just do it for 2-3 minutes at a time. Work your way up to as much time as you are comfortable with. You can also set a timer to go off two to four times per day to remind you to practice breathing. This will get you into the habit of relaxing, so that you release the tension as it builds up.
You can also try bringing to mind a time in your life where you felt peaceful, hopeful, or secure. It could be many years ago, or in the recent past. It could also be in an imaginary place. In your mind’s eye, imagine yourself there. Feel the positive sensations in your body. This should only be done if you can feel safe, positive feelings. There is a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) that can be used to envision a safe place and help you feel positive and comfortable with the help of a trained therapist.
Developing a new hobby creates a sense of joy in the world as you meet new people and learn about things you never knew before. Enjoying beginner’s mind gives you a feeling of youth and wonder that the routine of daily living sometimes saps. Take up a sport, a game, or a craft that you are physically capable of engaging in without undo stress.
You may also read inspirational or uplifting poetry and affirmations that you meditate on daily to relieve your burden. You can write affirmations that are personal to you. An example of a good affirmation is, “I am strong, resilient, and love surrounds me.” Once you find a good affirmation, find a quiet place. Sit and repeat your affirmation with intention as you meditate on the powerful words. Mediation has been shown to increase activity in the areas of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.
Putting your mind and body in constant touch with the best thoughts and activities will make your life more pleasurable. First, you put yourself in charge by lessening anxiety with neurofeedback. Then, through the use of imagery, affirmations, hobbies, and breathing, you might find that your cancer has less of a chance of survival than you do.
If you’re dealing with an issue like this, I would be happy to help. Please reach out by calling my office at 310-314-6933 or sending me a private email.