Author: Scott Sanders
Cancer and the rigors of traditional cancer treatments wear patients down physically, emotionally and psychologically. Even people who maintain a positive outlook and show remarkable coping resources aren’t immune to the wear and tear of the ordeal. Oncologists have come to accept that there’s more to cancer treatment and maintaining quality of life than chemo and radiation therapies. Patients benefit from a more holistic approach that incorporates wellness strategies and spirituality. Patients have to cope with elevated stress levels, depression, and feelings of anxiety that can be overwhelming. That’s why physicians today are more accommodating and accepting of alternative and complementary strategies than has traditionally been the case.
Emotional/psychological effects of cancer
Cancer elicits a wide range of emotional responses, from disbelief to sadness and anger. Psychological care and counseling are essential to helping patients cope with emotions that can have a negative effect on their response to treatment regimens. Counselors often advise patients to focus on those things they can change rather than obsessing about what might be. Expressing feelings and worries is important for helping patients cope with their situation.
Studies have shown that patients who have reduced stress levels tend to respond better to treatment and experience a better quality of life. Relaxation therapy can help patients learn to cope with developments and deal with anticipatory stress better than those who lack such knowledge and experience. There are a number of forms of relaxation therapy. Patients learn to focus on positive thoughts and visualize successful treatment outcomes. Others benefit from yoga or some other mindfulness-enhancing activities that combine thought and movement.
Some of the most effective wellness-enhancing activities are simple ones that are emotionally reassuring. Watching a favorite movie or TV program, taking a walk in the woods, playing or listening to your favorite music, or engaging in a form of worship that has special meaning for you can provide emotional and mental sustenance.
Knowledge is power
Not knowing what to expect is a major source of stress for cancer patients. Some benefit when they feel empowered with knowledge about the disease and how the treatments they’re undergoing will affect them now and in the future. Knowledge helps cancer patients cope with the stress and anxiety that can dominate their lives. It’s also a tremendous benefit when it comes to making decisions and asking questions about their treatment plans.
Meditation and mindfulness
Several randomized studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness-enhancing disciplines can substantially improve the lives of cancer patients. Meditation puts patients in touch with their feelings about the preciousness of life and enhances their gratitude for the support of loved ones. Deep-breathing exercises help patients relax and focus on the present. Meditation also teaches patients to block stress reactions that result from negative thoughts and assumptions. It helps create mental clarity, eliminate fears and phobias, and increases tolerance to physical discomforts associated with cancer treatment.
Spirituality as therapy
Patients who possess a strong sense of spirituality are often better positioned to cope with the disease than patients who lack a strong spiritual life. Faith helps people respond to existential questions and the hopelessness and fear that accompany a cancer diagnosis.
The emotional and mental stress that cancer creates in patients often requires a strong personal response to wellness activities and spiritual faith. Patients need all the medical and personal resources they can get to help fight off the disease and cope with the harsh side effects of treatment. Focus, relaxation, and belief are powerful allies for any cancer patient.