10 Ways Cancer Patients Can Stay Mentally Strong
Can Stay Mentally Strong. Facing a cancer diagnosis or cancer treatment can be distressing. You may feel alone and be tempted to give up on taking care of yourself. In my journey, I have learned and used multiple tools to help me process this diagnosis and encourage mental strength and emotional wellbeing. Below are 10 ways you can stay mentally strong when dealing with cancer.
1. Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness stems from being present and engaged in the here and now. Additionally, mindfulness arises from the awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Practicing mindfulness can result in clarity of emotions and ideas during your cancer treatment. It can help you stay mentally strong by getting out of your head and engaging with your world.
Try reflecting on your thoughts and emotions throughout the day, or during the week. You can ask yourself questions for growth and self-awareness, and most importantly, become honest with yourself. For example, you can ask yourself:
- Do certain people or places bring about stress in your life?
- How do you feel when completing specific tasks?
- Are you hard on yourself?
- How can you practice self-compassion or self-love?
- What do you need now, at this moment?
Writing these answers down, or reflecting on them as you go about your day can bring about an inner awareness, and a present-moment focus to create an enriching mindset.
2. Practice Self-Care
When your self-image is positive, you’re able to stay mentally strong and positive. Going through cancer and suffering hair loss, weight loss and other physical changes can be daunting. You can remain mentally strong and joyful by expressing yourself through fashion or wearing fun colorful headwraps. The American Cancer Society suggests different haircuts or wigs if facing hair loss, avoiding harsh hair dyes, or frequent brushing.
Maintaining your self-care can include pampering yourself with massages, talking to a therapist, and getting hair and nail treatments. Presenting yourself in the best way possible despite facing cancer can show you are still empowered to live life. Getting rest, watching your favorite show, having hobbies, praying, or reading your favorite books can include self-care.
Alternatively, you can maintain a strong mind by exercising. Exercising can boost endorphins in the brain that make you feel good and keep you strong. Completing a challenging exercise can help you form a positive self-image as you face that challenge. Finishing an exercise like yoga or dance can invoke joy and bring relaxation into your life. Developing an exercise routine can also keep you mentally disciplined, active, and confident.
Doing something that gets you out of the house each day can add to a feeling of accomplishment. Building strength by lifting weights, for example, can keep your mind focused on positive activities, keeping you active while you get stronger. Additionally, you can develop friendships with others at the gym. Loving the body type you have can also increase a positive self-image for strong self-esteem.
4. Use Visualization and Meditation Techniques
According to a Harvard article on meditation states having a daily meditation practice can reduce negative mental health conditions and pain. It can help those who have depression and anxiousness feel clearer and calmer over time. Deep breathing calms the nervous system and can clear the mind of unwanted thoughts. Over time, meditation can increase focus, and encourage increased relaxation.
Meditation has a positive impact on anxiety and depression, and according to a National Library of Medicine study, can be as effective as an antidepressant. To meditate, find a quiet place in your home or outside. Close your eyes, and focus on what brings you joy, comfort, empowerment, or relaxation. These focal points can include words of strength or intention, Bible verses, or positive mental images. You can also pray, reflecting on God’s mercy as you struggle through hard days. Having faith through prayer can encourage relaxation. During this experience, you can also practice visualization techniques to help keep you mentally strong. For example, you can:
- See yourself healing
- Imagine yourself divinely protected
- Visualize yourself getting physically stronger
- Imagine yourself becoming emotionally stable and balanced
- See yourself showered with God’s love
5. Find Support Groups and Good Friends
Bonds with those who truly love you can make a huge difference in your life. For one, feeling unconditionally loved by someone can make you feel connected. Secondly, having support and emotional validation can uplift your mood, and strengthen your sense of self. Friends and loved ones can provide the empathy needed for your emotional support. Don’t hesitate to connect to them when feeling low or lonely. Although, I must say to really be selective as to who you trust and go to for emotional validation and support. While many family members and friends may have good intentions, not everyone is emotionally healthy to that for you. Trust yourself and follow your intuition as it will never fail you.
Support groups can also create feelings of safety, hope, and community. These groups are available in person, online, or on the phone, and can be for educational or emotional reasons. An article on cancer support groups notes several benefits such as offering coping strategies, feeling understood, feeling empowered, and forming close-knit relationships.
6. Give Yourself Grace
Going through a life-changing event like cancer is tough, but it’s important to realize how strong you are in this situation. Try giving yourself grace, especially if you compare yourself to others. This puts pressure on yourself to be something you aren’t. Give yourself grace by understanding you’re only human, and you’re doing the best you can.
Additionally, try to live each day with passion and purpose, and connect with the things that make you unique. If you have self-defeating thoughts, remember to find the confidence to accept what you’re experiencing. Take each day one step at a time, pray for strength and God’s grace, and affirm your strength while fighting cancer. What has helped me greatly in this area is understanding who I am in Christ and repeating out loud healing promises over myself. Download my 50 daily declarations cards for free here.
7. Have Healthy Boundaries
Having boundaries protects you from anything that may harm you, exploit you, or waste your time. They allow you to assert your limits in a healthy manner. Boundaries allow you to unapologetically put your needs first. These can include committing to healthy daily habits, turning down alcoholic beverages, saying no to demands on your time, or refusing to allow negativity in your life.
Another boundary may include not sharing much information on your cancer diagnosis or progress if uncomfortable. People may mean well in asking, but if you aren’t comfortable sharing, it’s ok to say no. Saying no and having healthy boundaries can protect your mental and emotional wellbeing, thus giving you more time to live life on your terms. You don’t owe anyone your time, your energy or your resources–especially if it costs you your peace and comfort.
8. Avoid Stressful People and Places
Similar to setting boundaries and practicing self-care, you can find peace by avoiding certain people or places that cause you stress. Are there certain places that remind you of dark times? Also, are there specific people or places you feel guarded or uneasy around? Observe how you feel when you are in these spaces. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s ok to leave.
You can find new places to heal and new people that resonate with you. Further, intentionally discovering positive people can support an optimistic experience. Becoming self-aware in this way helps you maintain a healthy life and strong mind by honestly identifying how certain people or places impact you.
9. Eat To Live
Staying hydrated, eating healthy meals, and taking meds regularly can help encourage strength and vitality. A balanced diet of vitamins, proteins, and minerals can also support the intention of recovery, improve gut health, increase brain function, and balance emotions.
Consequently, a poor diet can lead to low blood sugar, brain fog, and irritability. For instance, a diet full of processed and junk foods, too much caffeine, and sugar can make you feel drained and sluggish. Instead, try including enriching superfoods in your diet like green tea, cacao, acai, and other fruits, or vegetables that fight free radicals.
10. Document Your Emotions
Documenting how you feel while experiencing cancer can be extremely healing. For one, you can start a journal to capture your thoughts, goals, and emotions. Journaling has been found to have positive effects on the mind and emotions. A WebMD article on journaling lists several benefits, ranging from regulating emotions and reducing stress and anxiety. The article cites women with breast cancer who “positively or expressively” journaled as having lower rates of cancer-related symptoms. Additionally, those who journaled expressively had reduced rates of depression after a few days.
Journaling can be as basic as writing down thoughts or writing about things you’re grateful for each day. Gratitude journaling can inspire a positive mindset and a shift in perspective. If you’re uncertain about topics to explore, try using journal prompts. Another method to document your experience may be to start a YouTube channel or a podcast. You can also create art such as painting to express how you feel. There is no right or wrong.
Going through cancer is never easy, and it’s normal to need support. Using these tips can encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle. However, if you are struggling with mental health challenges to the point of concern, consider talking to a professional. This can be an additional level of support you may need.