Cancer is a difficult experience for anyone to go through, and it can be hard to find the right coping tools to help manage the physical, mental, and emotional struggles that come with it. Fortunately, there are a variety of holistic coping tools that cancer patients can use to help manage their symptoms and maintain their well-being.
The first of these holistic coping tools is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of being in the present moment and focusing on one's thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. Meditation can be done just about anywhere and is totally free! Apps like Insight Timer & Headspace offer lots of content and some that are even cancer-specific. If you check out my teacher profile on Insight Timer, you can access my full library of free guided meditations. Many of these were created specifically to address the challenges we face when dealing with cancer but feel free to explore other teachers and content. There is something for everyone on this app!
Headspace has a 30-day “Coping With Cancer” course that is great too. Whether you are just starting out with a meditation practice or you have been doing it for years, each session will be different. Sometimes just pausing to get our minds off of thinking about the future or ruminating on the past is all that is needed to feel more grounded. During my cancer journey, I already had a sporadic practice but after I was diagnosed, I committed to a daily practice that stuck with me and continues to help me with my life post-cancer.
If you aren’t feeling drawn to sit in meditation. Mindfulness can be practiced in more active ways too. Activities like deep breathing, yoga, and journaling are wonderful ways to root in the present moment.
Deep breathing can be as simple as stopping what you are doing and taking 5-10 slow inhales and exhales. When we slow down our breathing, we are signaling to the nervous system that we are safe. This simple act, which can take less than a minute, will work wonders on those days when you are forced to take things from moment to moment. Bonus points if you can take off your shoes and place the soles of your feet flat on the ground but you can literally take deep breaths at the grocery store (or waiting in your Oncologist’s office.) Right after I got my diagnosis, I remember giving myself permission to live “breath to breath” and somehow that felt like such a relief with so many questions and fear swirling around my head.
Yoga is a great way to manage stress and keep your body strong at various stages of your treatment. If you are feeling good and your body can handle movement/pressure on certain body parts, Vinyasa yoga, Bikram Yoga, and Hatha yoga are great ways to work mindful movement into your day. When you are really low on energy or unable to move or put pressure on certain parts of your body, Restorative yoga can be the gentle elixir you need. There are a lot of free yoga resources on YouTube that you can check out. I love this gentle yoga video for breast cancer patients.
Sometimes just putting pen to paper to describe what you are feeling and thinking, without censoring yourself, can help you move feelings through the body and allow you to let go of their grip on you. You can try writing about something that is frustrating you, to vent, or you can reflect on things you are grateful for. Many people just like to do a “brain dump” at the start or end of their day by sitting down for a set amount of time (15 minutes is a great start) and writing whatever comes to mind, without any theme or intention.
Self-care is another holistic coping tool that cancer patients can use. Self-care is the practice of taking care of one's physical, mental, and emotional health. Examples of self-care activities include getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and spending time with friends and family. Self-care can help cancer patients maintain their physical and mental health. Fueling your body with nutritious foods and getting adequate rest can speed healing, increase your ability to manage stress, and reduce the amount of time it takes to return to your previous activities. I know lots of folks, including myself, who feel healthier than ever post-cancer due to maintaining vigilance around their self-care. You deserve it!
Finally, support groups can be a great resource for cancer patients. Support groups provide an opportunity for people to share their experiences and support each other. They can be a great way to learn from and connect with other people who are going through the same experience. Organizations like Fighting Pretty are wonderful pathways to meet others (online and in-person) and make forever friends. Check out their upcoming events here!
These are just a few examples of holistic coping tools that cancer patients can use. Everyone is different, and it’s important to explore which coping tools work best for you. There is no right or wrong way to utilize these tools, just go for what you feel drawn to and know you can try something new the next time!
Holistic coping tools can help cancer patients in many ways, but they are not a substitute for medical care. It is important for cancer patients to talk to their doctor about any holistic tools they are considering using, and to make sure they are safe for their specific situation. Additionally, cancer patients should consider seeking professional help if they are struggling to cope with their diagnosis.
Cancer can be a difficult journey, but holistic coping tools can provide much-needed support. By incorporating these tools into your cancer journey, you can improve their quality of life and build resilience. Holistic coping tools can help to reduce stress and anxiety, provide physical relief, improve mental and emotional well-being, and strengthen the body’s natural defenses. Through regular practice, these tools can be an invaluable source of support and even joy. With the right tools, you can find ways to cope with the challenges of cancer and maintain your well-being. The best part is that these tools will help you in all areas of life and at all stages of your journey. I hope you have found something here today that speaks to you, friend!
Wishing you well,
P.S. Want more? Check out my podcast, “Tata, Cancer!” (available on all major podcast players) for other examples of holistic healing tools, self-care, nutrition information and stories from other folks on various parts of their cancer journey.