One aspect of the cancer journey that is not often discussed and goes unnoticed is mental health. It is understood that when being diagnosed with cancer there is a hierarchy of needs and unfortunately mental health is not usually on the top of the list that doctors, nurses and specialists think of. Looking after yourself is so important whether you are going through treatment or have finished treatment.
1. Take time for self-care
One of the most significant ways in my opinion to look after yourself and your mental health is self-care. Self-care involves taking time out for yourself, whether that is listening to music alone, taking your dog for a walk, exercising, sitting at the beach or reading a book. There are so many different activities that you can do for self-care. The main goal is to take time to do something that you love and makes you feel good. Creating a self-care plan is a great way to remind yourself to take time out for yourself, this could be a few hours a week you take time out, or 15 to 30 minutes each day.
2. Setting goals
Setting goals is a great way to allow yourself to feel in control of your life, have a sense of purpose, and feel better about yourself. Setting goals does not necessarily mean setting huge goals for the future, in fact, it is important to not set unrealistic goals and focus on what you can do with your situation. Examples of some goals could include:
- Waking up at the same time each day
- Master a skill
- Eat healthier
- Exercise a number of times per week
- Take more time out to see friends
3. Making your home comfortable
Whether you are currently receiving treatment in hospital or are at home no longer receiving treatment, setting your home up in a way that makes you feel happy or calm is important. I say home because if you are receiving treatment in hospital it often feels like hospital is your home at the time. If you know you are going to hospital remember to pack some items that bring you happiness and make you feel more at home.
4. Eat well
Whilst this may be hard to achieve when going through treatment, it is a way to help you feel like you have some control in your life. Eating well makes us feel good about ourselves and keeps us healthy. Although this is a simple tip, its importance is quite significant for mental health!
5. Talk about your feelings
Speaking up and talking to someone you trust about your feelings is essential for your mental health. I have spoken about this many times before but it really is important. Opening up to someone about your feelings can feel like a weight is being lifted off your shoulders. You can discuss your feelings with a friend or family member you trust, your doctor or specialist, or a counsellor/psychologist.
6. Stay connected
Do not forget to keep yourself connected with your friends and family. Try not to isolate yourself from the world as this may cause more harm to your mental health. Keep in contact with people that bring joy to your life or reach out to someone new and create new and positive relationships in your life.
7. Ask for information
Remember to ask your doctors and specialists for information about the diagnosis, treatments and available supports. This is your life and you have a right to know what is going on in regards to your health. You should be able to ask for various supports to help you throughout the stages of your journey. Asking for this information is key for keeping some control in your life where you may feel you have none.