Cancer doesn’t just affect your physical health – it can affect your mental health too and you may feel a wide range of different emotions. The following tips on caring for your emotional health is an extract from How Long Have I Got? by best-selling author Fi Munro PhD.
1. Write down all of your favourite activities. Do them. I wrote down: beauty treatments, time in nature, going to the cinema, comedy shows, eating out, spending time with loved ones. I then made plans to include these in my life as much as possible. For example, I booked a beauty treatment for every week over the two months following the end of my treatment.
2. Seek help and support from professionals. I went to see my GP and spoke honestly about how I was feeling. I told her that I felt ‘flat’ and disengaged. I explained the loss of my normal routine since surgery, the frustration I felt from being too weak to walk our dog and my inability to drive while recovering from surgery. She listened, not rushing me so she could see her next patient, but instead supporting me to make a plan.
I also started seeing a psychologist. We only had a few sessions but they helped me tremendously. At the time of my diagnosis I was training to qualify as a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist and so I have a lot of respect for talking therapies. Despite this, I had never seen a therapist before but found I was able to talk very openly about my prognosis and treatment and also about other people’s responses. She validated my emotions, explaining that how I was feeling was ‘normal’ and something she called ‘good grief’. Sometimes, when you are feeling anxious, and also maybe a little scared, all you need to hear is that it’s okay to feel what you are feeling.
3. Spend time in nature. I started walking my dog again. Just little five minute walks with my husband at first but slowly we built this up and just two weeks later we were enjoying thirty-minute walks most days. Today I walk at least an hour each day. This wouldn’t have been possible without those first five minutes.
4. Share kindness with others. I started giving out random acts of kindness. They gave me focus. They gave me purpose. Most of all they gave me joy! The ripple effects continue to uplift me in ways that nothing else can.
5. Eat better. I started cooking more of the beautiful, healthy homemade meals I had done prior to surgery, focusing on using fresh organic ingredients proven for their health-promoting qualities.
6. Meditate. I started meditating again. Remaining mindful and focusing on the present moment, rather than letting the past or potential future influence your emotions is key to remaining positive and enjoying life. I’d lost touch with this in the weeks following surgery and, as a result, my positivity had wavered.
7. Read. Prior to my surgery I’d immersed myself in learning all I could about cancer and cancer treatment. However, since my surgery I had lost that focus and with it, I’d lost one of my greatest passions in life: new knowledge. I had also forgotten about the joy of reading a novel and losing yourself in another person’s story.
Fi Munro PhD is a multi-award winning researcher, author, blogger, speaker and mentor. Her new book, How Long Have I Got? Is out now and available on Amazon.