Making and implementing New Year’s resolutions that can improve your lifestyle while undergoing cancer treatment can seem too difficult to tackle. But it can be done! Working towards maximizing your emotional and physical strength during this time is an excellent goal with long-term benefits.
There are several ways you can improve your lifestyle, helping you to better cope with the challenges involved in battling cancer. Here are five ideas and how you can incorporate them into your routine this new year.
1. Regular Exercise
For many cancer patients, the idea of following an exercise program while you're going through cancer treatment is overwhelming. But even small amounts of exercise – such as walking around the block or 15 minutes of yoga – will provide long-term benefits.
According to the American Cancer Society, research shows that exercise is safe for most cancer patients. Planning exercise into your daily routine can help with how you feel physically and emotionally. Patients reported:
- Better physical functioning
- Less fatigue
- Less anxiety
If you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer treatment, you should begin an exercise program at a lower intensity and build it gradually. The National Cancer Comprehensive Network urges patients to engage in a moderate workout program such as a daily walk combined with strength training using light weights. Moderate exercise is proven to boost immunity, which is essential for patients battling cancer.
If you regularly exercised before cancer treatment, try not to compare your current pace and workout intensity to what you used to do. Listen to your body and be as consistent as you can.
2. Engage in Meditation
Meditation is recommended for cancer patients because it helps manage anxiety, sleep problems, pain, high blood pressure, and fatigue. You can choose from several methods of meditation – a few examples are: mindfulness meditation, focused meditation, or prayerful meditation. Although side effects of these techniques are rare, experts say patients should inform their oncologist of any complementary therapies, such as meditation, before starting. There are resources for helping you learn how to meditate if this is something new to you. The Mindfulness Center and Hope Connections for Cancer Support, both in the Bethesda area, offer programs that can help you with understanding how to use meditation to produce benefits during and after cancer treatment.
3. Follow a Nutritious Diet
Food may not always sound good, or side effects of treatment can make it hard to eat. But taking in the right amount of calories is still really important for keeping up your strength and maintaining a healthy weight. What you eat while going through cancer treatment may be a little different from your typical diet, but try to keep it as nutritious as possible.
When possible, select healthy sources of fat including avocado, olive oil, nuts and fish such as salmon. Stay away from trans fats and foods high in cholesterol, such as processed snacks, fast food, and shortening. Here are a few suggestions that can help you with following a healthy diet during cancer treatment and beyond:
- Eat protein every day. It will help you feel full, maintain your strength and rebuild tissue during your cancer treatments. This might include nuts, yogurt, cheese, or eggs.
- The American Cancer Society suggests eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, including citrus fruits and dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables. Colorful vegetables and fruits and plant-based foods contain many natural health-promoting substances. During cancer treatment try to cook vegetables before eating them.
- Use liquid meal replacements if it’s hard to get the right amount of nutrients every day. This is especially helpful if you have dry mouth.
- Try eating smaller meals more often so that you can keep up your strength without feeling overly full. Keeping food in your stomach can also counter nausea.
If you find that some of your favorite foods don't taste quite right during cancer treatment, that's OK. Eat healthy foods that taste good and make sure to keep them stocked up in the house.
4. Cultivate an "Attitude of Gratitude"
Because of the mind-body connection, a grateful, positive attitude can make a decided difference in how you feel. Thankfulness helps people deal with adversity and is consistently linked to greater happiness. Cure Today magazine encourages cancer patients to find three things each day for which they are grateful. Write them down so you can revisit them when times are hard. This habit will grow stronger the more you engage in it.
5. Let Others Help You
You don’t often hear of resolutions that include “allowing others to help me.” But as a cancer survivor, this is something that you can commit to trying. It’s not only good for you but gives your family members and friends a way to feel like they are helping you. It can also help you avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Allow loved ones to bring you a meal or stop by, even if your house isn’t in perfect order. Joining a cancer support group may also be helpful. These organizations offer the opportunity to share feelings with people who can understand and relate to your situation, and you can do the same for them. Studies show belonging to such groups makes cancer patients feel more hopeful and less anxious. They are available in person and online.
Maryland has an array of cancer support organizations, such as those offered by the Baltimore Cancer Support Group, Hope Connections for Cancer Support, The Mindfulness Center in Bethesda, and the Cancer Support Community. Your oncology team can put you in touch with those who can provide an additional list of cancer support groups available in the Maryland and Washington D.C. communities, even groups that might be for your specific type of cancer.