10 Ways To Combat Cancer-Related Anxiety and PTSD

5. Distract yourself… within reason

Anxiety and PTSD are chronic illnesses, and they need to be treated as such. There is not quick-fix or magic pill. That said, sometimes you just need to make it through a day or a moment, and in such cases distraction can be extremely helpful. You may feel an attack coming on and need to redirect yourself ASAP. As a first step, give yourself permission to choose a distraction that you enjoy. Try something like:

  • Reading a book
  • Calling a friend
  • Watching a movie (a movie without triggering or stressful elements)
  • Getting in your favorite type of workout
  • Trying meditation or deep breathing
  • Finding a creative outlet like drawing, writing, knitting, or dancing. Create something beautiful!

When you are calmer, it’s important to examine what triggered you or made you feel stressed. Think about ways to avoid that stress or manage it differently (if possible). It will be easier to evaluate once you are in a clearer mental space.

6. Celebrate every success!

You’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, but you should definitely celebrate the small stuff! When you’re dealing with a condition that’s both unpredictable and debilitating, every step in the right direction is worth a toast. Anxiety or PTSD requires long-term management, and it’s important to note when you’ve been brave and stood up for your boundaries, reached out for help, or simply had a good day.

With anxiety and related disorders, the negative things in life can be blown out of proportion. Restore balance by remembering to make a big deal about all the good things in your life—no matter how small.

7. Delete unnecessary stress

While you’re working through the pain of anxiety issues, give yourself permission to not load up on extra stressors. This may mean not watching the news, avoiding toxic or negative people, or skipping stressful events. There’s a fine line between hiding away and consciously choosing distance, and it may be helpful to have a trusted friend help you make those decisions. You do want to keep doing things that you once enjoyed, but you don’t need to do things that you never enjoyed in the first place! Give yourself permission to leave those things behind!

8. Practice Your Spirituality

This may seem strange for those who don’t come from a religious or spiritual background, but a spiritual practice, however you define it, can help you overcome trauma and stress. Prayer can help you to relax and put things in perspective, and spirituality in general can help you feel purpose and a connection to the world.

9. Connect with nature

Spending time in nature, away from the noise and stress of urban areas, is good for your physical and mental health. Besides the benefits of fresh air and the physical benefits of walking around, studies have found that spending time simply walking through a forest can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. Disconnecting from your phone and really noticing trees, creeks, birds, and the sounds of the forest is deeply relaxing, and it can help you physically and mentally move away from sources of stress.

The forest is great—if you have one handy, but a pretty park, nature trail, or beach can be equally relaxing.

10. Say No To Guilt

It’s common for people with PTSD or anxiety to feel guilty, as if they were at fault for their anxiety or trauma. You may feel like you would not have gotten cancer if you had just eaten healthier, exercised more, or avoided stress. It’s just not true—no one knows what’s going to happen, and people that do everything “right” can still get sick. Tell yourself that you didn’t sign up for cancer (or whatever is causing your stress) and you didn’t deserve cancer. Try posting encouraging notes when you’ll see them often and enlisting a friend that you can call to encourage you when you feel guilt creeping in.

The world can be a tough place on a good day, and anxiety and other stress- and trauma-related disorders can make daily life feel like an alpine struggle. Please, take a deep breath, try something that will get you through your difficult moments, and remember that there are many good things in the world—and one of them is you.

Stay healthy, friends!

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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.