We all have stress and anxieties through our lives and they change as your life and world changes around you, whether it’d be age, circumstance, environment, health…etc. Like I’ve said many time before “Time” is one of my biggest stresses, although shortly I’ll have 2 sons in college and that could be a close 2nd, lol. But makes me very proud. World Cancer Day has just past and once again makes me think about my own mortality and of those who share my disease, especially the ones I’ve become close with. To steal a quote from one of those people,
“WE AREN’T DYING FROM CANCER, WE ARE LIVING WITH CANCER”
I have Vanessa to thank for that one and it’s a powerful statement that I try to incorporate into my life daily. With that being said during these colder months and with my life now changed completely I find myself a little stir-crazy, I know I have things to accomplish, but find myself roaming my place, looking out the window with a bit of a hollow feeling inside. It’s hard to explain, but it’s at these times when I just feel a little lost still and anxious for the time ahead of me and what that now means. I feel though there is a pull for me to do more with my life, but man, it’s hard to figure that out….trapped in my own head sometimes.
Now when this happens I do have some coping mechanisms to turn to that I learned during my CBT therapy coarse, often returning to the notes I took and the handouts I keep handy. Now I have spoke of this training before, but never really got to in depth. When some of these feeling creep in, besides writing and running (exercising) I remember, the best I can with my fleeting memory nowadays, some of the tools that work best for me and you don’t have to be a cancer patient either to take advantage of them.
Examples I Have Learned
- Breath…this may seem like an easy one, but if you’re like me when stressed I forget to breath. I don’t now how many times Tracy has had to say, “Breath Steve”, whether it’d be waiting on a scan result, time for treatment…or just sitting in traffic. Something as simple as a few deep breathes and I (you) can feel your body just loosen up and the beauty is it can be done anywhere.
- Tensing and Relaxing your Muscles….for this one I usually sit in a chair and start with my hands, clenching them tightly, then releasing and doing it a few times for each hand. I work my way up my arm to the upper arm tightening those muscles and releasing. Doing the same routine for wherever I can flex and release…you get the picture, all the way down to my feet. It can be done in as little as 5 minutes or whatever timeframe you have, but by the time your done you’ll feel like you’ve done a workout and if the stress isn’t completely gone, it will have dissipated significantly….I use this one a lot.
- Controlling overthinking……now I’m the classic over thinker, worrying about the worst case outcome(catastrophizing). For example imagining extensive disease spread after the latest scan, or waking up with stomach pain, thinking once again a bowel obstruction is on its way. Here it’s just the using the power of the mind, to remind myself that the stomach pain is probably something I ate that just disagreed with me, or an abdominal workout pushed too hard. After 3 bowel obstructions it’s easy to see why I panic a bit about stomach pain, but need to remind myself that stomach pain will always be part of my life and will not always lead to a bowel obstruction. As for the scans I just have to tell myself that whatever happens I will deal with, and that there’s lots of options left to treat my disease and that the results of a scan are out of my hands.
- Getting over Guilt…this may seem like a strange one based on the fact of why should I feel guilty? I surely didn’t ask for this….and don’t call me surely….Airplane…, I know lame attempt Steve. Anyway…guilt comes in the form of not being the provider I used to be, For years I was the provider for my family setting an example for my sons, showing them how a Father supports and cares for his family, not being part of the workforce anymore…taking leave on LTD, and not by just being who I used to be just a short couple years ago. I have learned that I can provide for my family in a different way now, basically by just looking after myself the best I can in order to be around as long as possible. The guilt about work has diminished, I have a terminal disease, my time is better spent once again looking after myself and taking time to enjoy the things in life I have longed to do. Work will always be around….and they will always find someone to replace you, it’s business, nothing personal and that’s my approach now. My personal life and time is better spent with my loved ones and hopefully spreading awareness.
- Exercise and Diet….now I have touched on this a few times, but is still often overlooked, I believe. Now many Cancer patients are unable to exercise and even get down foods that are nutritious, often relying on supplements. If able to though, exercise is so very valuable and I believe it’s why my cancer hasn’t spread that fast, or leaves me debilitated. A simple walk or hike, to rigorous workouts can change moods and also help bring on a good night’s sleep. Everyday I make time for some sort exercise whether a jog, body weight workout or for an inflexible guy like myself, a good stretching routine. When I’m done any stress or worry I’ve had melts away. Unfortunately in todays busy lifestyle these 2 important parts of life are forgotten and easily cast aside, imagine how much less strain on our heath care system there would be if we’d do a better job educating people, on just how being more active and choosing better foods. As for the Diet portion of this I’d refer you back to another post of mine http://stephenmedhurst.ca/2022/01/23/to-eat-or-what-to-eat-thats-been-a-tough-question/
- Meditation…I’m still working on this one, practise makes perfect. My only advice…keep at it.
There’s more to it
There is many more ways I’ve learned to deal with the stresses of my new life, these are just a few that I use most often. Making sure I have hobbies and other interests is super important and makes me feel like I’m still productive. My camera is still packed away from the move, but I just had my eye on it yesterday and plan to take a hike down to the river here tomorrow and get back at it. I also spend a lot of time going over my maps and reading Canadian history, finding new places to explore in the season to come. Trying to dress up this blog site and promote it is also very time consuming and I’m slowly learning, the number of views I get are so up and down, figuring out what I’m doing right and wrong. For a 48 years old, who’s not so computer savvy leaves me pulling at my hair….and yup I’ve grown some hair back, for now.
My latest hobby / skill I’ve added to “Things to Learn” is knot tying….I know, I know….I’m a pretty wild guy. This skill will come in handy when I’m out in the wilderness, there’s always a method to my madness….or boringness, lol, however we look it. Anything that I find keeps me occupied and busy is a plus, left sitting around stress and worry can always creep in. It’s still a strange concept to me, being home all the time. Basically could be called “forced retirement?” on LTD. Forced because it’s best me and my long term outcome, but still foreign and some days just doesn’t feel right. It’s still very new and something I’ll get accustomed to, it’s just finding those interests that are needed to get me out of bed every morning. Cause dam…our new bedroom comfy, warm and dark….I’m may sleep in, but I’ll always get up.
There will always be stress in yours and my life, learning to to cope with it is key. What I have shown you is just a few of the tools I have learned in the last while and have really helped me. Those along with a good nights sleep and right now at least, limited social media viewing and just some fresh air, no matter how cold. Trying to be positive all the time doesn’t always work, it’s ok to be sad, angry and frustrated. Just don’t let it consume you, it’s easy to get caught up in todays stressful world and that combined with cancer can be overwhelming. Misinformation and ignorance is at an all time high, put down that phone and read a book, go on a walk or reach out and talk with an old friend….stress is a killer, but can be managed. Love to All…Cheers.
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