For many of us, COVID-19 has brought fear, worry and sadness. But for breast cancer patients it adds a layer of uncertainty and stress to an already difficult period. And as research shows, stress can wreak havoc on your immune system—making it harder for your body to fend off illness.1 This is especially concerning if you’re already dealing with a compromised immune system. Now, more than ever, it’s important to give yourself permission to slow down and focus on your overall well-being.
stick to a routine
Maintaining a consistent schedule can help you feel like you have more control over your life. It’s also a good way to adopt healthy habits, like waking up and going to bed at the same time each day. Be sure to work in stress-busting activities, too. Meditate, do yoga, listen to music—anything that makes you feel good. And whenever possible, get outside. Being in nature has been found to help lower stress hormone levels.2 Make walking in nature a habit by blocking time on your calendar or committing to doing it at the same time each day.
focus on others
When you’re going through breast cancer, it can be hard to step out of yourself and consider what others might be experiencing, especially when what you’re going through is often all-encompassing. Connecting with others during this time can create a solid network of support, while helping take your mind off your own worries. If you know someone who might be feeling lonely during this time, reach out. Chances are, you’ll feel good doing it.
take care of your daily needs
When you’re stressed it’s easy to forget the small daily tasks that are vital to supporting your immune system. Make sure you’re eating well-balanced meals, drinking lots of water and limiting alcohol. Also, make sleep a top priority. Sticking to a sleep schedule will help, but quality sleep during stressful times can be hard to come by. If you’re having trouble, try these sleep strategies.
avoid unnecessary stress
Staying informed is obviously good, but not when it starts to heighten your anxiety. Scrolling through social media, constantly monitoring case numbers or reading countless news articles is sure to get your heart racing. Be mindful of how you consume. Avoid checking social media feeds before bedtime or in bed at all. Consider setting a timer so you don’t get sucked into the 24/7 news cycle—24/7. Think of all the time you’ll save. Now spend it doing things that put you at ease.
acknowledge what’s good
Some days it may feel like the world is falling apart, but there are a lot of positive things happening, too. Instead of keeping a running total of what’s bad, focus on the good. Start a daily gratitude journal. Before you go to bed list three things you’re grateful for. Or share three good things you saw or experienced that day. Chances are, once you take notice of the little things, you’ll find you have much more to be thankful for than you ever realized. That much is certain.
- MaryCarol R. Hunter, Brenda W. Gillespie, Sophie Yu-Pu Chen. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers.Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI: 3389/fpsyg.2019.00722