A mesothelioma diagnosis is one of the most stressful pieces of news that you can get. On top of the stressors of everyday life, a mesothelioma diagnosis adds its own list: pain and discomfort; financial hardships; going to multiple medical appointments; the side effects of treatment; having to leave work before you planned to.
Added to all this is the fact that there is no foolproof cure for mesothelioma at this time. Encouraging breakthroughs are being made but we don’t have a definitive answer to this disease currently.
When you or someone you love gets a mesothelioma diagnosis, your thoughts turn first to physical care. The cancer needs treatment, to contain it and slow or stop its spread. Mesothelioma treatment is crucial to extending life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
At the same time, it’s important to remember your mental and emotional wellbeing. Stress can take a heavy toll on you. It can even have physical symptoms. Scientific studies have shown that reducing stress can improve your health. That can help you stick around longer to spend more time with your friends and family.
Symptoms of Stress After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Stress can make you forgetful. When you’re trying to juggle a thousand and one things, it’s hard to stay on top of everything. A mesothelioma diagnosis adds a whole other set of to dos to your life without taking away anything. Suddenly, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. You have to take your spouse to chemo appointments but you also need to pick up dog food so the dog doesn’t go hungry.
Things go wrong. Your mind may be focused on worry about the future so it’s hard to focus on today. These are the times that tempers can flare, adding to everyone’s stress.
Tasks that used to be easy for you can become difficult when you’re stressed. You might have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. Even if you had a sunny outlook before, it’s hard not to think of your glass as half empty now.
Stress can lead to depression. You may feel pinned to the bed or the couch. Some people experience this as a physical fatigue that’s hard to overcome.
Stress and accompanying depression can also lead to insomnia. This may come at just the time when you need rest so your body can heal itself.
Other symptoms of stress can include a stomachache and even ulcers. If you have frequent headaches after your mesothelioma diagnosis, these could be caused by stress rather than any physical ailment.
Stress is a drag on your immune system. People who are very stressed are more likely to catch viruses and slower to heal from them. At a time when your immune system is already compromised by the side effects of mesothelioma chemotherapy or immunotherapy, it’s vital to get support in dealing with your stress.
Managing the Stress of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
The goal of stress reduction isn’t to remove the stress of a mesothelioma diagnosis. There’s no way to completely avoid stressful or anxiety-producing situations during mesothelioma treatment. No one enjoys sitting through chemo or spending time in the hospital after surgery.
But you are not powerless over stress. How much stress we have in our lives is less important than how we cope with the stress we do have. As your stress has increased, it’s a good time to pick up some tools for dealing with stress.
Stress reduction techniques can help you cope better with the inevitable pressures of a mesothelioma diagnosis. Whether you are the caretaker or the mesothelioma patient, these three techniques can help you deal with your stress and have a better day.
- Exercise compassion. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to do things as quickly or effortlessly as you did before your mesothelioma diagnosis. Scale back your expectations. Recognize that the people who care about you are also stressed and not at their best. Plan to go slow and take it easy.
- Exercise. Physical movement is one of the best ways to reduce stress. There’s nothing like working out your anxieties on a treadmill or in the swimming pool.
Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or long. Listen to your body and don’t push beyond what feels comfortable. A walk around the block or a short bicycle ride can leave you feeling more relaxed and less stressed. As a bonus, exercise will help you sleep better, which also alleviates stress.
- Meditate. Meditation is a common recommendation for dealing with stress and you may be tired of hearing about it by now. The reason meditation is talked about so much is that it works. In study after study, researchers have found that mindfulness practices have measurable health benefits.
Meditation can take many forms. You might find space in a church service or a music performance to free your mind from worry. Even something as simple as taking a few deep breaths can help you deal with a stressful situation.
You might want to try a recorded guided meditation to help you through the process of calming your mind and relaxing your body. There are many different paths to mindfulness. Try a few different approaches until you find one that works for you.
If you are still feeling resistant to meditation, seek out a meditation buddy. Sitting with another person or going to a meditation class can deepen the experience and make meditation feel more normal.
After you get comfortable with meditation, make it a part of your daily routine. Even just 15 minutes of mindfulness in the morning will get your day off to a better start.
Supporting Patient and Caretaker After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Whether you are a mesothelioma patient or a mesothelioma caretaker, you’re sure to be hit with extra stress after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
It may feel like you have more important things to do than take care of your own stress. Think of your mental wellbeing as the foundation of your house. If you’re stressed, you weaken the foundation and make the structure more likely to collapse.
A few minutes a day to reduce stress can have big benefits for everyone in the family after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Are you a caretaker or mesothelioma patient? What are your concerns about stress related to a mesothelioma diagnosis? If you found a different method to manage stress, please share your experiences by commenting here, writing us an email, or providing us a video clip. We look forward to hearing from you and sharing your knowledge with our readers.