Managing Stress, Anxiety or Depression as a Cancer Patient or Caregiver

In one's life, there are few moments when the world around you slows down and leaves a memory imprint that is hard to forget. These moments could be the highest highs like watching your baby "live" in the first trimester ultrasound; or the lowest lows, like the doctor pronouncing a confirmed cancer diagnosis. The common thread between these two ends of the experience spectrum is that both moments passed and what you are dealing with now, that too shall pass.

However, when you are living within the overhang of a cancer diagnosis, treatment or even survival, sometimes it is hard to get to "this too shall pass" state of mind. You may need a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on. You may need help to pick yourself up and fight through the clouds of stress, anxiety or depression that tries to engulf you. If you are a cancer patient going through the treatment, it is really tough for you. If you are a cancer survivor, now dealing with the side effects of post treatment support medications, it could be stressful for you to constantly find yourself dealing with one issue or the other. If you are a caregiver watching your loved one go through this entire journey, you may carry a mental burden that few understand.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with this cloud of stress, understand that your body is experiencing a built-in fight or flight response. Your central nervous system, the hypothalamus, the pituitary and adrenal glands, are really busy trying to respond to stress. A complex set of chemical reactions release stress hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline. (See study). If the stress event is short, like an accident scare, your body returns to normal soon. However, when you are exposed to a chronic state of stress, such as living under a cancer cloud, these hormones are constantly activated and may produce negative health effects. The following changes may be signs of being overly stressed:

  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness, guilt, or feelings of irritability 
  • Thinking negatively

 Our top 3 suggestions to manage stress

  1. Talk to others about how you’re feeling (e.g., friends, family, coworkers, a therapist.)
  2. Consider stress support mind-body therapies backed by research such as mindfulness, massage and yoga
  3. Work on improving your nutrition and consider evidence backed mood support wellness plans.

Before considering any mood support therapies like Ashwagandha,  see the research, understand the interaction safety with your medicines and discuss with a medical professional who has experience in integrative or functional medicine.   

And remember, "this too shall pass". So, don’t be too hard on yourself and take things one day at a time.

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