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How to Stop Worrying

Last updated: December 2022

September was a very difficult month for me. It is the anniversary of my devastating news of a cancer diagnosis as well as the due date of my annual CAT scan to determine if my non-Hodgkin lymphoma is still “sleeping.”

I found myself irritable, and anxious with difficulty sleeping. It finally dawned on me that I had not recognized this mood change and anxiety was related to my upcoming oncology visit and diagnostic testing.

Living with uncertainty

I was in a funk and now I realized why. Living with uncertainty is a normal part of cancer survivorship. Both the follow-up labs and annual CT scan contributed to my negative mood. I had not realized why I was worrying and feeling so down. I assumed it was the aftermath of my husband’s recovery from lung cancer surgery and chemotherapy.

Needed to focus on my coping skills

It finally dawned on me as to why I was feeling so sad and anxious. My previous coping skills were needed.

1. Recognize your emotions.

Do not hide what you are feeling.
Talking with family and friends can help you figure out your fears. I finally shared my fears of cancer recurrence and its impact on my life. My husband and I talked about what might need to be done. We are living in a different state and might need to consider changing oncologists and medical facilities. By clearly sharing my fears and developing options to handle, I felt less anxious. This talking and exploring actions to take helped me cope more effectively. By not ignoring my fears and feelings, I felt more in control and less anxious.

2. Make healthy choices.

While in my funk, I had no energy to do things that I enjoyed. I immediately returned to my yoga sessions which I found relaxing, invigorating, and helped clear my mind. Find things that you enjoy. Walking on the beach, reading, and exercising at the gym with my husband are activities that gave me something to look forward to.

3. Focus on the present moment.

Try not to think too far ahead. This is difficult for me as I like to be in control. Instead try to enjoy each moment. Instead of planning too far ahead, try to enjoy today. This mindfulness can lessen stress and pursue meaningful activities. I now try to look forward to something each morning.

4. Be kind to yourself.

What can make you feel better? I enjoy an occasional massage. I discovered by joining a monthly program, I would save money and provide a relaxing intervention to lessen my stress. I even scheduled a massage for the day after my oncology visit. I anticipated that I would need it. Try to explore something that you would enjoy and make it happen.

Recognizing your feelings, fears and concerns is most important. Worrying can affect your mood, sleep pattern and general health. We must try to use the suggested strategies and prior coping skills to deal with the uncertainty of cancer survivorship.

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