Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be an incredibly difficult and stressful task. Numerous studies have been conducted on what stress does to the body and scientists agree that there are lots of damaging effects. One study from Carnegie Mellon University showed that stress affects the body’s ability to control inflammation. This increased inflammation can weaken the immune system and limit your body’s ability to fight infection. Additionally, a new study conducted at the Ohio State University Medical Center showed evidence that the effect of stress on the body is so great that it can outweigh the benefits of a healthy diet. Therefore, combating high stress levels can be crucial in the prevention and treatment of any cancer diagnosis.
Tips for reducing stress in your daily life:
1. Find a healthy outlet for pent-up energy: Sometimes negative emotions can build up and be hard to manage. Find an activity that helps you get rid of some of those feelings. Yoga, walking, and dancing are all great options.
2. Laugh: The old saying is that “laughter is the best medicine,” and this old adage proves true. Find something silly to laugh about and you’ll find yourself relaxing.
3. Find a good listener: Whether it’s your best friend, therapist, or your dog, sometimes just talking about what’s on your mind can be a helpful distraction.
4. Write down your worries: Have a journal you keep that you can write down any racing thoughts in. Every time you start to get overwhelmed with everything you have going on, just write it down. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling; just let your thoughts fill up the paper. You don’t have to let anyone read it; it can be helpful just to spell out all your worries.
So if you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, know someone who has, or have been fighting an uphill battle for a while, remember that it’s important to take care of your mental health too. Reducing stress can make you happier, healthier, and more capable of kicking cancer’s butt!
Sheldon Cohen, Denise Janicki-Deverts, William J. Doyle, Gregory E. Miller, Ellen Frank, Bruce S. Rabin, and Ronald B. Turner. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. PNAS, October 6, 2016. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1118355109
Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Fagundes CP, Andridge R, Peng J, Malarkey WB, Habash D, Belury MA (in press, advance online publication). Depression, daily stressors, and inflammatory responses to high-fat meals: When stress overrides healthier food choices. Molecular Psychiatry, October 6, 2016.
Casey Park, Senior Student in the Lipscomb University Didactic Program in Dietetics
Taking care of your emotional health is important, and talking to someone can help! Visit My PearlPoint to learn more about emotional support programs.