6 Habits That Can Help You Feel More in Control of Your Health During Cancer

After being told one has cancer, many people think about making changes to improve their health. Better overall health can have several benefits for people with cancer. For some, it may decrease the chances of the cancer returning. For others, it may make treatment easier to bear, especially those with more advanced disease. And yet other people may simply feel that it improves their outlook about cancer.

There are many small changes that people with cancer can make that lead to habits that improve wellness. I think of wellness as an active process that leads to better health, and by forming habits that lead to wellness, we are able to focus on the physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and environmental components of well-being. When facing cancer, there is so much that feels out of your control. But there are many ways to take charge of certain aspects of your health that can help you regain a sense of control during cancer.

By making choices that lead to healthy habits, such as those described below, you can form routines that can give you resilience, improve your outlook, and may even promote a better outcome.

  1. Eat well. No single food or diet has been proven to prevent or cure cancer. But eating the right kinds of foods can help you feel better, stay stronger, and improve your ability to fight infection. Good nutrition enables you to preserve lean body mass (muscle), have a well-supported immune system, have a better quality of life, and may make it easier to tolerate cancer treatment.

  2. Get enough sleep. Sleep allows your body to refresh and rejuvenate. Sleep helps your immune system work better and keeps you mentally sharp. Most adults need about 7 hours or more of sleep each night. With a cancer diagnosis, having trouble sleeping is common, but there are steps you can take for a more restful night’s sleep.

  3. Be active. Because chemotherapy or other treatments can sap your body of energy, leaving you feeling fatigued and unmotivated, maintaining a regular exercise routine is all the more important. Physical activity can help reduce fatigue, improve your mood, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Even short bouts of activity such as gentle walking or light stretching will give you benefits.

  4. Reduce alcohol consumption. While we know that alcohol, even in small quantities, is linked to cancer risk, we don’t know exactly how much is safe to drink. That’s why we recommend patients limit their alcohol consumption.

  5. Practice meditation. Meditation is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years. Today, meditation is a daily routine for many people. For some people undergoing cancer treatment, meditation can be a powerful tool to help you maintain a more positive outlook by helping you to erase negative thoughts from your mind and create a mental image of the wellness you’re striving toward.

  6. Learn to lean on others. If you’re typically an independent person who likes to handle things on your own, leaning on others for help with daily tasks during cancer can be uncomfortable at first. However, the people in your life who love you are yearning for a way to feel like they’re helping, so accepting the help of others for things like maintaining the lawn, grocery shopping, paying bills, and managing other daily tasks can be as helpful for them as it is for you. By leaning on others, you’re decreasing the demands that may be too much for you, while at the same time giving the people you care about a way to truly help and feel like they’re making a difference.

When facing a cancer diagnosis, people often feel like they’ve lost control over their health. But, implementing small changes can lead to healthy habits for the long term.

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