Vidya Kollu, MD, a passionate hematology/oncology specialist at Genesis Health System. With a dedication to patient education and providing world-class care, Dr. Kollu sees patients in Davenport, Iowa, and Silvis, Illinois. Her expertise lies in delivering personalized treatment plans and compassionate care for her patients throughout their cancer journey. You can follow Dr. Kollu on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Microhabits are small, specific actions you can take to help you work toward a certain goal without having to make major changes. They are designed to be easily achievable and sustainable, making it easier for you to adopt and maintain healthy habits. By focusing on small steps, you can gradually make positive changes that can have a significant impact on your well-being.

Microhabits can be especially helpful for people with cancer, who may find it more difficult to maintain healthy habits as they navigate cancer and its treatment. Here, learn more about how microhabits could be helpful to you during your cancer experience and the practical steps you can take to get started.

How can microhabits help people with cancer?

Forming microhabits, as opposed to making drastic changes, can be particularly beneficial during cancer for several reasons. First, people with cancer may experience physical and emotional fatigue, which can make it challenging to maintain or adopt new habits that require a lot of energy and effort. If you are struggling with fatigue, microhabits can be helpful because they allow for small, manageable steps that can be easily integrated into your daily routine without overwhelming or exhausting you.

Additionally, receiving a cancer diagnosis can often bring with it a sense of uncertainty. Microhabits can help provide a sense of control and stability as they are specific, achievable actions that people with cancer can focus on amid the broader challenges they face. By incorporating microhabits into their daily routine, people with cancer can regain a sense of control and gradually start making positive changes, which can have a profound impact on their emotional well-being.

Finally, forming microhabits during cancer acknowledges the importance of self-compassion and self-care throughout the cancer experience. Cancer treatment can be demanding, and individuals may need to conserve their energy and prioritize their well-being. Microhabits allow for small, consistent acts of self-care that can help relieve stress, enhance emotional well-being, and improve overall quality of life.

What types of microhabits can be helpful during cancer?

The microhabits that might be helpful to you as you navigate cancer may depend on the side effects you are experiencing or the healthy habits you are having difficulty maintaining. However, some microhabits that may be particularly helpful for people with cancer include:

  • Taking short breaks throughout the day to combat fatigue. This microhabit can help manage fatigue, which is a common side effect of cancer and its treatment. By taking short breaks, you can better conserve your energy throughout the day and prevent exhaustion.

  • Adding a serving of fruits or vegetables to each meal for better nutrition. Good nutrition is crucial during cancer, as it supports the immune system, aids in recovery, and provides the body with essential nutrients. Incorporating this microhabit into each meal ensures that you are nourishing your body with the vital vitamins and minerals it needs.

  • Establishing a bedtime routine that promotes better sleep. High-quality sleep is essential for people with cancer, as it helps promote healing, reduces fatigue, and improves overall well-being. This microhabit involves creating a relaxing routine before bed that works for you in promoting restful sleep. This routine may include avoiding screens before bed or practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation.

  • Engaging in gentle exercise, such as short walks or stretching exercises. Regular exercise can help manage the side effects of cancer and its treatment, improve mood, and increase energy levels. Incorporating gentle physical activity into your daily routine can help you maintain strength and mobility during cancer treatment and recovery.

How can people with cancer get started with forming microhabits?

To get started with developing microhabits during cancer, you can follow these 7 practical steps:

  1. Start small. Begin with identifying 1 or 2 microhabits that you know will be easily achievable.

  2. Set specific goals. Clearly define what you want to accomplish with each microhabit.

  3. Create reminders. Use alarms, sticky notes, or phone notifications to prompt you to engage in your microhabit at the same time each day.

  4. Be consistent. Make a commitment to practice your microhabits either daily or on specific days of the week.

  5. Track your progress. Keep a journal or use a habit-tracking app to keep track of how well you are sticking with your microhabits.

  6. Be flexible. If a particular microhabit doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to modify or replace it with another.

  7. Celebrate successes. Acknowledge and reward yourself for consistently practicing your microhabits.

It may also be helpful to talk with your health care team to get their recommendations for incorporating microhabits into your routine, including which they think might be most helpful for you. Some questions you can ask your health care team include:

  1. Are there specific microhabits that would be most beneficial for me and my cancer type and treatment?

  2. How can I incorporate microhabits into my daily routine without overwhelming myself?

  3. Are there any precautions or modifications I should consider when practicing certain microhabits?

  4. Can you recommend any resources or support groups that can provide guidance on establishing and maintaining microhabits?

  5. How can my loved ones support me in adopting and maintaining microhabits?

Incorporating microhabits into your daily routine can have a profound impact on your well-being during cancer. By starting small, setting specific goals, and being consistent, you can gradually adopt and maintain healthy habits that address the various challenges you may be facing. Remember to seek guidance from your health care team if you have questions, and be flexible in finding the microhabits that work best for you. With perseverance and support, you can harness the power of microhabits to navigate your cancer experience with greater control and enhanced well-being.