A man grown weary over the stress of coping with prostate cancer every day wrote this: “So tired of living with cancer. Wish my mind could take a break.” As someone who has thought about my prostate cancer several times every day for seven years, I can relate!
His accurate observation made me wonder if our brain moves into a chronic and long-term “fight-or-flight” mode when we receive a diagnosis of cancer.
As an initial response to a stressful or life-threatening event, our fight-or-flight response can save our lives by helping us fight off a threat or flee to safety.
If we get stuck, here’s what happens: “Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body,” according to an article from Harvard Medical School. “Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction. More preliminary research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise).”
According to Dr. Neil MD, “When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream.”
It’s necessary to change the way we think in order to affect change in our body’s chemistry. We don’t want excessive amounts of cortisol in our bloodstream. This article offers 10 signs you’ll experience if your cortisol levels are excessive.
I’m dealing with a number of stressful life changes, so I wasn’t surprised to discover that I’m experiencing nine of the 10 signs. I need to put into practice what I’m about to share with you.
A Harvard Health publication offers three suggestions:
- Relaxed breathing. Deep abdominal breathing; focus on a soothing word (such as peace or calm); visualizing tranquil scenes; repetitive prayer; yoga; tai chi.
- Physical activity. Put another way, exercise. Walking, workouts, swimming, any increased movement that results in deep breathing.
- Social support. Having confidants, prayer partners, acquaintances, co-workers, relatives, spouses, and companions all provide a life-enhancing social net.
Here are a few ideas from me:
- Create a retreat in your home. My wife and I added a patio and gazebo in our backyard. It’s the place we go to share a drink, a meal, or just relax.
- Playtime with a pet. If you have a pet, spend time playing or relaxing. If you can’t or don’t want a pet, ask to borrow one from a friend for a few hours a week. Time spent with pets can add years to your life.
- Take time to laugh. Exchange jokes with your partner. Watch comedies on TV or at the movies. Spend time with humorous friends, read funny books or magazines. Actively search for things that make you laugh. The Mayo Clinic is one of many institutions that understand the healing and stress-relieving properties of laughter.
- Family time. Our family has a no-fighting rule. On special occasions, celebrations, and holidays, we get together for one purpose: to enjoy each other’s company. Read six reasons why family time is good for your health.
- Travel. Your medical condition or treatment may limit your ability to travel. In that situation, your special trip can be a visit to a local concert, movie theater, favorite restaurant, or watching a rented movie at home. My wife and I purchased an RV. We recently combined family time with traveling by spending eight days in Yellowstone with our oldest son and daughter-in-law. We had a fantastic time and created wonderful lifelong memories. Here’s why travel can provide you with relief from stress. Destination trips also provide stress relief. My wife, daughter, my Cavalier King Charles spaniel and I are currently in Monterey. In a few hours, we’ll spend time together on the beach. Watching the ocean brings us relaxation and peace.
- Hobbies. Some folks I’ve met are gifted with so many talents and abilities — they can build things, play musical instruments, or they possess an amazing amount of creativity. Then there are folks like me who still need suggestions to find a hobby. Hobbies provide stress relief.
- Prayer. For folks who have faith in God, there is no doubt prayer has the power to reduce or relieve stress. Here’s an interesting article on the power of faith to relieve stress, both psychologically and physiologically.
You’ve just finished reading 10 ways to relieve stress and take a break from cancer. What are you waiting for? Take a much-needed and well-deserved break from cancer today!
Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Prostate Cancer News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to prostate cancer.