Q. How do you find "joy" in life when faced with your partner's serious cancer treatments, pain, and surgery? I find that I am worried/anxious most of the time.

A.

Finding joy in life amidst turmoil is not easy. The biggest question you have to ask yourself is how helpful and supportive are you going to be to your partner if you are not taking care of yourself as well. I think the best analogy I can offer to illustrate this concept is the oxygen mask… flight attendants instruct the passengers as follows: “In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” Take time out of your day even if it is five minutes to do something relaxing and enjoyable solely for you. Also, being mindful of the loving and joyous moments you share with your partner, as well as moments for yourself, such as recognizing the beautiful weather, if you have children enjoy the moments with your child(ren), if you have pets be mindful of the solace and satisfaction they bring you.

Anxiety (worry) is a natural feeling when facing a loved one’s cancer diagnosis; it often makes one feel a lack of control, and overwhelmed. Our bodies have what is called a flight or fight response, and when we perceive a threat to our personal well-being, our life, or even a loved one’s life, this mechanism is triggered, in which we choose to engage the threat or flee from it. To engage the threat means to understand the root cause for the perceived threat, and take steps to minimize its effects. There are some steps you can take to minimize anxiety, such as physical activity, deep breathing, or five to ten minutes of progressive muscle relaxation. Moreover, it is also important to understand the nature of the anxiety: are you experiencing physical symptoms related to your anxiety, or are you having negative thoughts or both? When experiencing negative thoughts, ask yourself the following questions: “What is the evidence for this negative thought? Am I looking at both sides of the issue?” Then counter those negative thoughts with three alternative positive, self-supportive statements.

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