Q. My aunt was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago and she's scared, anxious and stressed out. I'm trying to find anything that will help her and looking for suggestions.
First of all, I commend you for stepping up to help your aunt. The more supports in place for her, the better. That being said, it is also important that she can share her feelings and be understood. Cancer can certainly lead someone down a path of great anxiety. Your aunt’s entire world is shaken up right now, so how could she not be scared?
I will share with you some ideas that might help her to self-soothe. One of the first things I talk about with clients is the power of the word “Now” as a mantra. In life in general, we tend to jump ahead of ourselves and usually to the worst possible scenario. And with a cancer diagnosis, it is even more so. When your aunt jumps to the future, I suggest that she uses the word “Now,” as a reminder—of what is—at this moment. Of course, we are human, and she’ll keep jumping ahead, but the word now is a nice reminder of embracing this moment, and a powerful reminder that all we can control is this moment—our now.
I have done much work on coloring with my clients, and recommend it greatly. Coloring is all the rage now, and the reason why is because it works to reduce anxiety. Sitting down and coloring a pattern for 45 minutes will reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system and a myriad of other positives. Even better, add some calming music and your aunt will be surprised how time flashes by, and how relaxed she may feel after her artistic endeavor.
With doctor’s permission, your aunt should still get out there and exercise in a way that is comfortable to her. I call walking “perfect therapy.” We clear our minds and can consider different directions for our life scenarios. It’s also a wonderful low-impact exercise, and this too helps boost the immune system. While I see everyone out with their earbuds pushed in their ears, I suggest leaving the earbuds at home. Instead, listen to the song of the birds, the wind in the trees, or even the bustle of the city.
It’s also imperative that your aunt eats well and makes eating healthful meals a priority; food has a great impact on not only our health, but our mood. One of my favorite websites for healthful meal ideas is www.cookforyourlife.org.
As a caregiver to your aunt, please do not neglect your own self-care. Remember that CancerCare support services are available to those with cancer and their loved ones. Thank you for your question and remember that we are here for you.