By Flora Shepelsky and Sandra Dubrov
Although the link between stress and cancer is tenuous, research supports that chronic stress has a devastating effect on a person’s health and may negatively impact cancer recovery. According to the Journal of Clinical Investigation, adrenaline, a stress hormone, can support the growth and spread of tumors. A review of psychological studies and cancer treatment outcomes suggests that there may be a relationship between chronic stress and cancer.
Regardless, there’s no denying that being diagnosed with cancer is highly stressful. The way a person approaches stress and how they cope with it may influence the quality of their health. Chronic stress places the body in a state of constant inflammation, which opens the door for existing tumors to grow and spread. According to Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of epidemiology at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, even perceiving yourself as stressed can have negative biological effects. An American study suggests that stress-related psychological factors — such as fear, isolation and anxiety — can make breast cancer tumors more aggressive.
Follow these nine key stress-busting strategies that can help guide you through the process:
1. Go green
According to Dr. Eeva Karjalainen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, green settings can reduce stress, improve mood and increase overall sense of happiness. Influencing health with color is not a new concept—ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures traditionally used chromo therapy to heal. Although natural green settings such as forests are ideal, any green environment will work. Paint the living room green, eat plenty of kale, spinach and bok choy, and get something wonderfully green to wear.
Shallow chest breathing engages a part of the nervous system that activates stress. Breathe deeply in order to get the body and mind to relax. Breathe through your nose, bringing the air all the way down, below the navel, creating a big, full belly. Squeeze all the air out, bringing the belly button to the spine as you exhale. Take ten of these breaths as soon as you wake up, before falling asleep, and whenever stress feels increased.
3. Get out there
Walk, run, bike, hike. Enlist a partner to help with motivation, set a clear and achievable goal, log activity in a journal, and focus on just one thing. So, if you choose to walk for 15 minutes every morning at 7am, stick to it for one month and do it every day. If up to it, increase to 30 minutes for the following month. But beware: too many goals, skipped workouts, and lack of peer pressure spell decreased motivation. Focus and get the habit started.
Think of visualization as a mini-escape; your own private happy place. Studies show that this stress-reducing technique increases immune function and improves healing. Practice visualization or guided imagery by focusing on a peaceful place or scenario and allowing your imagination to explore it in every detail. If unsure of how to get started, try an audio recording or working on the technique with a therapist.
5. Listen to music
Studies suggest that listening to music can reduce stress hormones, improve sleep and relieve anxiety and depression. A study published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews reports that listening to recorded music or working with a music therapist improved cancer patients’ moods, relieved anxiety and created a positive overall effect.
6. Reach out
Cancer can be an isolating experience and it can be made worse if women find it difficult to talk about their feelings. We are all different—find an approach that works for you. Have a friend come over with dinner and a sympathetic ear. Create a “Team You” of supportive friends. Join a group or find a therapist. Find the courage to talk to just one person; it is the first step to feeling better.
7. Live life every day
Mindfulness is the practice of being present for your life. Practicing mindfulness helps women cope with difficult emotions, such as anxiety, fear and depression. According to Buddha, the secret to inner peace is living in the present, not looking into the past or anticipating the future. Start small: notice food— chew and taste it, take a moment to contract and relax muscles and feel your body and breath, acknowledge your feelings, good or bad, and let them go. Try yoga, tai chi, guided meditation or prayer for a more structured practice of mindfulness.
8. Feed yourself
Every one of the 100 trillion cells in a person’s body is made with the food they eat. Food affects everything—emotions, energy, metabolic functions and health. It affects how a person’s body responds to cancer, its treatment and recovery. Focus on eating whole, unprocessed, organic food.
Stress is a natural counterpart to a cancer diagnosis. By following these 8 simple steps, women can take their life back from this potentially debilitating disease and become healthier and happier in the process.
9. Find the right hairpiece
Men lose their hair and its considered business as usual, a part of life. But when women lose their hair, they’re embarrassed and often also lose their self-confidence and sense of femininity. A quality wig and compassionate service can go a low way towards alleviating the fear and stress cancer patients face on the road ahead. A hairpiece is a large and often unforeseen expense that can cause a great deal of anxiety. While it’s important to be well-informed in order to avoid spending too much or purchasing the wrong type of wig, this often (and justifiably) takes a back seat to researching and formulating a recovery plan from an illness.
A specialty wig salon is the best place to learn about all your options and try on styles. Most hairpiece salons provide plenty of privacy, along with a staff that is very sensitive and knowledgeable about hair loss due to cancer. They are equipped to guide you through your best options. If you do not have a specialist in your area, find one online. Call the salon, explain your situation and ask to speak to an expert.
About Design By Flora
Design by Flora is a wig, fall, and topper design and manufacturing company. Founded in 2005 by Flora Shepelsky, the company features New Jersey-based showroom and an online platform for customers worldwide. Renowned for their signature styles, which are available in a variety of colors, Design by Flora offers hundreds of hair enhancement and hair replacement solutions. All styles use virgin European hair and are uniquely constructed with Design by Flora branded specifications. Design by Flora’s clients range from women seeking fashion pieces to those seeking options for hair loss. For more information, please visit www.DesignByFlora.com.
About Sandra Dubrov CHC, AADP
Sandra Dubrov is a certified integrative health coach and diet specialist. She is certified by Teachers College of Columbia University, is an accredited member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and is the Health and Diet Coach at Sports Center in Chelsea Piers and JackRabbit Sports. Sandra has been featured in popular media outlets such as StyleCaster, Well & Good, Daily Candy, AOL Health, Better TV, and more. For more information on health and diet tips, special event listings and web-based classes, please visit www.SandraDubrov.com.