Here are some helpful websites for evidence-based self-help for looking after our emotional wellbeing.
Access Therapies Fife and Moodcafe have been developed by the Fife's Health and Social Care Partnership's psychology service and have a range of resources to help you manage a range of difficulties including depression, anxiety, panic, poor sleep.
Access Therapies Fife provides information to help you to deal with mental health problems and to access a range of local services.
You can speak with your Cancer Nurse Specialist about your emotional wellbeing. Also, the Macmillan Support line is a free and confidential support service people living with and affected by cancer is open 7 days a week, 08:00 to 20:00 on 0808 808 0000.
There are many reasons sleep might be disrupted following a cancer diagnosis. Worry, pain, night time toilet trips, or disrupted sleep while in hospital can all contribute to sleep problems in the short and longer term.
People can worry if they think that they are not sleeping enough. However, there is no correct amount of sleep that everyone must have. Sleep is a natural process that is not directly under our control. Our bodies take what they need. Also people tend to need less sleep as they get older.
So, although some people may worry that they are not sleeping enough, in fact they probably are.
Sleep, however, can be affected by a range of things. For example, an increase in stress, anxiety or worry, the impact of our surroundings, the food or drink we have had, medication, a disrupted routine, physical problems such as pain or bladder problems and also what we are doing or not doing, such as not getting enough exercise.
There are different types of sleep that we all go through at night - deep sleep and REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep. Research suggests that these different phases of sleep have different purposes. If we are geng less sleep in the short term, our bodies will adjust the type and quality of sleep to make sure we stay healthy. So having only two or three hours of sleep for a few days is unlikely to cause problems.
However, people can experience problems if they are getting less sleep than they need for a long period of me. They can be more irritable and have difficulties with concentration as well as feeling really red. They might also find themselves falling asleep during the day. Over me their physical and also mental health may also be less good.
If you are experiencing difficulties with sleep, there are a number of resources you can access to help:
- Leaflet: Tips for sleep
- Space for Sleep computerised Self-help programme (self-referral via Access Therapies Website)
- Sleepio App
Looking after your emotional wellbeing
During times of stress it is particularly important to look after your emotional wellbeing.
You may find you experience a range of emotions and sensations including tension, stress, anxiety, low mood, anger and it can be helpful to learn and practice relaxation. Relaxation can take many forms, such as our hobbies, gardening, listening to music, spending me with friends, family or pets, yoga, singing, walking.
It can also be helpful to practice relaxing your body and mind through regular relaxation exercises.
We can then use these through and after treatment.
Maggie's have some excellent relaxation exercises which can help with managing difficult emotions.
Dealing with worry and hyperventilation
It is not unusual to feel anxious or overwhelmed when faced with illness. Sometimes feelings of panic can lead to changes in our breathing (over breathing) which can make physical symptoms of anxiety worse. This leaflet on hyperventilation tells you how to control your breathing if you are having a panic attack.
Staying present can be difficult at the best of times. We often become caught up in our thoughts and lose touch with what is happening around us. This can make us vulnerable to common difficulties such as anxiety, worry and depression. Following your cancer diagnosis, you may find your mind racing and that you are less tuned in to the here and now.
Mindfulness is a basic human quality and we all have the capacity for it. It allows us to bring awareness to our "here and now" experiences. Through mindfulness, we can learn to pay attention to what is happening in the body, our minds and our emotions. Very often we are caught up in ‘doing mode’; which is the opposite of mindfulness.
In the doing mode, we tend to analyse, problem-solve, plan and rush around. Whilst the doing mode is helpful for certain areas of our lives, it can lead us to be “out of touch” with our emotional wellbeing. This can mean we are more susceptible to feeling low or anxious. When we are mindful, (also known as the ‘being mode’), we are able to live more fully in the present moment rather than being drawn into regrets about the past or fears for the future.
Mindfulness is developed through the practice of meditation. This is a process where we direct our attention in a particular way, and increase our awareness of moment to moment experiences. It engages all of our senses as we open up to our unfolding experiences. We become aware of our body, our minds and emotions and the environment around us. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced in a number of formal and informal ways and can be experienced at any given moment. As such it is helpful to consider it as a way of being, or a way of life rather than a technique. The attitudes which we bring to our difficulties are very important. With mindfulness we learn to approach our emotions and our problems with an attitude of openness and non-judgemental awareness. Through commitment to practice, we can learn to become more connected to ourselves and our lives and change the relationship we have towards our difficulties.
There is a body of research supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing anxiety and stress, improving mood and coping with chronic physical symptoms including pain. It is also used as a relapse prevention strategy for people recovering from depression.
Sometimes people find that mindfulness exercises can make them more aware of difficult thoughts and feelings. If mindfulness exercises do not feel helpful for you, you do not need to persevere with them. Do what is right for you.
Making healthier lifestyle choices
Whether you are feeling physically fit or have health problems that are difficult to manage, there are things we can all do with our lifestyle to help us be healthier. This is also known to be beneficial in preparation for treatment for cancer and the benefits can be achieved within as little as 2 weeks.
Healthy behaviours include following a healthy diet; being more active; avoiding smoking; and drinking only small amounts of alcohol. If you have a medical condition, the benefits of improving your health can lead to better management of your condition, fewer complications and improved quality of life. Improving your health ahead of cancer treatment can help your body prepare for the demands of treatment and aid recovery.
Making changes is not always easy. It is normal for people to struggle to change or stick to changes.
You might never have done some of the things before that would help you feel healthier. The information available here, which includes downloadable leaflets / worksheets, may help you to achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle. This can help you to feel healthier.
Making changes can involve different steps. These are explained in the downloadable leaflet "Making Healthier Lifestyle Changes Whatever your Starting Point". There
are also lots of exercises that can help us start to think about making a change.
Thinking about your values and how making changes to your lifestyle may help you fulfil how you want to live your life might also help. The 'My values' leaflet might help you to do this.
- Making healthier lifestyle changes whatever your starting point
- Pros and Cons of Making a Change
- Setting Goals and planning