Editor’s note: For information about how coronavirus disease (COVID-19) affects pancreatic cancer patients, please see our blog covering frequently asked questions for patients.
Everyone reacts differently to the stress associated with what’s happening in the world right now.
Some people use humor, which can be uncomfortable for others. Some people get angry. Some people feel an overwhelming sense of fear.
Nicole Feingold, MA, senior director of Scientific and Medical Affairs at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), shares, “We should not minimize people’s feelings or their different reactions.
“It’s OK to have a range of feelings. It’s also OK to not be OK.
“We are all navigating this new normal. Although we are social distancing or staying ‘safe at home,’ we are experiencing and figuring this out together.”
During this uncharted time, it may be more challenging to take care of yourself and your loved ones – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
“It is extremely important to make self-care techniques a priority during this unprecedented time,” Feingold says. “We are more resilient and healthy when we build in self-care.”
Here are some ways to take care of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
Take a Break
- Limit your exposure to news and social media. Choose just a few trusted sources for news, including a local source to learn what is happening in your community, and turn to those media at set times – not all day. Use social media to connect with people you don’t get to see in person, but don’t spend too much time on these platforms getting news and updates around the disease. Otherwise, it’s easy to be consumed every moment of the day with news about the disease as well as opinions and misinformation, all of which can be overwhelming.
- Go outside (but still keep appropriate social distancing of at least six feet). Fresh air and nature are excellent mood-lifters.
- Get moving. In addition to being essential for your physical health, exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress. Even if your go-to class or gym is closed, there are many online and at-home exercise options. But be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
- Try to laugh and have fun. Watch your favorite comedy. Think about a funny memory. Tell your friend the story of how you were in a video conference with coworkers and your 3-year-old walked in and said something embarrassing. Turn on some music and dance in your living room.
- Consider calming activities such as meditation or yoga.
- Take advantage of the free virtual offerings available. Museum tours, religious services, yoga and meditation classes, home workouts, dance parties, concerts, story time – there are so many options being provided as a public service right now online and through social media.
- Phone – or video chat – a friend. Make it a priority to stay connected. Set up a virtual coffee date or happy hour.
- Do things as a family that you may do independently otherwise, like cooking or exercising.
- If a spiritual or religious practice is important to you or has been in the past, attend services online or connect with your community virtually.
Reach out to Experts
- If needed, get professional help. Many psychologists and counselors will talk with you over the phone or video if you cannot come in for a physical appointment at this time.
- If you have concerns related to cancer treatment or its interruption, be sure to discuss those with your healthcare team.
- Express yourself. Journal, write, paint, draw, scrapbook – create!
- Find new or different ways to celebrate special occasions. Even if you have to stay home for dinner, dress up like you are going out and use your best dinnerware.
- Use this as an opportunity to do things you enjoy that can be done within your limitations. Read, listen to music, cook, bake, watch TV or movies, play games, create art, knit, learn something new.
Take Care of You
- Control what you can. Try to maintain as much normalcy as possible – like keeping routines around things like mealtimes, exercise, socializing (although virtually) and sleep.
- Get enough sleep, and don’t feel guilty about resting or taking naps.
- Understand that your friends and family may be coping with this in a way that is very different from you.
- Try to stay in the present. There is so much right now that we do not know and that is out of our control. Try to focus on what you do have, what you can control and what your reality is today. Address tomorrow tomorrow.
- Get support for everything you are going through. Even when in-person cancer support groups are cancelled, online and phone groups are still an option. You can also connect one-on-one with others through programs like PanCAN’s Survivor & Caregiver Network.
This challenging time is giving us an opportunity to slow down and focus on what we need to replenish ourselves.
Feingold reminds us, “Stay calm and virtually connected, while also implementing other self-care techniques to manage this evolving situation.”