I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the fellow patients I met along the treatment part of my journey seem to all be worried about the amount of stress in their lives and its contributing factor to their diagnosis and recovery. Admittedly, I love the adrenaline rush that comes with being busy and having lots to do but I know that being in a constant state of pressure and anxiety is not good for me.
It is well documented that long-term and high-levels of stress weakens the immune system and it is the immune system that protects the body against illness. It is this immune response that reacts to damaged cells and therefore your immune system may help to fight cancer. However, there is no strong evidence to prove stress causes cancer. This isn’t to say that this is not true but it just can’t be strongly verified. We do know that being stressed means we are more likely to make poor decisions on smoking, drinking alcohol and food/exercise leading to obesity, all of which are linked to cancers.
Since I have a love hate relationship with stress and anxiety I have had to address this issue as I fundamentally believe stress is not good for me and I’m sure was a contributing factor to my diagnosis. That is not based on evidence but just my gut feeling and in the words of my dad “you have to be your own doctor”. So I really need to address this area of my life and I confess it is the biggest challenge I face.
Firstly, I had to consider why I have stress in my life. When I dug really deep I found that most paths lead to wanting approval from others. For example, you work hard so your boss and peers recognise and praise you, you bust a gut to keep up with the Jones’ so your neighbours and friends will approve of your home and lifestyle, you pound your body at the gym so that you fit into society and strangers approve of how you look. There is constant pressure wherever you go and now we have the added pressure of getting “back to normal” and “making the most of life”.
So how do I get away from the stress? It seems simple in the black and white of text, stop caring what others think! Amazingly, I think it could be this simple. It is so freeing and the beauty of this secret is that the pressure doesn’t really come from anyone else, it is all within me and within my control to change. That doesn’t mean it is easy to stop caring what my boss or family think, but it does mean I have learnt to protect myself from myself and am now able to spot why I am stressed and say “Who cares what they think! My health is more important”.
The key is to be in tune with your own needs and filter out what other people think you need. For example, if others think you should stay in a job, home, relationship but you think you should change, learn to listen to your own desires and be confident in making your decision. Easier said than done, I find it impossible to make a decision without someone agreeing with me. So here are some tools to help us be more assertive and reduce stress. Please see Stress Busting Tools.
It’s freeing to step away from the drama and realise that whatever it was that was causing you stress really isn’t that important. 99.9% of the time, no one is going to die because something doesn’t get done today. Meditation is an excellent practice to improve this area of your life, by not doing anything but observing your thoughts, you can gain a much better perspective of what is really important to you vs useless mind traffic. You also get used to being in a calmer state and are more kind and accepting of yourself, how you are now and not how you would like to be or how you used to be BC.