Mansfield psychologist offers advice for cancer patients coming out of shielding
The advice, from King’s Mill Hospital’s Dr Sanchia Biswas, follows Macmillan research that revealed one in eight people with cancer have seen their mental health worsen during the pandemic.
The clinical psychologist has provided a few tips on how cancer patients can cope with the ‘new normal’.
She said: “Firstly, well done. Having cancer during the time of Covid is a significant and unprecedented challenge, getting through it must have been very tough at times.
"We hope that you are able to take moments to be proud of yourself.
‘Although you may not be required to shield anymore, this doesn’t mean that the world will automatically feel safe. Others around you, who might not have had such recent experiences of serious illness or hospitals, might find this difficult to understand.
"Your ideas about risk might be different. Keep conversations going, each time you make a change discuss what this activity will need to look like for it to be safe and valuable for you.
"Don’t feel bad about feeling anxious about leaving home! Although anxiety is unpleasant, anyone in your position would feel this way. Anxiety can affect us in lots of different ways - including muddled thoughts, or physical reactions such as a pounding heart or feeling tense.
"Remember that these symptoms are short lived and there are some practical ways in which you can manage them. Adapt to your new surroundings gradually and at your own pace.
"The anxiety will reduce as you feel more comfortable doing more to manage it. Try not to jump into something overwhelming straight away.”
Research by Macmillan Cancer Support has recently revealed that the virus has left as many as one in four people with cancer in the UK (around 840,000) feeling stressed, anxious or depressed and one in eight people (around 390,000) have seen their mental health worsen due to the pandemic.
Sanchia added: “If anxiety comes along, acknowledge that it is there, and that it is a normal physical response that we all feel as humans... If you feel physically anxious, you can try a breathing exercise which involves taking deep breaths. As you breathe in, count ‘1000, 2000, 3000’ in your mind and then breathe out counting ‘1000, 2000, 3000, 4000’ in your mind; we breathe out for longer so that we can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system in our body which helps to slow down bodily processes (e.g. heart rate, breathing etc). Continue the activity if you can for at least 10 breaths.
"Another exercise you could try when feeling anxious involves becoming engaged to your senses. This exercise is called 5,4,3,2,1 and involves bringing your attention to the here-and-now; take a moment to notice five things you can see, four things you can feel with your hands, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can
"There is so much going on at the moment that might affect you and make you feel that you have no control, for example the behaviour of the general public or the government’s actions.
"However one way to overcome this is to focus upon what you can control. Write a list of activities/tasks that you can do, and perhaps allocate a date/time to complete them. It is ok to feel anxious or frustrated with what you can’t control, but then re-focus on what you can.
"Remember that you have dealt with worries and uncertainties around your health prior to Covid, this is nothing new. Think about what helped you before that you could do now.”
You can find ways to help you keep healthy, mentally and physically, as well as information on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting cancer care on Macmillan’s coronavirus hub, www.macmillan.org.uk/coronavirus.