Your emotional well-being
Stress is a physical, biological and emotional reaction to a challenging or threatening situation. Its purpose is to prepare you for action so you can respond to the stressor. When you are stressed the body secretes hormones which help you to physically react and your mind becomes very attentive to any potential threats in the environment. In many instances the stress response is very helpful when it is short lived, for example in a dangerous situation where you might need to fight the threat or run from the danger.The problem with stress
Stress can be a problem when it becomes prolonged. If the body is constantly engaged in the stress response, for example through ongoing fears and worries about illness, this overuse of the response can prevent it from working so well, which will impact on your whole body. Prolonged stress can affect the ability of the immune system to respond efficiently and affect your overall physical and emotional health. The specific effects of prolonged stress are different for everyone. For some it might manifest itself in the form of muscle tension or headaches, others experience mood swings – feeling very irritable or very lonely. The sense that you are ‘not yourself’ is a common feeling. Whatever your signs and symptoms, the important thing is to learn to recognise them as indicators of stress and to address them before they have a serious impact on your health and wellbeing.
Believe it or not, learning to relax can take practice. You are probably aware of a general compulsion to be always doing something, and when ‘relaxing’ find yourself still doing things, such as reading or watching TV. In the busy modern world, it’s possible to forget what real relaxation feels like. It is also possible to become stuck in the stress response as a result of your cancer diagnosis and its treatment. Your concerns and anxieties may have switched on this response without you realising it and you might not have noticed how it is affecting you day to day. When you relax your heart rate decreases, your muscles relax, your breathing slows and your thinking becomes clearer. For many people it induces a feeling of wellbeing. Although relaxation alone may not solve the issues contributing to your stress, it will help you to attain a better physical, mental and emotional state to manage them.
Probably the last thing you feel like doing is giving more time to your concerns, but talking about or writing them down can make it easier to start addressing them. Sometimes things seem less scary or overwhelming when they are written down or shared with a trusted friend. It’s about taking a first step to solving them which can help you to feel more in control.
Once you have acknowledged your worries, the next step is to identify those concerns you can do something about and those which seem out of your control. This is where writing the worries down or sharing with a friend can help you as you’ll have a clear list to work through. You may even be able to identify some steps you can take towards solving those concerns which currently feel out of your control.