With the novel coronavirus now a part of our daily lives, we are faced with a level of uncertainty that was previously unimaginable. Cancer patients deal with uncertainty every day, but a pandemic adds a layer of anxiety that may leave even the most seasoned pros emotionally drained. Although we may be keeping our distance, we want you to know that you are not alone. The truth is that this is really, really hard and we are all in this together. If you have questions, speak to your care team. They are there to help!
We’ve also put together some resources, as well as coping tips and tricks, to further support patients at this time.
- American Cancer Society: A reputable source and well known organization that offers facts and resources to help cope with cancer. They are now offering information about COVID-19 and cancer care as well. www.cancer.org
- OncoLink Coping with Covid Blog: A blog series focused on emotional coping and logistical questions for cancer patients. www.oncolink.org
- Coronavirus Sanity Guide: Offers live and recorded videos about coping with coronavirus anxiety. Provided guided meditations, podcasts, and newsletters. www.tenpercent.com
- Self Compassion: Learn to be nicer and judge yourself less harshly. www.self-compassion.org
- Cancer Care: Organization of oncology social workers. Provides online resources, a relaxation app for your phone, telephonic counseling, and virtual support groups. www.cancercare.org
- UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: Online resource and phone app available with free, guided meditations. www.uclahealth.org/marc/mindful-meditations
- Headspace: Popular app for mindfulness, meditation, and calming exercises.
If you are having thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or others, please call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach out to your local CSB Crisis Line:
Virginia Beach (757-385-0888)
For an immediate emergency, dial 911.
Coping Tips & Tricks
- Focus on getting information from reliable sources. In the time of so much information moving so quickly, it is easy to get swept up in rumors or information that simply may not be true. Focus on getting information reputable news outlets or organizations. If you are looking online, look for websites with .org, .gov, or .edu. CDC. gov and WHO.int provide updated and accurate information about the virus and recommendations.
- Limit time watching the news. Knowledge can be powerful and we want to stay up to date with what is going on. However, with so much negativity, watching the news 24/7 can leave you feeling drained, anxious, and out of control. Take a break from the news cycle or set a time limit on the amount of media you consume. The information will be there when you are ready to view it again.
- Keep a routine. Humans tend to be creatures of habit. We do better when we have structure and know what to expect. That is why the unknown can be so challenging for us to deal with. It will take some trial and error, but create a daily routine that works for you and your family. Try to stick to it as much as possible.
- Be mindful. Simply put, stay present. Focus on the here and now. Pay attention to how body feels, your thoughts, and your feelings. Refrain from judging yourself harshly. As we get anxious, our heart may race, our palms may get sweaty, and our body may get tense. Our thoughts can jump way out to the future, thinking of all of the “what ifs.” Try a breathing exercise, guided meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation to bring yourself back to the present. As you breathe, focus on your breath. Breathe in for 3, hold for 1, and release for 4. Breathe from your diaphragm. Notice as your body relaxes and you begin to feel more grounded. It may take some practice, but you will get the hang of it.
- Focus on what is within your control. With a cancer diagnosis and things changing so rapidly with the coronavirus, it is easy to feel like everything is out of control. Take a deep and pick out some things that you DO have control over. Even if it is something as simple as choosing to wear an outfit you like, or calling your doctor to share a new symptom. Take the precautions that you CAN take. Choose to wash your hands, choose to keep your distance, choose to connect virtually, etc. Listen to music. Music can be therapeutic. Sing or play an instrument. Make a playlist or simply listen to a song that you like. You can match your music style to your current mood or simply seek out music you find calming.
- Be creative. Coloring, painting, or creating art can be very therapeutic. It is a great way to focus your mind, release tension, and even process through your thoughts and feelings.
- Stay connected. Social distancing does not mean social isolation! Human beings are social by nature and crave connection. Use phones, internet, and social media in a way that works for you. Have virtual hang outs with friends and family. Stay up to date on each other’s lives. Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Google Plus, or Facebook Messenger all offer ways to connect with others. Join a support group. Oncology support groups will now be offered telephonically or virtually. Visit Sentara.com or call 1-800-SENTARA.
- Stay moving. Take a walk, YouTube a yoga class, stream a fitness class. Do what you are physically able to do. Remember, something is better than nothing.
- Stay busy. Stay active and engaged. Many places are offering virtual experiences.
- Embrace humor. Simply put, laughter is the best medicine. Finding levity and joy in difficult times can help us build resilience. It can bring us happiness, helps us see different perspectives, and can even strengthen our relationships through shared experiences. Watch funny shows and videos. Share jokes. Laugh at yourself.
- Help others, find opportunities, and find gratitude. When things feel out of our control, we may feel helpless. Reframe and find opportunities to help others and yourself. This may be the time to learn to sew and help make masks. Perhaps there is a musical instrument you wanted to learn how to play, or a hobby your wanted to start. Or maybe you can help someone else who is struggling. It is okay to feel scared and have gratitude at the same time.
For information about COVID-19 visit Sentara.com/Coronavirus or call 1-833-945-2395.