How you can help yourself
You may need other people to help you cope with the difficult emotions you’re experiencing. However, there are things that you can do yourself to help you feel better.
I felt very alone and even though my family and friends were incredibly kind, I was unable to share all my feelings with them. It was at the Macmillan information centre that they suggested I have some counselling. I had five sessions with Don. He taught me about the nature of fatigue and how I should allow for it in my daily life.
It’s important to look after yourself. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your feelings, it can help to take things a day at a time and not look too far ahead. Life will get easier to cope with as time passes.
Doing even the smallest tasks may help you feel better:
Eat well every day.
Get up and dressed every day.
If you feel unwell, get some extra rest and don’t put off seeing your doctor.
Accept offers of help, or turn to others for help.
Keep to a regular sleeping pattern if you can.
Try to exercise regularly - it can help you relax, boost your energy and help you sleep.
Try to share your feelings.
Try to keep your social life active by staying in contact with your family and friends.
Recognise when you’re feeling run down and stressed (you may experience headaches, trouble sleeping, tummy upsets, and colds that don’t go away), and see your doctor for advice.
Try to find some time just for yourself every day when you can fully relax.
If you can, try to make plans to do things you enjoy. You could try to book things a few weeks ahead, as this will give you something to look forward to.
Some people find that they lose motivation and begin to limit the amount of things they do. This can add to the feeling of being alone, so try to give yourself goals to achieve.
If you want to be on your own, try not to sit still in one place for long periods of time. It can help to make your environment as comfortable as possible, perhaps with a comfy chair, and plenty of light and fresh air. Listening to music or radio programmes may also help.
Tension can often be released by talking to other people. If you are living alone, you can call our cancer support specialists, or speak to your hospital staff or GP.
Some people find that it helps to write down how they feel. Keeping a diary or journal may be a way of expressing your fears and worries, without having to talk them through with other people.
You could also express yourself through drawing, painting, playing music or another creative hobby.
Sometimes, you may feel as if it’s all getting too much for you. If you feel this way, try thumping a cushion or pillow, turning the radio or CD player up very loud, or screaming. Exercise can also help release pent-up tension. Even gentle exercise such as walking can help. Having a good cry can also help to release emotions. These things won’t do anyone any harm and they may leave you feeling much better.
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There are many types of complementary therapy, including acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation, visualisation, homeopathy, art therapy and reflexology. Complementary therapists usually work with the person as a whole. This is called a holistic approach.
A complementary therapist who listens and cares may help you cope with some of your difficult feelings, which can help you get back some control.
Some hospitals and hospices provide complementary therapies alongside conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Complementary therapies may:
help you feel better and improve your quality of life
improve your general health
reduce stress, tension, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression, and help you feel more relaxed
help to reduce the symptoms of cancer, such as pain, feeling sick (nausea), breathlessness, constipation, diarrhoea, tiredness (fatigue) and poor appetite
help to reduce some of the side effects of cancer treatment.
You should always use a registered therapist. The British Complementary Medicine Association can give you the names of registered therapists and advice on what to look for. Remember to check the cost of treatment beforehand to make sure you’re fairly charged. Some support groups offer complementary therapies.
Self-help and support groups
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Joining a self-help or support group can have many benefits. These groups offer a chance to talk to other people who may be in a similar situation to you, and who may be facing the same challenges. Not everyone finds talking in a group easy. It may help to go along to see what the group is like and then make a decision.
You can search for groups in your area online. Alternatively, you can call our cancer support specialists and they can help you find local groups.
Cancer often causes people to think about their lives and their priorities. Some people make significant changes to their lives, such as changing their job. Or it may be a good time to think about joining a local hobby group so you can meet people. Doing something new may also help you feel better.
Alcohol and recreational drugs
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It may feel good at first to have a few drinks or take recreational drugs to help you forget how you’re feeling. However, this is only a short-term solution. Too much alcohol and drugs can cause problems and damage relationships with family and friends. In the long-term, alcohol and recreational drugs may seriously damage your health.
Taking recreational drugs can sometimes alter the effect of some painkillers, so your doctor or nurse may ask you about this. It’s important that you’re open with them about using these drugs.