A diagnosis of cancer can understandably be devastating – and it can also be difficult to distract yourself from the anxiety and anguish it brings. But caring for your mental health throughout what is undeniably a tough time physically is crucially important. In this article we share some advice on accessing activities that are designed to increase wellbeing and boost confidence – both during cancer care or treatment and after.
Cancer care can take its toll – and it’s sometimes difficult to feel like the person you were before. It’s also not uncommon to lack the motivation or confidence to head out and do the things you once did. It’s really key however to keep up with any hobbies or interests you have whilst accessing cancer care – especially if you’ve had to give up work for a while.
Keeping busy can help you to come to terms with your diagnosis, whilst certain activities have been shown to assist with pain and mental distress. You may find that you need to adapt your old schedule – but that doesn’t mean you should stop completely. For example, you may have enjoyed swimming twice a week before your diagnosis.
You don’t need to give up swimming – but if you don’t feel up to going so often you may feel more comfortable going just once a week and doing what you can. Maybe you attended an art class and have retreated for a while. Go back and enjoy both the creative and social aspects – and don’t worry about missing a session or taking time out when you need to. Even small things such as reading, seeing friends and baking are great ways to relax and unwind during cancer care.
Whilst this is a difficult time, it also presents an opportunity to try something you’ve never done before. Perhaps there’s a particular hobby you’ve always wanted to have a go at – but you never got round to exploring it.
As cancer care often means you need to take time off work and scale down your usual responsibilities, now is the perfect time to discover a new interest. It’s also the perfect way to combat any loneliness or despondency that can arise from feeling stuck in the house all day. Search in your local area for classes, groups and sessions that cater to your interests.
Choosing something you can practice and continue at home is useful – as then you can keep it up even when you don’t feel able to leave the house.
These activities don’t always have to involve participation – you could decide to go to the cinema more regularly or finally get to the theatre to watch that play, or schedule regular dates to attend a spa or beauty salon. How you spend your ‘me time’ is completely up to you!
Cancer care and therapy can be exhausting and sometimes pain, discomfort and side effects can be debilitating. Low-level physical therapy however can help to combat this and raise your overall feeling of wellbeing.
Most are also social activities – so you can get out, meet other people and have a laugh whilst you’re getting fit. Certain physical activities are perfect for individuals who are accessing cancer care. These include yoga, tai chi, swimming and dancing.
Which you choose will of course depend on your current physical health, your personal preference and how well you feel – but the wonderful thing about exercise and sports is that you can build up with most things, doing as much as you feel you can each time.
If you’re not sure where to start, speak to your local gym or cancer care provider and ask what’s available in your local area.
Walking is a perfect alternative for anyone who doesn’t like group activities – and it’s a great way to benefit from some fresh air and take in the beauty of nature. Walking has been shown to enhance physical and mental wellbeing – and you can set your own pace, going as far or as fast as you feel able to.
If you feel more comfortable meeting up with individuals in the same situation as you are in, there are also specialist groups that you may be able to access through your care provider or local authority. These are physical or creative therapy groups specifically designed and set up to deliver fun exercise and wellbeing activities for people who are undergoing cancer care and therapy.
Some groups simply meet for a chat and a coffee – providing someone to talk to and support workers to offer information and advice when required. Many arrange day trips – which can be a great opportunity to get out of the house and your local environment and experience a new place with new people.
If you’re interested in finding out more about local cancer care support groups in your area speak to your GP or healthcare provider, who should be able to point you in the right direction. They may also suggest charitable organisations (both local and national) that arrange days out, fundraisers, holidays and activities. Some groups provide transport, so you don’t need to miss out if you don’t feel able to drive.
UK Care Guide is dedicated to providing comprehensive, quality information to individuals accessing care. Our website is brimming with helpful resources – from blogs and articles on care to forums and informative eBooks. To find out more about the support we provide for individuals accessing cancer care, take a look at our dedicated cancer care pages here.
Are you accessing cancer care? Do you need support for a relative? Would you like to explore the various options available to make a decision with confidence? Learn more about accessing benefits you’re entitled to, arranging financial support and paying for care on our dedicated ‘Paying for Care’ pages.