New Ways To Beat Anxiety

by Jane Ashley

Anxious? As if it wasn’t enough for us to anxious over our cancer diagnosis, now we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, no one knows exactly how this will play out. But we, as cancer patients and cancer survivors, must practice social distancing for quite a while to protect ourselves and our surrounding family.

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The “not knowing” part of the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to our anxiety. The every-day news briefings from the White House, governors, and local officials keep us on edge. The uncertainty of when our lives will normalize adds stress.

Everyone is different.

Finding relief for anxiety and stress is not “a one size fits all” solution. My brain is hard-wired to stay active, so meditation adds to my stress because “silent mindfulness” just allows my brain more time to think about my problems and the problems of the world.

Others swear by yoga — I like yoga in a group setting, like Silver Sneakers yoga, but find that it’s difficult to do at home by myself. I do still find that sitting cross-legged on the carpet relaxes me, and I love to do the “warrior” pose.

Others find peace and solitude while walking or going fishing. But exercise is not the answer for everyone either — people who have mobility problems (in a wheelchair, have bad knees, or balance problems) or have chronic health problems like COPD or MS find that exercise or walking is not possible.

What all of us need are solutions that provide more immediate relief, and that can be done almost anywhere — in public, in a waiting room, or the chemo infusion room, as well as at home.

New stress-busting ideas.

Here are some different ideas for us to try. Most are free or very low-cost.

Deep breathing using the 4-7-8 method. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Exhale through your mouth with a swoosh sound for 8 seconds. Repeat 4 times. NOTE: Start slowly. Breathe in for 2 seconds, hold your breath for 3-4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. Just do 2 breaths twice a day.

There are both Android and iOS phone apps to help you learn how to breathe deeply.

The 4-7-8 method of deep breathing helps with:
• Reduce anxiety
• Fall asleep
• Manage food cravings
• Reduce aggressive behavior

Listen to the world’s most relaxing song

Download Weightless

Marconi Union, a musical group, developed a song entitled “Weightless,” and it’s reputed to reduce anxiety by 65%. There is even a 10-hour version that you can download for free. Bookmark “Weightless” on your phone so that you can listen when you get stressed out waiting for a CT scan or if you get stressed at chemo. Listening to “Weightless” helps many people go to sleep more easily.

Try aromatherapy

Several essential oils help reduce anxiety — chamomile, lemon, and lavender are known for their calming qualities. Use in an oil diffuser at home or dab on a tissue and tuck it under your shirt.

Scented candles, including frankincense, sandalwood, orange, and lavender, help relieve anxiety too.

Jigsaw Puzzle Table

Jigsaw puzzles

Transform a table into a dedicated jigsaw puzzle space . More and more people are rediscovering the power of a jigsaw puzzle to relieve anxiety.

Adult coloring books

Coloring helps relieve anxiety and depression. If you don’t want to take coloring books and pencils with you, try the Colorfy app — it’s free and available for iPhones and iPads and android. You can use colored pencils or colored markers ; just order from Amazon or Walmart.

Adult Coloring Book

There are many websites for free coloring sheets. Some goods ones include:

Start or resume a hobby

Working with our hands is a great anxiety reliever. Art, knitting/crocheting, woodworking, fishing, photography, sewing, gardening, pottery — hobbies distract our minds from stress and anxiety of the day. Hobbies are enjoyable and often create a thoughtful gift or a useful item in our household. Hobbies may also lead to an income-producing business down the road.

Simple stress busters:
• Chew gum
• Reduce caffeine intake
• Spend time with your pet
• Be grateful for small things

There is one fact that we can’t ignore. Never in our wildest “nightmares” did we see a worldwide pandemic coming. We “thought” that with modern medicine, nothing like this was possible. We thought our technology and standard of living were enough to overcome anything. But, Mother Nature tricked us again. For all of us, we’ll never again take for granted simple pleasures like a family get-together or our child’s birthday party. We’ll probably enjoy strolling through the grocery store again. We’ll love meeting our friends for lunch out at our favorite restaurant. 

We’ll live again — close to the way it was — but we’ll never forget the year of 2020.

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