What does it mean to live one day at a time?

by Brittany McNabb

What Does It Mean To Live One Day At A Time?

People with cancer are often told to "just live one day at a time!" But what exactly does that mean? WhatNexters agree that it helps to have a day-by-day mindset but that you have to find personal ways that will work for you. You may find that it is easier said than done but that the reward is great. Here are some comments from WhatNexters that explain how they are living one day at a time.

Living one day at a time means you...

1. Pay Attention to Immediate Concerns

Focus On Today

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It helps some WhatNexters to slow down and focus on what needs to be done in one moment or in that day. Immediate concerns could be getting your kids to school, meeting a deadline at work, making it to chemotherapy, or getting dinner on the table. Try to make things less stressful around the house by taking it one thing at a time; focus on getting out of bed, moving around, eating breakfast, and then go from there. You can also enlist help from others when it comes to chores and family.

2. Ride Out All Your Feelings 

Ride Out All Your Feelings

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Some people with cancer get themselves down when they feel angry, sad, defeated, or guilty; WhatNexters say that part of living one day at a time is to feel everything. If you give yourself time for those feelings of anger or sadness to run their course then you can come back to having a positive mind.

"Living one day a time for me is to allow myself to feel ALL of my feelings: sadness, anger, strength, love, and hope. Be with your feelings in that moment and realize it is a moment in time that can change, that will change. Allow yourself to be tired and let people do things for you... it's all they can do to help. No one understands your diagnosis better than you do." - Nenasmom

3. Allow Yourself to Cry

Allow Yourself To Cry Cancer

via blogspot.com

People often want to hold back tears and keep a brave face, but it feels better to let them out and give yourself a few minutes to cry in private or with a loved one.

"If you need help living one day at a time I suggest that you cry till you're dry, then get on with things. Sometimes it hurts to hold back tears. My wise old Auntie Bea used to say, "Don't complain. Camp in the rain." Good advice for crawling through the trenches of cancer." - melanomamama

4. Don't Pretend "Bad Days" Don't Exist


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WhatNexters say that it is okay to have bad days. When you are fighting cancer, you are bound to face some bad days.

"To me taking it one day at a time allows me to feel what I am feeling that day. I was five months pregnant when I was diagnosed. I couldn't let the tumor control my every move, thought, and direction. I was carrying a baby I had to think about as well. There were days that I couldn't think straight because I was scared and fearful of the unknown but taking a deep breath and in I would inhale positive thoughts and exhale the illness and it's demise to control me. I control myself not this disease and it will not dictate my thoughts or actions if I have a say so! Enjoy the good days and take time to reflect and feel the bad days." - Hopeful130

5. Make a List of Things That Aren't Worth Worrying About

Worry Doesn't Help

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To help live one day at a time you can make a list of things that are not worth worrying about and then try to avoid those thoughts during your day. If you do feel that you need to think about a worry then write it down and let yourself consider it for 5 minutes at the end of the day. After those 5 minutes try to put it out of your mind.

6. Block Out "What Ifs"

Can't Worry About What Ifs

via alifetimeofwisdom.com

Along with worry come a lot of "what ifs." To avoid all these "what ifs" WhatNexter rlfuller7 suggests to avoid having a "tomorrow focused" mindset. If you focus on the day you're in then most what ifs become obsolete.

"Living day-to-day means staying focused on what you can do today. When people become "tomorrow" focused and allow thoughts about all that could go wrong to creep into their mind it allows fear to grow and often helplessness and paralysis of thinking. Find the good in each day and treasure it instead of dwelling on what ifs. Also, do all you can today to be strong and fight against your cancer." - rlfuller7

7. Outline and Post Daily Goals for Yourself

Daily Goals On Post Its

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It helps a lot of people to post their daily, weekly, or monthly goals somewhere in their home so that they can see them everyday. WhatNexter Pablo shares his inspiring goals below in the form of six guiding principles.

"Shortly after my diagnosis I wrote some guiding principles for myself and put them on my bedroom wall like a poster. I read them several times a day and still look back on them from time to time. This helped me cope day-to-day, even when I felt I was at my lowest. These six guiding principles are: STRENGTH: My mind, body and spirit are strong. As an integrated whole we will persevere. DETERMINATION: I have the will, the patience, the courage and the stamina to do whatever it takes to meet and overcome this challenge. OPTIMISM: I am confident that the expertise of my doctors, the advanced state of medical science and the love, good thoughts and positive actions of my family and friends will lead to a successful outcome. COMPASSION: I am less concerned for myself than I am for how this problem affects those around me, therefore, getting healthy again will make everyone's lives better. There will always be someone worse off than me; I will not indulge in self-pity. AWARENESS: I will constantly pay attention to and appreciate the kindness, pleasant sensations and beauty that surround me. CONTROL: I will influence what I can and will recognize the practical limits of my power." - Pablo

8. Control Your Eating Habits, Exercise Routine, and Hobbies 


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When it feels like cancer is taking over your life, it might help to live each day by focusing on things within your control such as eating habits, exercise routine, other distractions, and hobbies

9. Find Something that Gives You Energy

Do Something You Enjoy When You Have Cancer

via ymcaokanagan.ca

Even through fatigue and treatment, WhatNexters try not to let cancer suck the energy out of their life. Many have found hobbies, outings, or volunteer opportunities that gives them passion and energy in their daily life.

"What ever gets the fire to burn then its that energy you keep close to keep you modivated to keep on fighting. This is the one thing in life you fight worth fighting for" - ladyd2013

10. View the "Present" as a Gift

The Present Is A Gift


"Yesterday's History, Tomorrow a Mystery and Today is a Gift. That's why it's called the Present. To me taking it one day at a time allows you to feel what you are feeling that day. I was five months pregnant when I was DX. I couldn't let the tumor control my every move, thought, and direction. I was carrying a baby I had to think about as well. There were days that I couldn't think straight because I was scared and fearful of the unknown but taking a deep breath and in I would inhale positive thoughts and exhale the illness and it's demise to control me. I control myself not this disease and it will not dictate my thoughts and/or actions if I have a say so!" - Hopeful130

11. Don't Expect Too Much of Yourself

Dont Be Too Hard On Yourself

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If you are too hard on yourself or expect too much of yourself then you can end up exhausting yourself for the week. Some WhatNexters learn to temper the amount of things they take on in a day. You can do this by allowing yourself the proper amount of rest, asking for help from friends and family, and not beating yourself up when you have had a bad day.

"I cope with this however I can. Some of us worry, some are angry, as long as we listen to doctors and moving forward through treatment then we ARE fighting. I also avoid being to hard on myself and expecting to much from myself while I am in treatment." - peachpoppy

12. Have a Moment-by-Moment Mindset

Living Moment By Moment

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While it is important to plan ahead, it can also be important to live every moment. This not only helps you focus on getting through one moment at a time, but it also helps you to enjoy the good moments. Remembering to live one day at a time can also help your loved ones. Caregivers and advocates are often the ones that are thinking ahead and helping you plan the next step. By telling them "Let's take it one thing at a time," it may give them relief.

"We would see new patients with that same stare of fear and the unknown and I would get up or lean over to them and simply say take it one day at a time. Its overwhelming right now but it will get a little easier. That's my way I dealt with take one day at a time. Tomorrow will come soon enough. To all of our what nexters god bless you and your families and friends who are trying to help and who are trying to make this journey as easy as they can. I wish you all good luck with your treatment." - ladyd2013

13. Spend Time With Your Loved Ones

Spend Time With Loved Ones

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Sometimes living one day at a time means slowing down and cherishing time with your family and friends.

"Love your family as much as you can while you can. For example, a few hours after Chemo and with a chemo pump attached to me.. I went to my grandsons football practice. One of my joys in life is watching him play. Some other things...Try to gain some weight back since Chemo sometimes allows one to eat. Go back to work for 5-8 hours a day.... one still has to make a living and it helps having co-worker support! I am Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and I have a great doctor and outstanding nurses watching over me during my treatments. I cannot give them enough credit since I was only given 3 months. I found out it's just a number. If a treatment does not sound right... don't do it. Get a second opinion. Just keep fighting.... so you can wake up the next day to a loved one!" - armyret

14. Wake Up in the Morning and Get to Bed at Night

Just Get Out Of Bed

via ibnlive.in.com

Living one day at a time can literally mean focusing on getting out of bed in the morning and then making it to bed at night. WhatNexters have said that some days it is a struggle to get out of bed so to telling themselves "Just get out of bed and go from there" is enough.

"Someday, just getting up is enough. I focus on one day at a time...eating healthy, smiling, laughing and loving others is truly more than enough for me. I went through nearly a year of treatments and then three serious infections during and after my surgery and treatments but taking care of myself in general ways really helped." - rosepetal57

15. Keep the Faith

Keep The Faith

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If you believe in God then it may help to keep faith in him. If God is not your thing, it might help to search within yourself for soemthing you have faith in and hold onto that everyday.

"Sometimes you do just have to take it one day at a time but you still make the best of your day no matter what and pray for a better day tomorrow. Yes I have cried from the pain, I have laughed about it all and I keep my faith in the Big Guy." - riverratttt47w

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