Stress plays a significant role in today’s society. People are stressed about everything from work to their personal to-do lists, and stress does not discriminate. Those afflicted by cancer are part of the stressed population, and need to find ways to reduce their stress as much as possible.
Cancer can be exacerbated by high stress situations. In general, it has been proven that when the body is in high stress situations, the body has a greater propensity to develop a common cold or severe heart disease. The same is true of cancer – stress can worsen its symptoms and side effects. Stress reduction is recommended to improve immune function, mood, longevity, and productivity.
How Stress Affects the Body
During a period of high stress, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels begin to rise. Adrenalin is also released by adrenal glands. When the chemicals are released, the heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, and the immune system weakens. Chronic stress may allow cancer to spread because the immune system cannot naturally fight the free radicals in the body. Chronic stress may also lead to heart disease and stomach ulcers, which can exacerbate the side effects of cancer, and cancer treatment.
Stress can also affect the amount of nutrients a body absorbs. If the body cannot absorb iron or other essential vitamins, it cannot fight cancer-causing agents. Stress can also affect the amount of food a person consumes. It may cause a person to overeat or eat less than normal.
When under significant stress, people may become depressed or develop anxiety, phobias, or experience panic attacks. Emotional stress can also make it difficult to focus, make you irritable and impatient with others. Cancer can also be exacerbated by emotional and psychological stress.
5 Steps for Stress Management
Stress reduction is important for everyone and especially necessary to reduce the effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Here are five ways to help with stress management:
1. Meditate: Relax your mind and learn to approach life with honesty and compassion rather than from an overly critical and judgmental point of view. Meditation can aid in healing by releasing stress, tension and distraction. People should commit 15 minutes to meditation per day.
2. Exercise: Yoga, walking and swimming are all stress reducing exercises that increase the production of endorphins. Endorphins improve a person’s mood and can reduce the symptoms related to anxiety and depression. Exercise can also increase self-confidence.
3. Eat Healthy Whole Foods: Eating green, leafy vegetables is recommended for treating stress. Chronic stress can deplete the body of essential B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for good health, along with magnesium and calcium. Caffeine and sugar should also be avoided because both can lead to stress and depression.
4. Get Adequate Sleep: Sleep is essential to stress reduction. Lack of sleep can cause decreased motivation and energy and therefore decreased productivity.
5. Learn to Think Differently: People must learn to reduce worrying and promote a stress-free lifestyle.