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How to Maintain Healthy Habits Through Cancer Treatment

Making the effort to maintain your health is always important, but when you’re undergoing cancer treatments, it can be a lot harder. Many of the things we think of as healthy habits, such as eating balanced meals or regular exercise, are complicated by cancer treatment. Meds and chemo can leave you too tired to hit the gym or too nauseous to eat those beautiful healthy salads. So, the question becomes, how can seniors continue to focus on overall health while undergoing cancer treatment? Everyday health advice may need some tweaking, but by being creative and gentle with yourself, you can find ways to keep your health in focus.

Don’t Go It Alone

One of the most important tools in your belt when you’re facing cancer is your team. This includes your medical caregivers, but also your friends, family, and anyone else who supports you in the fight against cancer. Make the most of these people — ask them for help preparing meals, or have them join you on gentle walks around the neighborhood.

If you need more help than your friends and family can give you on an every-day basis, consider a short-term move into an assisted living facility. These are a great choice for seniors who would benefit from having medical care on hand at any time while they undergo and recover from cancer treatment. Remember: It’s important to find the right community for your needs. Do plenty of research to find the facility that balances the level of care you need with your budget. The median cost for this kind of facility in North Carolina is $66,000 per year, so it’s important to understand what you can afford.

Stay on Top of Mental Health

Treating cancer is as difficult emotionally as it is physically. Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are a common aspect of treatment. However, the chronic stress these disorders cause can actually make it harder for your body to heal. That’s why it’s so important to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health.

One simple step you can take to improve your mood is to try to practice mindfulness. Regular mindfulness practice has a proven positive impact on mental health. It reduces the frequency and intensity of depression and anxiety and helps your body to run at its best, as well.

Try to set aside 10 minutes a day to simply focus on the present moment — the sights and sounds around you, the way your body feels, even the pauses between your inhalations and exhalations. You may find your mind starts to wander to other things, and that’s okay. Gently guide your attention back to the present and enjoy the sensation of being in the now.

Allow Yourself to Compromise

One surefire way to get discouraged is to hold yourself to the same standard you would if you weren’t undergoing cancer treatment. The simple fact is that chemotherapy and other cancer-fighting medications take a huge toll on your body. You cannot expect yourself to be able to do all the same things you could before. So, be gentle with yourself and find compromises. If you don’t have the energy for a 30-minute walk, then consider a 10-minute one. If that’s too much, try some gentle stretches; even if they’re seated stretches, you’ll still have kept yourself in the habit and done something kind for your body.

You can apply the same principle to other aspects of health. Poor appetite? It’s okay to eat something dense and simple like a banana with peanut butter rather than putting tons of work into a big healthy meal you can’t actually eat. Insomnia? Quiet time spent resting is better for you than getting frustrated with yourself for not actually falling asleep.

Giving yourself a healthy dose of understanding will allow you to make the healthy choices you can to maintain good habits throughout your cancer treatment. Everything counts; even small steps move you forward.

Photo Credit: Everyday Health

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