There are many therapies and treatments used for helping a person heal with the physical side of cancer. Along with traditional means such as medication, radiation and chemotherapy, there are less conventional methods like acupuncture, chiropractic and visualization. Every treatment plan is different, and is tailored to fit a person’s specific needs; but in all instances, rest can be beneficial.
While this simple tool is often overlooked as being a vital part of the healing process, any serious illness, injury or surgery reminds us that a body needs time to recover and rest.
One of the most important aspects to healing from cancer may be found in learning the art of rest. While rest comes easy to some, it may be more difficult for others. Learning to listen to one’s body and pay attention to the signals it gives can help a person understand when rest is most needed.
Immediately after surgery, the body is busy repairing cells and tissues. A person may notice a change in physical strength. This can be a challenging time. Although the body cries out for rest, it may also be releasing pain signals which can inhibit the ability to rest naturally. During these times, medication may be needed to assist a person with relaxation and rest. But what happens after the initial trauma is over and the cancer patient has returned home? Is there a continual need for rest when the person has officially healed and daily life demands resume?
Whether it’s been days, months or even years after a cancer diagnosis, rest is still one of the most necessary gifts a person affected by breast cancer can give oneself. However, the prescription for rest must be self-imposed, because medical professionals don’t usually write instructions for periodic rest.
The art of resting is a learned behavior. Those hesitant to employ the act of resting may have confused resting with sleeping, but this is not always the case. Rest is merely the act of taking pause. It can be easily implemented at any time, day or night. It can be for very short periods of time or for hours on end. In either case, for the benefits of healing to occur, rest must be a priority.
When I was in active treatment for breast cancer, there were days I fought to get out of bed. It took every possible effort to make it through the day. As a typical type A personality, I was always going, always doing, never slowing down. When cancer came into my life, all of that changed. Soon I noticed my energy level had waned. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do. My mind said one thing, but my body said another. I found myself needing a nap midmorning and another in the midafternoon. My bedtime routine also changed. Instead of staying up until the 11:00 news ended, I was ready to crawl under the covers at 9:00 p.m. It was during those times, I had to learn to give myself grace. No longer could I conform to the demands of my past routine. My body was different. The voice of fatigue shouted much louder now and I was learning to listen carefully to the demands for attention.
Rest was challenging for me. When I would take time to rest, I’d often feel guilty. There was always something demanding my attention. As I began practicing rest on a daily basis, I found it easier to let things wait.
I’ve learned to honor my body by working with it instead of against it. In the mornings, I have more energy than later in the day, so I tend to schedule larger projects during that time. I know between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. I’m going to need a small period of rest, so I’ll take a short nap. And on the days when I need to go to bed early, I do. Taking care of my body is a gift I can give myself.
Rest is important in many cultures. Some of them even set aside a specific time of day for workers to take a break. In America, rest hasn’t gained as much acceptance, but medical communities are paying closer attention to the benefits of rest in healing and especially in the ways it benefits those healing from cancer.
If you’re struggling with learning to rest, remember it’s vital to your health. Practice taking small rest breaks. They say with anything, if you do it for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Taking rest breaks throughout the day is a good habit to begin and one that will ultimately affect your health.