Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Spring is still here, and the warmer weather can help you handle your cancer and COVID-19 related anxieties.
Spring is here even in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing cancer survivorship.
I struggle with what I call my "worry brain." The sky is not falling and looking outdoors and being outdoors reminds me of that truth. The size and scope of nature compared to the relatively tiny space of my four walls called home calms me. What is happening to humanity right now is terrible and tragic, and in this moment, I can take a breath and tell myself I am okay. Try it for yourself.
Remember to look at nature.
I try to do this as a meditation for at least five minutes per day — more often during the pandemic. I can look out a window or stand outside the door. I use the "pick a sense" mindfulness meditation that my cancer talk therapist taught me years ago.
I choose sight or sound and spend 5 to 10 minutes observing and mentally cataloging my observations. It might look like "birds chirping, insect noises, traffic noises, truck noises, wind in the neighbor's tree branches etc." as I dial it down and focus on the sounds. My list often becomes very long and detailed and when the exercise is over, I am calmer.
Cancer survivors are ahead of the curve.
Many of us have already learned, or are in the process of learning, mental health skills to cope with ongoing anxiety. These are some of the same skills that psychology experts are now sharing with everyone to help them cope with the pandemic. We each, cancer patients, cancer survivors, cancer caregivers and cancer loved ones, get to create our own anxiety management toolbox.
This toolbox may include mindfulness meditations, repetitive motions like kneading bread or chopping vegetables, tasks like weeding out or cleaning, practicing gratitude, journaling and more.
Choose coping tools that work for you.
We each are unique. What I see or hear in nature may not interest you. Taking a walk may not be your cup of tea. Maybe you like tea? Though I have tried to like tea for years, it really is not my thing. That is okay. In this time of social distancing for safety, we can work on creating our own individual anxiety management toolboxes.
Maybe you will like group online get-togethers, or knitting, or adult coloring books? Our toolbox contents may share some similarities and there may also be differences. Use this time to pick and choose the contents of your new toolbox.
Right now, the sky is not falling.
When I am not regretting past mistakes or looking into the future anticipating worries, I am okay.
Being okay can also be about place. Find and create your own personal safe place. This place may be outdoors in a lawn chair, or in a special indoor chair with your softest most favorite blanket. For me, it is at one end of the couch with one of those super soft furry blankets and my dog.
Spring is still here.
Remember, we will get through this. When the pandemic is over, nature will still be here. We will come out of this worldwide tragedy braver, smarter and stronger. We will each have more skills than we had going into the pandemic, and, yes, spring is here.