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Sofia Urner

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Why Physical Activity Is So Important When Living With Breast Cancer

By Breast Cancer, Featured, Health Conditions, NutritionNo Comments

Living with breast cancer can be both physically and mentally challenging. A cancer diagnosis and the treatment itself can put a lot of strain on the body and lead to enormous changes, often resulting in both mental and physical exhaustion. Remind yourself to be kind to yourself. When living with cancer, it’s vital that you support your body and mind as lovingly as possible throughout your treatment and recovery. One effective way to do this is through physical exercise. Getting moving can help you cope with the changes going on with your body and even counteract them. But, don’t panic. When we say physical activity, we’re not talking about running a marathon or jumping out of a plane. Getting moving doesn’t always mean a draining exercise session. Light to moderate physical activity that you can integrate into your daily routine can already make a big difference- mentally as well as physically. There’s often an assumption that a full recovery from breast cancer requires rest, rest, and more rest. But regular physical activity is vital when you’re living with cancer. Keep on reading to find out more. Movement can and should be part of your day. Physical activity really gets your body going and has many positive effects on our bodies and minds. Regular movement can help to support your body in your day-to-day life if you are living with breast cancer. Certain physical complaints that go hand in hand with breast cancer can be reduced by light exercise and can even be partially prevented by regular physical activity. Regular movement has the power to improve your overall quality of life and well-being. How? By having an impact on the following factors: Fatigue and tiredness. Cancer cells use up a lot of the body’s energy reserves and cause inflammatory reactions in the body. Adding to this, the psychological stress of a cancer diagnosis can also have a big impact on the body. When it comes to treatment, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can damage the body’s tissue and may lead to a disturbed formation of blood cells. As blood cells are responsible for the transport of oxygen, all of this combined can lead to extreme exhaustion and fatigue. Physical exercise can offset all of the above by stimulating blood circulation and improving the oxygen supply in the body. Movement also activates the energy power of blood cells and helps them generate new energy. This will help you feel more active and alert and help your body to tackle exhaustion head on. Quality of sleep. While you may be dealing with exhaustion and fatigue, when it comes to getting enough good quality shut-eye, cancer can also cause problems. Sleep disorders can be one of the common side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and are often the result of the worry and stress you may be dealing with. If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep, physical exercise can help you to doze off in good time, and also prolong the deep sleep phase when intensive physical recovery and regeneration take place. Sleep is magic so be sure to do whatever you can to make sure you’re getting enough. Depression and anxiety. Exercise releases happiness hormones like serotonin and dopamine in the body, helping to lift your mood and reduce stress. Physical activity also helps boost your self-confidence and improve your body image, both of which can take a hit after a cancer diagnosis. Lymphoedema. If a lump is found in the breast, lymph nodes in the armpit area may also be removed during breast cancer surgery for diagnostic purposes. This can disrupt lymphatic drainage in the arm and upper body, increasing the risk of lymphoedema. Exercise stimulates the muscles around the lymph vessels, which act like a pump to help transport fluid. This makes it easier for fluid to be absorbed from the tissues through the lymph vessels and returned to the vascular system, so you can also move your arm more easily again. Muscle loss and weight fluctuations. If you’re going through acute breast cancer treatment, you may find that you don’t manage to get moving for several weeks, which can cause you to lose muscle mass. This can lead to weight loss and feelings of weakness. Physical activity helps keep your muscles toned and your weight stable. Exercise also helps prevent weight gain caused by hormonal changes. Immune system. A strong immune system is vital for a healthy and cancer-free life. Physical exercise helps activate the immune system and helps fight inflammation in the body. It also contributes to cell repair and the prevention of cell damage through antioxidant effects. Cancer growth and recurrence. Hormone receptor (HR+) breast cancer is a hormone-dependent growing cancer that’s related to increased levels of estrogen in the body. Exercise lowers estrogen levels in the blood and tissues, which means it can prevent breast cancer growth. Physical activity also competes with cancer cells for energy sources. Cancer cells feed mainly on glucose, which is consumed during exercise. Regular movement can therefore improve your long term health by tackling cancer recurrence. Physical activities to try if you have breast cancer. As we said, there’s no need to run a marathon everyday or get into extreme sports to help you feel better. There are a number of simple activities you can do to keep your body moving. It is, however, important to consult your doctor before starting a new physical activity. Don’t forget to also consider your personal physical limits. You and your experience are unique, so be sure to find the level and kind of physical activity that’s right for you. On days when you feel tired and weak, start with very light movements you can do throughout the day. For example, getting up frequently to get a glass of water or going outside to take a short walk in the fresh air. Gentle stretching and light yoga for a few minutes a day can also be a good start. When you’re feeling more energetic, you can get your body moving a little more with moderate exercise. This can include a longer walk or Nordic walking, yoga, Tai Chi, or gymnastics. If you don’t feel like leaving the house, you can also try these activities in the comfort of your own home. Try them alone or with friends you feel comfortable with. Household chores like vacuuming, gardening, or mowing the lawn are also moderate to vigorous physical activities and can be done if you feel strong enough. In the long term, you can try to include activities that increase your endurance in your exercise plan. These include cycling, dancing, or jogging. At the same time, be mindful of your physical limits and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t feel fit enough yet. To stay fit and healthy, the American Cancer Society recommends “at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days a week.” Keep on moving. Physical activity should always go hand-in-hand with a balanced diet. Physical movement requires higher energy resources, so you should provide your body with nutrients by following a balanced diet. Also, make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially when you’re working up a sweat while exercising. Reducing stress and avoiding situations that throw you off balance can also do wonders for your overall well-being. Try practicing meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises alongside regular exercise. The Breast Cancer program from Sidekick Health is designed to help you make these habits a part of your everyday routine. If you want to find out more about the relationship between physical activity and breast cancer, check out this interview with a physical therapist and cancer survivor who explains why you shouldn’t skip your workout. If you’re living with breast cancer and want to find out how else you can look after your mental health throughout your treatment, take a look at this article right here.

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Mental Health and Breast Cancer – It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

By Breast Cancer, Emotional support, Featured, Health Conditions, Mindfulness / Selfcare2 Comments

When faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s common to experience feelings such as fear, helplessness, despair, and even shame. These same feelings can linger well beyond therapy or recovery. If you can identify with any of the above, know that you’re not alone. Your feelings are valid, and it’s okay not to be okay. In fact, according to one scientific study, people with breast cancer are at higher risk for psychological distress than people diagnosed with other types of cancer. Nearly 42% of breast cancer patients reported experiencing at least one mental health disorder, the most common among these being anxiety, adjustment disorders, or depression. For this reason, the importance of mental health support for people with breast cancer has become more recognized and is now a key part of treatment. Understanding that your mind is dealing with breast cancer as much as your body will help you recognize the impact it has on your mental health. And understanding your condition better means that you’ll be more willing to ask for help. Having access to the right support can help you cope better with the psychological burden of breast cancer. Keep on reading to discover exactly how breast cancer impacts your mental health and how you can look after your mind throughout your journey. How breast cancer affects your mental health. Living with a condition like breast cancer can affect your mental health in a variety of ways: Breast cancer and its treatment cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be temporary, like increased sweating or hair loss, but may also be permanent, like removal of the breast, for example. These physical changes can cause self-doubt, identity struggles, reduced sex drive, and body image issues, all of which can affect your mental health. A breast cancer diagnosis often means that your life plans need to be put on hold. While this can be daunting, it’s important that you take enough time to devote yourself fully to your recovery. However, taking a break from your job or other pursuits can have a big impact as you deal with fears of no longer being able to practice your profession. You may need to rely on others, creating new dynamics which can affect your relationships. The support of friends and family will be vital during this tricky time. Sometimes, it can be hardest to communicate with those closest to you. It may be that you don’t want to burden them or cause them to worry. Or perhaps there are some sensitive topics that you’re too embarrassed to discuss. A lack of communication can lead to feelings of isolation and negatively affect your mental health. We know that this might sound a little scary. But understanding how breast cancer can affect you mentally is the first step to practicing self-compassion. Self-care and self-love are vital. So be kind to yourself if you find that breast cancer is taking a toll on your mental health. How to recognize that you’re struggling. You are unique, and so is your experience with breast cancer. How you feel after your diagnosis is completely individual. There are no right or wrong feelings here. Some people who have received a diagnosis at a relatively early stage with a good prognosis can still feel extreme stress. While others learn to appreciate the value of life through their experience with cancer and see it as a great learning experience. However you feel is valid and justified. If you feel like you’re suffering psychologically as a result of your breast cancer, acknowledging and accepting the problem is an important first step. The following symptoms may be signs of anxiety and/or depression if they recur over a long period of time: Irritability, nervousness, and/or tension. Difficulty concentrating. Fatigue, loss of energy, and feelings of exhaustion. Trouble sleeping. Loss of self-esteem. Avoiding social situations and/or social contact. Sadness and helplessness. Thoughts of death or suicide. Feelings of guilt. Doubts about the meaning of life. Finding no joy in living. Individually, these symptoms may not always equal mental illness. For example, fatigue and exhaustion are common side effects of cancer treatments and don’t necessarily mean that you’re depressed. However, try to be mindful of these symptoms and monitor your mental well-being. It helps to acknowledge your feelings and fears. Accepting how you feel will help you to cope better, so be sure not to suppress any of your feelings. How to look after your mental health. Remember, you’re entitled to feel however you’re feeling when living with breast cancer. With this in mind, feel free to share your feelings openly with your loved ones and your healthcare team. Be sure to address your fears and ask for information about therapy procedures and side effects. Open communication can reduce uncertainties and worries and help you deal with breast cancer better. If you feel that your anxiety or depression is becoming too difficult to manage, you can talk to your doctor about the possibility of psycho-oncological support throughout your breast cancer treatment. You’re never alone, and the first step is asking for help. Paying attention to the following factors can also benefit your mental health: Physical activity and nutrition. A healthy lifestyle is important for your physical health and also supports your psychological well-being. Regular physical activity can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can also help release more happy hormones in your body, like serotonin and dopamine. A healthy diet plays an important role, too. Eating well can improve your intestinal flora in the long term, and the intestine is directly related to the psyche. Time. Time may not heal all wounds, but it’s important that you take time to process and accept your breast cancer diagnosis. The physical changes that come with it also require time to accept. You’ll need time to adjust to your new body and come to terms with your body image. Try to avoid setting time expectations for when you need to feel good again. You may still feel uncomfortable even after a full recovery, and that’s absolutely okay too. Distraction. Sometimes, constantly dealing with your situation and feelings is just too much and can cause levels of anxiety and worry to become unbearable. That’s why it’s a great idea to distract yourself from your breast cancer from time to time. A movie night, a board game, or an evening with friends can give your body and mind a rest for a few hours. Why not try out that hobby you always meant to or treat yourself a delicious meal? Distract yourself with some self-love. You deserve it. Resilience. In psychology, the word ‘resilience’ is used to describe the ability to adapt to challenging experiences. Resilience, therefore, plays an important role in dealing with breast cancer. Resilience is a trait that can help you prevent the development of serious mental health issues, like depression, in the long run. The good thing is, that resilience can be learned. Important aspects of resilience include self-responsibility, setting realistic goals, recognizing your own strengths and successes, optimism and self-regulation, a positive social environment, and creating a sense of purpose in your life. Practicing daily mindfulness and gratitude can also have a long-lasting impact on your stress levels and overall well-being. At Sidekick, we recognize the powerful relationship between the mind and the body. You can read more about the positive effects of mindfulness right here. Explore our other articles on breast cancer and find out how to improve your quality of life by engaging in regular physical activity, or discover how to make the most out of your breast cancer check-ups. And remember, it’s okay not to be okay.

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