Easing anxiety in uncertain times
With the country in isolation to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many people may be feeling anxious about what may happen – or what has already happened – and what this may mean for them. For people with breast cancer, this can be an even more stressful time – you may be worried about whether you’re immune-compromised or what could happen to your treatment. While we’re adjusting to a new way of living, here are some ways you and your loved ones can manage anxiety and fear during this time.
Find the facts
It’s natural to want to stay up-to-date on the latest news and what’s going on at home and overseas. You may be spending a lot more time online or on social media, where misinformation can be rife. It’s a good idea to follow trusted information sources, such as the Ministry of Health and the government’s COVID-19 website. Feeling overwhelmed or scared by all the news? Try limiting how many times you look at the news during the day – perhaps once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening.
When it comes to treatment or follow-up care, your medical team is in the best position to help you. They will be letting you know what changes you can expect in your treatment plan, if your surveillance screening will be affected or whether you’re immune-compromised once you finish treatment. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ also has a FAQ page, where we answer questions from our community on how COVID-19 may affect them. This is updated as information becomes available. You may also like to watch our webinar, ‘COVID-19 and breast cancer’.
Reach out and connect
We’re not able to physically be with loved ones outside our isolation bubble, but there are plenty of ways to connect with others. Zoom, FaceTime or video calling on WhatsApp or Facebook make it possible to see your friends and family, and stay social – whether that’s a virtual coffee date or online book club. Of course, you can always call or text people too! Our online community, mybc, is also a good place to connect with others going through breast cancer. You can talk to other patients and survivors, share advice and ask our nurses your questions.
If you’re struggling with lockdown or anxiety around COVID-19, don’t hesitate to reach out to our nurses. It’s free to call them on 0800 2268 773, or you can send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can take the time to talk through any concerns or questions you may have. If you would like to talk to a counsellor about how you’re feeling, BCFNZ funds free counselling services – these will still continue over the phone or via video call during the isolation period.
Remember, your GP is still available during this time. If you find a lump or an unusual change in your breasts, or if you’re sick and need to go to the doctor, make an appointment – don’t wait until lockdown is over. While they may not be able to see you in person, they can assess you over the phone or via video call and refer you to a breast clinic.
Take care of yourself
It’s especially important during this time to practice self-care, such as taking time for yourself or practicing gratitude. But it means looking after your body too. That includes getting enough sleep, doing your best to eat a healthy, balanced diet and going for a walk outside to stay active – and to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine!
Your mental wellbeing is as important as your physical wellbeing, especially now. Practice self-compassion and go easy on yourself – it’s okay to not be ‘productive’ while you’re at home with extra time on your hands. Take time to do things that bring you joy – spending time with your family, reading a book you haven’t had time for, or trying out a hobby you’ve wanted to for a while.
Engaging in calming practices like yoga, meditation/mindfulness and journaling can also help to reduce anxiety. Studies have found that meditation/mindfulness can help to reduce stress and fatigue in people with cancer. You can practice a short mindfulness session, or take time to do some deep breathing, and learn how to get started with journaling.