How we choose to live our life is a reflection of our beliefs, values, ideas, and the decisions we make every day. We are all born with the ability to make choices, and we can use this ability to find our way to good health, happiness, and wellbeing. Lifestyle is a choice that can only come from one place-within. A survivor’s lifestyle needs to be an “expression of life” to not only regain what has been lost but to add new things that may have been missing. While this may seem like “one more thing” it is by far the most important thing you can do for yourself. Life After Cancer Network understands that the best kind of change comes from within and happens only when we are ready. This readiness comes in our own way and in our own time. It occurs when we finally realize that making some sort of change will not only enhance our own health and happiness, but positively affect our loved ones as well. This is because survivorship affects not only the person who had cancer but the family, friends and caregivers as well. We must not only want to change but more importantly we have to change in order to reap the rewards of making the transition from surviving to living each day thriving.
Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Peace Prize essayist, has said, “You can’t cross the sea by merely standing and staring at the water.” Just pondering and contemplating what you want to do is not enough to regain and maintain your health after your treatment has come to an end. Therefore, planning and taking action is the proven recipe to long term health.
WAYS BACK TO HEALTH
A healthy eating plan consists of:
Reduce your intake of unhealthy dietary fat. Every major health organization from the Centers for Disease Control, the American Heart Association, and the National Cancer Institute to the World Health Organization has concluded that Americans must limit their intake of saturated fat for better health and prevention of disease.
Remove known carcinogens from your diet. Studies have confirmed the presence of cancer-causing substances, or carcinogens, in many food ingredients, including pesticides, acrylamides (found in fried foods), synthetic food additives and artificial sweeteners.
Limit your intake of red meats. If you make the decision to include red meat in your diet eat it sparingly. Baking, broiling, and poaching are preferable to frying or charbroiling to avoid the formation of carcinogenic compounds in the cooking process.
Eat nutritious food. Have the majority of your plate be fruits and vegetables that are high in cancer-prevention nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
Limit or eliminate alcoholic beverages. While alcoholic drinks are easily accessible in many communities, studies suggest that the constant consumption of alcohol can increase the risk for cancer of the liver, breast, prostate, colon, and rectum.
Portion control. The amount of food you eat plays an important role in energy balance of the body. Eating more food however, does not necessarily mean better. Too many calories in a single meal can significantly burden your digestive system; as a result, excessive weight gain can occur, which increases the risk for chronic health problems. Portion control, therefore, becomes a critical element of health management.
Water. Feel thirsty? Drinking water—not coffee or soft drinks—is the best way to quench your thirst. In fact, research suggests that drinking enough water every day can help lower the risk of developing cancer of the large bowel, breast, and prostate.
Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Physical activity is vital for cancer prevention and overall good health.
To get the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Aerobic activities cause your heart to beat faster and breathe harder. Walking at a brisk pace, hiking, swimming, bicycling and dancing are examples of aerobic activity.
Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights and using resistance bands.
Spending time outdoors is good for you mentally and physically. The sun hitting your skin outdoors triggers the synthesis of Vitamin D. Limited sun exposure has been shown to help fight everything from osteoporosis, depression and cancer. Getting outside also puts your body in motion, keeps you active and away from being sedentary watching television or sitting at your computer. Outdoor light is also a mood elevator so being outside in that fresh air will make you feel happier. Natural light in the great outdoors has also been to shown to improve concentration, assist in pain relief and reduce stress.
As stated earlier, eating a healthy diet is an essential component of good health. While a healthy diet provides the majority of the vitamins and minerals we need to enjoy good health and reduce health risk, numerous scientific studies have shown that using high grade nutritional supplements can go beyond nutrient deficiencies and help you achieve optimal health.
Everyone needs to sleep. Sleep has many benefits. First, it enhances the restorative ability of the body, allowing our organs and muscles to recuperate from the strenuous work of our daily lives, and second, it helps the body adapt to ever-changing conditions. Sleep also is necessary for mental alertness, the learning process, and our “declarative memory,” or the ability to recall and recognize complex facts. Sleep does not only impact brain function, but also affects our immune system and metabolism. Sleep loss depresses the immune defense system over the long-term contributing to illness and disease. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, make changes to your routine to get the sleep you need.
Good emotional health has a direct impact on positive physical health and wellbeing. Poor emotional health, feelings of despair, depression, stress or anxiousness on the other hand, can weaken the immune system and make us more susceptible to illness and disease. Assessing our mental health is a lot more complicated than measuring our physical health. There are no scales, no endurance or “happiness” tests, that are able to rate mental fitness with any kind of precision. There are however, a few basic ways we can assess our emotional outlook. The first way is to gauge our ability to enjoy life through our indulgence of the good things, including our long term outlook on life. Enjoying life means knowing that although there will be challenges, we will not let those challenges or worries overshadow the enjoyment and satisfaction we feel. The second is to know we are resilient. Let’s face it, if you made it through treatment you can make it through anything. When there are days of frustration, anger, depression or doubt, take a breath and put things into perspective. Resilience gives us the daily strength to change any situation rather than react to it. It gives us the ability to be flexible and adapt to whatever problem we may have to face. Achieving and actually feeling a sense of balance brings peace, grace and is the cornerstone of sound emotional health.
Your friend greets you at a restaurant and gives you a big hug. Your significant other takes you out on a special date. A co-worker pats you on the back for a job well done. All these acts of kindness would bring a smile to anyone’s face. This is because people are no different than the animal kingdom; we are social beings. We value having our feelings validated and have an innate desire to be connected. Being with others banishes loneliness, increases happiness, boosts the immune system and supports a longer life. So get started having a heart to heart talk, have a good laugh, or just spend time with others. Your health will thank you for it.
In the busy world it’s easy to get caught up with cellphones, texting, e-mailing, computers and television. Life at this level can make us feel detached, scattered and stressed. There comes a time that everyone and I do mean everyone need some quiet time alone. This is our personal restoration hour to be quiet, unwind and reflect on whatever we choose. We all have our unique way of seeking our alone time. Reading, listening to music, writing, meditating, praying, walking or just taking in the sounds of the great outdoors is some but not all ways to nourish the self. Quiet time allows us to truly listen to what is important inside. Amidst our hectic lives, quiet times keep us mindful of what is important, aware and embracing the present. The past is past; the future has not yet arrived, so all we have is living in the now.
The relationship between a health provider and you is built on trust and good communication. The very best care happens due to these two things. Having this type of relationship establishes a good foundation for care long term. It should be every survivor’s goal to have a health care provider who really gets to know you, understands your medical and family history, and assesses your current health status. As a result of knowing you, they can suggest ways to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Deciding to have subsequent care insures that someone is working with you to make sure you are achieving your goals, adjusting your care plan as necessary and is committed as you are to your long term health.
Spirituality is an inner energy that has various meanings to different people. For some it may be a process of self-discovery; for others spirituality means observing rituals, studying inspirational texts or attending religious services. Spirituality is a personal devotion connecting to whatever you consider meaningful and revered. You can find it in God, other people, yourself, acts of kindness, nature and art. Whatever you find true to you, is your spiritual essence that becomes a part of who you are. Being in spirit provides a better sense of purpose and meaning, reassures belief in a higher power, allows you to understand universal wisdom and connects you with the good in others. If you want to be more positive, less depressed and have long term well-being, stay in spirit you will be glad you did!
Cancer Network themeby Anthony Espina