While undergoing any kind of medical treatment or procedure is frightening and anxiety inducing, steps are taken to ensure that it is delivered calmly. Studies show that cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy and proton beam therapy can induce significant stress for patients.
The unpredictability of outcomes, the fear of the unknown, the frightening machinery and technology – all add up to an overwhelming range of emotions that can be difficult to control.
There are a number of simple things you can do if you are facing cancer treatment which will help you approach your sessions with a greater sense of control and power, which will in turn help you feel calmer in the face of unpredictability.
Don’t create unnecessary anxiety
Much of our anxiety comes from worrying about things that haven’t yet happened. We are very good at building up the ‘what ifs’ – what if it doesn’t work? What if I can’t cope? What if it hurts? What happens when we build up this anxiety is our body becomes stressed and tense.
When approaching your next session, try not to focus on those things that may or may not happen. Instead, tell yourself that whatever happens you can cope, that you are in the best hands and they will do everything they can do help. Even if you are not yet feeling it, using the words and directing your mind to coping is the first step.
Don’t focus on what you can’t control – focus instead on what you can.
A lot of anxiety can come from trying to control those things you cannot control.
Treatments such as proton beam therapy are highly advanced technical procedures delivered by experts, and as the patient you are in the hands of the experts and rely totally on their knowledge. You need to let go of any desire for control over your actual treatment, and instead focus on those things that are under your direct scope of control and influence.
These are, specifically, your thoughts, and the way in which you can react to your treatment.
If your immediate reaction is to start to worry and panic, take a moment to slow your thoughts down and try to flip that reaction to one of calmness instead. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but that momentary pause will give you space and time to take stock and re-evaluate.
Use your imagination to your benefit
Your imagination is incredibly powerful. The link between your imagination, your thoughts, and your physical reactions is well proven.
Using your imagination to your benefit is not easy but can be incredibly powerful when employed to full effect. If you approach your treatment with trepidation, imagining all the things that could go wrong, then this will have an effect on your sense of control.
The first step to taking back control of an overactive imagination is to create yourself a ‘happy place’, someone you can go to when everything becomes overwhelming. This exercise in visualization is proven to reduce stress and encourage healing. While undergoing proton beam therapy, or during moments of overwhelm, you can train your imagination and redirect your thoughts to your happy place, giving you time and space to calm yourself back down.
Combining visualization with mindfulness techniques, where you learn to live in the present, not worrying about what is to come, will bring you back into a place of serenity. Concentrate on your immediate surroundings, the taste of your food, the feel of the armchair beneath your fingers – place yourself fully back in the present to experience inner peace.