7 ways to help feel good when you don’t feel well

Feeling good
Sometimes, it's important to find ways to help feel good emotionally, even if you don’t feel well physically.

Fighting cancer is not only a physical battle but an emotional one. This is why, during and after your cancer treatment, tending to your emotional needs is just as important as tending to your physical needs—and, in some ways, more so. Sometimes that means just finding ways to help you feel good emotionally, even if you don’t feel well physically.

When you’re feeling low, sometimes it’s better to be a little selfish and do something for you. Of course, you should always consult your care team before engaging in new activities. But if you are able, go shopping, visit a spa or get out in the sunshine and take a brisk walk. Here are seven activities that may help you feel better when you don’t feel good.

Visit a salon

Many cancer patients consider hair loss to be among the most traumatic aspects of cancer care. So, many cancer centers and hospitals are responding by offering a variety of salon services for women and men experiencing hair loss, skin changes and other cosmetic issues. Such salons typically specialize in fitting patients with wigs, while also offering makeovers, facials, wig cleaning and styling, as well as assistance with head shaving, eyebrow tinting, manicures and cosmetics.

In some communities, health care centers may partner with local salons to offer similar services, along with breast-compression garments, hats, scarves and other head coverings for patients to choose from.

To find services in your area, check out Look Good Feel Better, a free public service program with workshops in many locations. A survey conducted by the program found that, for 97 percent of women beginning cancer treatment, looking better made them feel good.

Take a walk

Research has found that breast cancer patients who were physically active reported improvements in mental health and self-esteem. Of course, your physical health may limit the type of exercise you should or are able to do. So, discuss your exercise program with your oncologist prior to beginning, and realize you may need to schedule off days for rest and recovery during treatment.

Laugh it up

Surgeons were said to have used humor to distract patients from pain as far back as the 13th century. Now, in the 21st century, research shows that just three 60-minute laughter therapy sessions were enough to improve mood and self-esteem among cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Laughter triggers your brain to release feel-good endorphins. It also helps reduce stress, improve immune-system function and encourage optimistic feelings. That’s why some hospitals and health care centers are now offering laughter therapy.

You may also experience the self-esteem-boosting effects of laughter on your own by watching a favorite comedy or spending some time around your kids or grandkids—children laugh often, and laughter is contagious.

Eat well

It’s possible to gain weight or lose weight as a result of cancer treatment; both scenarios can take a toll on your self-image, but proper nutrition can help you maintain a healthy weight while also supporting your energy levels and strength. Consult a dietitian who specializes in cancer patients, since they are trained to guide you on what type of diet is appropriate for you.

In many cases, a diet centered on whole, fresh foods—including plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, adequate protein, whole-grain carbohydrates and antioxidants—may help you meet your nutritional and weight loss/gain goals.

Get a massage

Massage therapy may help to lessen some of the treatment side effects of cancer, helping to boost your quality of life and self-esteem. In short, massage therapy may help you feel more like yourself again.

In research published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, cancer patients who received 20 minutes of therapeutic massage from a licensed massage therapist during chemotherapy and/or biotherapy infusions reported significant reductions in pain, fatigue, nausea and anxiety.

Ask your health care team to recommend a licensed massage therapist near you.

Talk about sex

Erectile dysfunction (ED) and low libido are common side effects for men undergoing treatment for cancer, especially prostate cancer. Many men may be hesitant to talk to their health care providers about solutions, even though many treatment options are often available. Research suggests beginning intervention early and using a couples-based approach make for a promising combination.

Research published in Nature Reviews Urology suggests that couples can also broaden their sexual repertoire to incorporate sexual activities and continue to be intimate despite ED and low libido. Sex therapy and couples counseling before ED complications arise may help give couples additional tools to deal with issues as they develop.

Find feel-good fashions

A host of designers has created “feel-good fashions” such as mastectomy bras, head scarves, chemo beanies and hospital tote bags specially geared for cancer patients.

Both stylish and practical track suits have even been developed that have hidden zippers for chemotherapy ports, chic sleeve garments to cover lymphedema arm swelling and print gowns designed for women with breast cancer undergoing radiation treatments.

The fashions, which include Radian Wraps®, Lymphedivas® and others, are about empowerment, helping women and men take back some control during their cancer journey.

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