Most people know that smoking, alcohol, processed foods, a sedentary lifestyle, and sun exposure can increase their chances of getting cancer, but most people don’t know that there are less obvious underlying factors like stress, isolation, depression, difficulty sleeping, or even a lack of emotional support. We call these underlying factors because they can inhibit your ability to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Here are six easy ways to make healthy changes:
- Start with baby steps. When making big lifestyle changes like incorporating different food, stress management techniques, or even exercise programs, it takes time to make the changes. Chances are that cancer treatment changed everything about your daily routine, so have compassion for yourself and make these changes in small strides. Start by walking to the end of the street and back each day, and then work your way up to doing a lap around the block. Try incorporating cancer fighting herbs and spices into your diet by adding a pinch of turmeric to your morning tea or coffee, or add some extra garlic to your evening meal. Download a meditation app to your phone. Even little changes can impact your life in big ways.
- Plan ahead. Using a planner to plan ahead can help you organize your life as you’re going through this challenging time and after. It’s hard to meal plan when you’re in a hurry, but you’ll want to have plenty of healthy cancer fighting foods on hand to fuel your recovery. Many patients find that preparing meals and healthy snacks ahead of time can make it easier to grab a healthy bite when you just don’t feel like cooking. Other Villagers swear by pre-prepared smoothies and meal kits.
- Get exercise! It also can be difficult to exercise on top of the stress with your job and other familial obligations, especially when dealing with cancer treatments. Making plans for all of these areas will help you make healthier choices in the moment, because you’ve already had techniques in place.
- Improve your stress management techniques. Identifying the main causes of your stress and learning healthy ways to cope is important. Things like breathing exercises, going for short walks in a nature, and aromatherapy are beneficial for some people. Cancer support services like Gilda’s Club and Cancer Support Community offer a myriad of resources that can help ease your stress by offering treatment decision planning, short-term housing resources, and cancer coping assistance.
- Swap processed foods for healthier options. It’s always tempting to grab a juicy burger when you’re in a rush, or even quick, processed dinners in the frozen food aisle. Healthy cancer fighting foods include fresh, whole foods, especially antioxidant rich fruits like blueberries. Cancer fighting herbs and spices that you should try adding to your diet include turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, saffron, oregano and garlic. If you’re looking for ways to eat healthier when you go to a local restaurant, Eat This, Not That is a great guide. But remember, no matter what you do, changes to your diet should be made gradually so that they aren’t as noticeable to you. Otherwise, you may end up feeling deprived and want to give up.
- Seek support. Not only do you need a good support system while you’re going through cancer treatment, you’ll need one afterwards as well. Tell your friends and family that you’re trying to make healthy changes and you need their support. You can even ask them to join you in exercising or making new healthy meals. Having someone else to hold you accountable is extremely helpful when trying to stick to your health goals. If you’re afraid to rely on people in your life or feel like you need more emotional support than they can muster, there are also virtual cancer support services like Imerman Angels or HEADStrong which provide incredible mentoring opportunities to patients and survivors.
While you are going through cancer treatment isn’t necessarily the time to be forcing massive changes on yourself, but once you are ready to make healthy changes, the key is to start slowly.