(BPT) - Whether you are self-quarantining or practicing social distancing, we all are adjusting to a new normal amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. As a cancer patient or survivor, you might be experiencing feelings of isolation, uncertainty and anxiety. As a caregiver, you might be feeling overwhelmed with navigating your loved one’s care while looking after your own needs. And as a family member, you might be feeling unsure of how you can help.
“While this is a stressful time, there are a few things we can do to tend to our physical and emotional needs,” says Gwen Nichols, MD, LLS Chief Medical Officer at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). “Not only can these self-care practices help us cope with isolation and stress, but also keep us feeling our best all year long.”
Dr. Nichols shares these 10 important self-care tips and encourages blood cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and families to contact LLS’s Information Specialists for free, one-on-one support. LLS Information Specialists — master’s level oncology professionals — are available by phone at 800-955-4572 or by email or chat at www.lls.org/support/information-specialists.
*A quick note on terminology: You might be hearing two terms in the news, SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 refers to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which is the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
1) Eat well.
Good nutrition can help support a healthy immune system. Follow a plant-based, heart-healthy menu that incorporates a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Drink water or tea to maintain hydration, and eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to stay energized and to ensure your body is getting enough calories, proteins and nutrients.
2) Practice good hygiene.
Blood cancer patients are not at greater risk of catching SARS-CoV-2, but because of your diagnosis you might be at a greater risk of getting sicker if you do get the virus. You should be extra vigilant about precautions such as hand washing, avoiding crowds and cleaning your home routinely.
3) Get enough sleep.
Make sure you’re getting good, quality sleep. The CDC recommends that adults get seven hours or more of sleep every night. If you have difficulty sleeping, try these Tips for Managing Insomnia or Difficulty Sleeping and talk to your healthcare team. To improve your sleep quality, try going to bed at the same time every night. If you need to rest, keep naps to 30 minutes or less.
4) Exercise regularly.
Regular exercise can help support your immune system and promote good cardiovascular health. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. Depending on your age, where you are in your treatment and your present state of fitness, you might need to modify exercise routines.
5) Stay in touch.
Write letters to your family, start a Google hangout with your co-workers or FaceTime with your friends. LLS offers online chats, our Patti Robinson Kaufmann First Connection Program and our online social network LLS Patient Community for blood cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and families.
6) Do calming activities that you enjoy.
Cozy up with a good book, start an arts-and-crafts project or listen to music. If you’re a fan of podcasts, tune in to The Bloodline with LLS for patients and caregivers. Try streaming services, board games and/or online games for more entertainment.
7) Express yourself.
Whether putting pen to paper, blogging, capturing videos or scrapbooking, journaling can help you cope with your feelings. Find the format that works best for you, from stream of consciousness writing to line-a-day or bullet journaling. Our Young Adult Journal is a great option that can be used by anyone.
8) Get organized.
If you’re working from home, create a dedicated space for work and break up tasks into bite-sized pieces. To help manage your daily health, download the LLS Health ManagerTM App on your phone. You can track side effects, medication, food and hydration, questions for the doctor, grocery lists and more.
9) Ask for help and accept help when it is offered.
Ask someone to pick up groceries or medications for you. If you’re a caregiver, find support here.
10) Take time to talk with your family.
Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your children can understand. Be a role model by showing your family how you cope with stress in healthy ways.