Cancer in the Time of COVID: Useful Tools for Uncertain Times

Meg Hirshberg Profile Picture Meg Hirshberg

You might be familiar with the fabled Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” There’s no question that the entire world is having an “interesting” time right now, unlike anything in recent memory. I’m sure many of you, like me, are unsettled about the ever-grim news concerning COVID-19. And if you are a cancer patient, or are in remission, you may have an added layer of worry. 

As a 3-time cancer survivor, I’ve experienced my share of emotional and physical challenges. The tools and tips we developed in the Anticancer Lifestyle course have helped me enormously by restoring a sense of control and the ability to be proactive in the face of a threatening unknown. Currently “hunkering down” due to the coronavirus crisis, I find myself reaching for those tools in order to focus on the things I am able to control: my stress level and my overall health.  

For this Anticancer newsletter, we thought it was appropriate to share with you a few important tools you can use to reduce any sense of stress or anxiety you may be feeling as a result of living in these interesting times. One of them is a 30-minute chair yoga video by Sherry Gamble, our Anticancer Lifestyle yoga instructor. I just went through it againit’s delightful and made me feel markedly more relaxed. The very short STOP exercise from Margaret Fletcher, our mindfulness instructor, is an easy practice you can do anytime, anywhere.  

We also included a Gratitude worksheet. This may seem like an odd time to suggest listing all the things for which you are grateful, but I think you’ll find, as I have during this crisis, that this is the perfect time to reflect on gratitude. Thinking of all I”m grateful forespecially friends and family, and the ability to access nutritious foodhelps me on a daily basis to center myself, which is such a critical skill during uncertain times.   

Buddhists speak of the parable of “the second arrow”. The first arrow is the event or situation in your life that is distressingsomething we are hit with. The second arrow is our reaction to the first onethe suffering, fear, and anxiety we inflict on ourselves as a result being afflicted.  Stress management and mindfulness training help teach us how to refrain from shooting the second arrow.  

Other than some of these mindset practices, here are a few things I’m trying to do every day:

  • Walk outside. Fresh air and exercise help just about everything. 
  • Take 4,000 units of Vitamin D3. Most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, and studies have shown that it is effective at reducing the risk of respiratory infection.
  • Make a healthy smoothie. For a great smoothie recipe, see our blog
  • Eat a clove of garlic each day. Garlic is a potent antimicrobial. Smash the garlic with the broadside of a knife, wait 10-15 minutes for the compounds to mix, and eat with flavored applesaucethe “spoonful of sugar” that makes the medicine go down. 
  • Get plenty of sleep. Going on a COVID news fast in the hours before bedtime helps a lot! 

We’d love to hear about some of your own daily practices as we weather this storm. You can email them to meg@anticancerlifestyle.org. We’ll share some of them in our next newsletter.  

Wishing everyone safety and some peace!

Yours in health,

Meg

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