10 Self-Care Tips for Coping with Isolation and Stress

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Tips for Coping with Isolation and Stress: Whether you are self-quarantining or practicing social distancing, we are all adjusting to a new normal in the midst of the coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19). Each one reacts differently to stressful situations. If you are a cancer patient or survivor, you may have feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and anxiety. If you are the caregiver of a cancer patient, you may feel overwhelmed by having to take care of your loved one and take care of your own needs at the same time. And if you are a family member of a cancer patient, you may feel unsure about how you can help. This is understandable, and you are not alone.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) is here to help. We encourage blood cancer patients and survivors, as well as their caregivers and family members to contact our Information Specialists for free individual support. LLS Information Specialists (oncology, master's degree professionals) are available at 800-955-4572, or via email or chat via this link. We also urge you to speak with the team of medical professionals who are caring for you.

Even though this is a stressful time, there are several things we can do to take care of our physical and emotional needs. These self-care practices can not only help us cope with isolation and stress, but also make us feel great all year long.

* Brief note on terminology: You may have heard two terms in the news, SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is the abbreviated form of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which is the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Learn more here (this web page is in English; you can find more information in Spanish about COVID-19 at https://www.who.int/es/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019).

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Adopt good hygiene habits. Patients with blood cancer are not at increased risk for SARS-CoV-2. However, because of their diagnosis, they may be at higher risk of becoming more seriously ill if they contract the virus. They should be especially attentive to precautions outlined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as washing hands, avoiding crowds, and cleaning your home regularly.

Eat well. Good nutrition can help support a healthy immune system (this website is in English). Choose a heart-healthy, vegetable-based menu that includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day for energy and to make sure your body receives enough calories, protein, and nutrients. Through PearlPoint Nutrition Services®, LLS offers free nutrition education and consultations to patients with any type of cancer, as well as their caregivers. Learn more here (this web page is in English).

Get enough sleep. Make sure you get a good quantity and quality of sleep. The CDC recommends that adults get a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. If you are having trouble sleeping, try these tips for managing insomnia or trouble sleeping and talk with your team of healthcare professionals. (This website for the CDC and the councils are in English.) To improve your quality of sleep, try to go to sleep at the same time each night. If you need to rest during the day, limit your naps to no more than 30 minutes.

Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can help boost your immune system and promote good cardiovascular health. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, per week. Depending on your age, stage of treatment, and current physical condition, your exercise routines may need to be modified. But, it is critical to your physical and mental health that you spend some time moving and being active. YouTube offers free exercise routines that you can do at home, such as this example from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Additionally, many gyms offer live broadcasts of their classes. (The YouTube video and online exercise class options website are in English.)

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Stay in communication. Write letters to family members, start a conversation via Google Hangouts with your coworkers, or a FaceTime session with your friends. LLS offers online chat sessions, our Patti Robinson Kaufmann First Connect program, and our online social network, the LLS Community for blood cancer patients and survivors, as well as their caregivers and families. (Some of these services and web pages are available in English only).

Do activities you enjoy to stay calm. Snuggle up with a good book in hand, start a craft project, or listen to music. If you are a fan of podcasts, tune in to The Bloodline with LLS for Patients and Caregivers (in English). For other entertainment options, try webcasting services, board games, and / or web games.

Express yourself. Keeping a journal can help you cope with your feelings, whether you are writing on paper or blogging, shooting videos, or creating a scrapbook. Find the format that works best for you, from the stream of consciousness technique to writing a single line per day or bulleted. Our journal for young adults, Write to Cope with Cancer, is a great option for everyone to use.

Get organized. If you are telecommuting at home, prepare a space that you dedicate to work and divide your tasks into small parts. To help you manage your health on a daily basis, download the LLS Health ManagerTM app on your phone (the app is in English). You can use it to keep track of side effects, medications, food and hydration, doctor questions, grocery list, and more.

Ask for help and accept the help they offer you. Have someone pick up your groceries or medicine. If you are the caregiver of a cancer patient, you can find support here (this web page is in English; more information can be found in Spanish at https://www.lls.org/article/planillas-e-informaci-n- para-caregivers).

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Take time to talk to your family. Answer the questions and share information about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a way that your children can understand. Be a role model by showing your family healthy ways to cope with stress. Find out more here.

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