Coping Strategy #1 – Journal!
Journaling (or keeping a diary) really does help anybody with any kind of problem. No matter how old you are too! Many people don’t feel comfortable talking to others about their problems so this is a proactive way to cope with your feelings while respecting your privacy of keeping it to yourself. Journaling really does help manage stress and heal negative feelings. Once you have one idea going it is easy to keep on writing! Journaling also decreases the risk of asthma and arthritis, while improving cognitive function and the immune system! Drawing pictures in a journal also significantly helps. Take a quick five minutes out of your day to journal! One could even do five minutes of journaling every few days and it will still help manage your stress and cope with your feelings.
Coping Strategy #2 – Yoga!
Yoga is an activity that has become popular only recently worldwide. From Hinduism to Buddhism to Jainism, yoga spread across the globe. Yoga is used for meditation and to find peace within oneself. It was first practiced in ancient India to portray ritual discipline. In india there are three types of yoga:
-Karma Yoga: The yoga of action
-Bhakti Yoga: The yoga of devotion
-Jnana Yoga: The yoga of knowledge
Yoga is known to be a holistic healer and the key to balance out stress hormones. It also strengthens your cardiovascular and muscular system as well as your posture. The great thing about yoga is that anyone can do it! The exercise gives you the time reclaim your emotional stability as well as your mental and physical health. The key is to breath deep (and full) breathes while coordinating those breathes with the motions of your body. There are many different types of yoga positions. Some require sitting, some reuire standing, some require flexibility and some don’t. You can do yoga anywhere- you can take a class at a gym or you can do it in your own backyard looking over a view.
Remember to go slow when you begin, practice with an instructor, and warm up properly!
Coping Strategy #3 – Sleep!
Sleeping is an essential part of the human body’s daily routine. We often forget how important our sleep is because most of us are too busy thinking about a bigger problem- our parent’s cancer.
- Infants should get about 14 hours of sleep.
- Children and teenagers should get about 9-10 hours of sleep.
- Adults should get about 8 hours of sleep.
Getting the right amount of sleep makes learning new things and memorizing much easier. It also helps stabilize your metabolism and blood pressure. Your irritability and mood swings significantly decrease. Sleep keeps your cardiovascular system and immune system healthy as well.
When you find out your parent has cancer (or there was a change in the chemotherapy, chemotherapies aren’t working, your parents’ life is coming to an end, etc.) it is natural to feel unbelievably tired. The day I found out my dad was dying I cried so much and my head was throbbing a ridiculous amount. I fell asleep really quickly but I had a very hard time staying asleep. I probably woke up every single hour. I ended up waking up every hour when my dad was on Hospice Care. I also woke up multiple times when my dad was sick and an excessive amount the few days after a chemotherapy cycle. I still wake up every single hour while coping with my father’s death. I feel so tired during the day and I am always lacking energy now. All I want to do is sit around and have a pretend conversation about my dad.
But then, I had a realization. I seriously needed to get my life together. I started trying a lot of things to make me tired during the day and relaxed at night leading to a good nights’ sleep.
I started having tea after dinner to help me relax. (Obviously the tea is decaffeinated) I still have my tea and I love it! I usually have the Chamomile tea (Sleep Time Tea) from Trader Joe’s or the decaffeinated tea from the brand, “Mighty Leaf”. Mighty Leaf has delicious flavors like Organic African Nectar, my favorite! The two weeks after my dad passed away consisted of spending time with family and listening to everyone give their condolences (which is very tiring). I started going back to school which was also very draining for me because I had so much make up work. Going to school also took out all of the energy in my body to fake my smile and pretend I was okay considering not a single person understood my pain. Summer came around and there were enough house errands and family members to see to exhaust me. The days I had nothing to do, I found a hobby, like practicing an instrument or exercising.
Sleeping the full 8-10 hours is part of being healthy and being kind to your body. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night and all you think about is your sick parent, take some time for yourself before you go to bed. Have a bubble bath. Maybe try some delicious tea. You could even do yoga or journal!
Remember you have the right to feel the way you feel. Having a parent with cancer is one of the hardest things to overcome. Don’t let your worries and concerns affect your sleep. It’s important to wake up refreshed (and be ready to deal with the new day’s emotions). It’s vital to keep your body healthy when trying to make your parent’s body healthy. Never forget about yourself and your needs.
Coping Strategy #4 – Pet Therapy!
During such a hard time in your life it’s important to have your escape and your “me time”. Something that may help you is pet therapy. It helps your emotional, social, and cognitive functioning while releasing stress. Remember that your family is going through a whole lot of pain and stress, so it is important to support them as much as possible.
In my family, it was time for me to gain an indefinite amount of independence and control my emotions to help my family in every possible way. I always felt like I had to hide the emotions the “C word” caused because I thought it was more important if I were my parents’ support system. Only in the past few weeks I realized I had the right to feel the way I do. I started doing things for myself. Sometimes I just randomly go to the dog park (without my dog, because he’s so big I can’t handle him) and watch the dogs play because it makes me happy. Sometimes I just sit next to my big, furry four-legged friend and my worries go away. Sometimes (more like all the time) I look at pictures of my dog because he’s so cute and no matter how sad or mad or angry or frustrated I am with the world, he’ll always bring a smile to my face.
Pet therapy not only helps us kids with a parent with cancer, but it helps our sick parent too. My dog, Duke and my dad were best friends. My dad called Duke his son and made jokes referring to how he liked my dog better than his two daughters. I strongly believe during the two years my father was sick, one of the things that kept him motivated to fight the cancer was Duke. Duke had a positive effect on my dad that no one will forget. Dogs sense when something is wrong. Usually when my dad walked in through the front door, Duke would greet him by jumping on him and licking his face. During the last three months of my dad’s life, Duke knew my dad couldn’t handle his jumps anymore. When my dad was in Hospice Care, Duke would calmly sit next to him and not bother a single soul. (Duke is about 115 pounds and one of the most jumpy, friendly, rambunctious dogs ever. For him to just sit is rare.) I wish I could thank Duke for everything he’s done for my dad.
Coping Strategy #5 – Music!
Listening to music is beneficial. Having creative lyrics to listen to helps find yourself and explain those feelings in a way that you could not have put in words. Not only is listening to music helpful, but writing music is a great creative outlet to help cope with hard circumstances. Music lowers stress and anxiety levels. The stress hormone, cortisol decreases with music, leading to a more positive mood and outlook on life. Through research many psychologists have found music therapy helps build self-esteem, confidence, and cognitive functioning.
My dad and I loved playing guitar together. I will always cherish the memories of us sharing our enthusiasm for the instrument. Over the last few years, my guitar madness has diminished as school took over my life. The few times I still play the guitar, it calms my emotions down and brings back amazing memories of my dad. Playing an instrument is therapeutic- you get to forget what’s happening with your parent’s cancer and you focus on your music.
Music is a great escape from the real world. It lets your brain take an imaginative route away from your parent’s cancer.
Coping Strategy #6 – Go to Sleep Happy!
Like I mentioned in blog posts before, sleep is very important! Everyone just performs better at daily tasks with their full amount of sleep. I think it’s really important to go to sleep happy (or as happy as you can be under the circumstances). Before you go to sleep, think of atleast three things you’re thankful for. I recently started doing this and it’s been helping me.
If someone made you unhappy that day, try to let it go or even confront them to get it off your chest. Finish all your goals for the day to feel accomplished and ready for the next day.
Go to sleep in a positive mood. Don’t fret over the little things. Be thankful for what you have. Sweet dreams!
Coping Strategy #7 – Therapy!
Having a sick parent is tough. It’s also frustrating, sad, chaotic at times, depressing, scary and much more. It’s hard to cope with all of those feelings, while living a life. It’s also a challenge to keep those feelings separate from your school and social life.
I highly suggest talking to someone. It’s too unhealthy to keep all those negative feelings bottled up. Therapy is a great option to let it all out. Saying your feelings outloud to a specialist will help you feel better and more secure. I’m also sure that your parent’s oncologist knows of programs you can join or someone to talk to. You could also talk to your school counselor or any teacher. For that matter, you could talk to any adult that is willing to just listen! Talk to your friends if you don’t feel comfortable talking to an adult. Just talk to someone! You will feel better afterwards.
If your parent is in the hospital or under Hospice Care, they will have social workers for you! If they haven’t already reached out to you, give them a call and see what they can offer to you. Some insurances also cover a few free therapy sessions, so check that out as well.
Therapy can be time-consuming and challenging at times, but the outcome is worth it. Remember to do your research about the therapists near you if you plan on seeking that help! Stay positive!
Coping Strategy #8 – Group Therapy!
Group therapy is a great option if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a specialist one-on-one. Group therapy is also much more affordable. Humans are social beings. It’s easy to talk to one another in a group. Also, in group therapy you will feel more secure and less alone compared to alternative treatments. You see other kids dealing with a similar situation. When you start telling your story, the group members will understand your problem and relate to it. Having so many perspectives listen to your story, may even change your perspective in a positive way! After saying your feelings in this group, it will be much easier to communicate with your friends and family on this topic as well.
I have heard great things about group therapy and I recommend it for those who are ready to seek help! Stay positive!
Coping Strategy #9 – Art Therapy
Something that always calms me down and gives me time to gather my thoughts is anything artsy or craftsy! I have learned that this really helps when coping with your parent’s cancer.
Recently, I started scrapbooking memories of my dad so I could hold on to them and cherish them forever. DIY (Do It Yourself) projects are also fun because you get to be as creative as you want and you save money! There are a ton of DIY projects that could help cancer patients too! For example, if your parent or loved on is going into surgery or is in the hospital, you can sew them a little pillow and blanket with a pattern that they would appreciate. They would also feel more ‘home-y’ and less ‘hospital-y’. Another great example is knitting beanies or something similar for patients who have lost their hair.
If you have a sick parent, grandparent, etc. I think it would be therapeutic to do an art project with them. This way, both parities can let out emotions while creating memories during a tough time. Studies show that art therapy helps a sick patient by reducing anxiety levels, improving social skills and communication, and controlling the pain in a better way.