Dr. Aabaji Thatte Seva Aur Anusandhan Sanstha





By  Dr Abhijeet Faye
Consultant Psychiatrist, Dept of Psycho-oncology
National Cancer Institute, Nagpur
On 01 August 2020

Currently, everyone is shattered emotionally during the pandemic of the coronavirus. The uncertainty, exhaustive precautions, restrictions in activities, changes in plans and priorities, keeping a balance of self-care and work, associated financial problems – all of this are faced by almost everyone. Many people had difficulty in coping with this sudden and unexpectedly arrived catastrophe and they suffered anxiety, panic-like symptoms, irritability, frustration, low mood, and hopelessness.

Cancer patients are already susceptible to the emotional and psychological disturbances related to illness & its suffering, perceived magnitude of the problem, treatment duration & proceeding, adverse effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, stigma, fear of recurrence, and other issues involving family, social and financial matters.

Psychological issues associated with the corona pandemic had further jeopardized the already disturbed mental health of cancer patients.

They are at increased risk of developing a new psychiatric problem or an aggravation of existing mental health problems. This can result in changing the treatment decisions (like rescheduling or delaying chemotherapy).

We urge everyone to take adequate care of your mental health.

It is therefore necessary for all the cancer patients and their family members to take extra care of their mental wellbeing. Along with other precautions, special attention is needed to keep oneself psychologically healthy during this difficult time. The following are some of the tips to help you keep a check.

In General,

Maintain Sleep Hygiene 

Take care of sleep hygiene i.e. sleep on regular time, at least 6-8 hours’ sleep at night, avoid electronic gadgets at least one hour before sleeping, eat less at night, avoid taking afternoon nap if possible.

Eat nutritious food

Have mainly homemade food, as we are sure about its content & hygiene. Diet with adequate protein content like egg, fish, dry fruits, seasonal fruits along with green leafy vegetables and sprouts should be preferred.

Spend time with your family

Keep a ‘together time’ and ‘separate time’ balance, try to do any small work as a ‘team-work’ involving all the family members.

Stay connected to your loved ones

It’s a physical distancing and not a social distancing as such. We can stay connected to friends, relatives & colleagues on the phone, through social networking sites, video calls, etc.

Live your passion

You have a chance to invest your time and energy to bring out or work on your passion or hobbies like singing, dancing, painting, writing, cooking, etc. Utilize this slow-down time to rediscover yourself, to start doing something you always wanted to, to set up a goal for the things you are desirous to accomplish, etc.

Exercise regularly

Spend some time daily for any kind of exercise that you can do. This will help to boost your immunity and to keep your mood happy. Recreational activities such as reading, painting, indoor games, watching motivational videos, etc. also help elevate the mood and keeps negative thoughts at bay.

Specific Tips for Cancer Patients

Apart from the general tips, there are a few more specific things cancer patients should practice to ensure good mental health and thereby supporting their ongoing treatment.

Stay informed

  • Get adequate information about the disease, its spread, symptoms, precautions to be taken to protect yourself.
  • Information about how to seek help if needed, as you need to be extra cautious during the treatment of cancer
  • You can contact NCI Toll-Free Helpline and connect with your Oncologist, Counsellor or Kark Sevak for your queries.

Avoid things that increase the fear or negativity

  • Negative information remains in mind for a long and can cause anxiety, uneasiness, disturbed sleep, and irritability. Limit the news channel to once or twice a day.
  • Also, avoid discussing the same topic with everyone. It’s better to avoid negative things and spend more time on things which help us to remain positive.

Talk or write down your feelings

  • If you get any negative feelings or psychological symptoms, please share it with someone close or your counselor.
  • If that is not possible, write down your feelings on paper or in a diary. You can throw it off if you don’t want anyone to read it.

The goal here is to ventilate or channelize your negative emotions. Also, what we write, give us feedback about our thinking & feelings which may help us to modify it if it’s unhealthy for our mind.

Try to meditate

It is difficult to meditate when you are disturbed but you can give a try for 15 minutes per day. Slowly, you will be tuned to it. This will help to relax oneself and to maintain peace of mind.

Focus on things under your control

  • It is better to focus and work on things that are in our hands or under our control.
  • For Example, the spread of infection or endpoint of the disease is not under our control, however, protecting ourselves by taking precautions is definitely under our control.

Revisit the old memories 

Opening the old albums, photo gallery, old writings, etc. helps to refresh our mood.

Be aware of the mood swings or warning signs of psychological problems

  • Be alert if you notice any symptoms like mood swings, uneasiness, anxiety, frustration, irritability, or sadness.
  • If we detect it early, we can prevent it from getting converted into a serious mental health problem.

Early identification is the key to prevent complications

Discuss your thoughts with your cancer specialist

  • Never hesitate to discuss your emotional or psychological problems with your cancer specialist as they can guide you to proper services.
  • It is also important because psychological problems may prolong the recovery in cancer and timely intervention may prevent this.

Take help from the expert available in the institute

Experts at NCI are here to support you through this journey. You can avail of their guidance in coping with the stress, handling the anxiety, getting rid of the negative thoughts or emotions, balancing your physical and mental health, teach you how to relax along with counseling and medicinal help as needed.

We are committed to providing you care for your psychological health which is an integral part of our holistic 5P approach for cancer treatment at the National Cancer Institute, Nagpur.