Five Tips to Get Through Radiation

Radiation therapy is part of the cancer journey for many, and while radiation may not hurt, it can have side effects that impact one’s hair, skin, sleep and appetite—this can become both mentally and physically draining for patients.

But those side effects can be managed. Rethink Breast Cancer put together five tips for getting through radiation treatment that canhelp give patients a better quality of life.

“1. Moisturize your skin.

Start using a water-based moisturizer after each treatment right away, even before any redness or dryness appears. Check with your radiation oncologist to see if there is a specific type or brand of moisturizer they prefer you use, but it’s best to stick to something mild and fragrance-free. Aquaphor and Glaxal Base are popular choices for people undergoing radiation, but go with whatever works for you. 

2. Get rid of the itch!

After a few weeks, you may develop some itching. If the itching is fairly mild, try aloe vera or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. If the itching worsens, talk to your doctor who should be able to prescribe something more effective.

3. Ditch the bra.

If possible, go braless whenever you can to prevent irritation around the breast area, and definitely try to avoid underwires. It’s also a good idea to stick to loose clothes and t-shirts. Use this time as an excuse to be comfy and casual — you’ll be glad you did.

4. Become a shade-worshipper.

Stay out of the sun while you’re undergoing radiation. If you can’t avoid exposure, make sure to cover up the area where you’re receiving your radiation. It’s best to keep this up even after treatment has ended, because your radiated skin will be more sensitive to the sun. If you are outside, use sunblock. You can also purchase a rash guard/cover-up to wear when you go swimming, which will give you full coverage protection. 

5. Rest!

Radiation treatments typically come with less severe side effects than chemotherapy, and as a result many people find it easier. However, the cumulative effects of radiation paired with other treatments you’ve gone through can add up to some major fatigue by the time you’re finished. Remember to take it easy and practice self-care. Schedule some downtime throughout and after your treatments (Netflix, anyone?), and make sure to get ample rest.” 

A proper self-care regimen can make a big difference in reducing the severity of radiation therapy side effects and coming out on the other side stronger than ever.

Exercise Your Emotions

2020 has been interesting…to say the least. Throughout the year, we’ve all had to deal with stresses big and small. And we’ve all had to learn how to keep going. One other thing we’ve learned, for certain, is that our emotional fitness is right up there with our physical fitness in terms of staying happy and healthy throughout some tough times.

Women’s Health outlined 31 ways we can exercise our emotions to ensure the challenges we face don’t weigh us down. Here are a few of our favorites:

Think of one good happening from your day before bed.

“It’s a trick I learned from [happiness expert] Shawn Achor that’s stuck—two minutes is maintainable,” says Dan Harris, ABC News anchor and cofounder of 10 Percent Happier. Try it, and channeling positivity and gratitude daily will become routine.

Take a recess.

Play is an undervalued pillar of emotional fitness, Anhalt says. The definition: Play is all about a meeting of the minds and letting yourself think outside of what feels possible or logical—as in brainstorms or word games with friends.

Change your view of the present.

If you’ve lost any crucial parts of your identity—whether that comes from an injury, a job loss, the end of a relationship, a move—consider other positives of the current moment. “It may not be the year for making money, but it may be the year for your meditation practice or your creativity,” says Ingber. When you try this, “it shows you that you are none of these things you thought defined you.”

Repeat this quote to help quell anxiety:

“Trust future you to handle future problems.” In other words, whatever happens in the future will be handled…then, says Anhalt. No use worrying about it now.

Get out in nature.

Expose yourself to the great outdoors every day to reap some mental health benefits—there is a strong body of scientific literature to show that spending time in a green space can have positive effects on your mental well-being. Harris lives by this rule daily: "I really made it a huge priority to walk in Central Park pretty much every day," he says. "Even if I'm doing a phone call, I try to do it while walking through the park if I can."

There are so many ways we can power up our emotional resilience, and most of them only take a few moments from a 24-hour day. Find the ones that work best for you and keep going strong.

Cancer and the Flu, Be Prepared

If you’re a cancer patient, survivor or a caregiver, you may be wondering about what to do this flu season to protect yourself, a patient or a family member. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot for everyone over six-months old, but how does this apply to those affected by cancer? Are there any risks? We rounded up a couple of questions and answers from the CDC to make sure you’re prepared for flu season.

“Should Cancer Patients and Survivors Get a Flu Shot?

Yes. Injectable influenza vaccines are approved for use in people with cancer and other health conditions. The flu shot has a long, established safety record in people with cancer.

People who live with or care for cancer patients and survivors also should be vaccinated against seasonal flu.

Are Cancer Patients and Survivors More Likely to Get the Flu Than Others?

We don’t know this specifically. But we do know that cancer may increase your risk for complications from the flu. If you have cancer now or have had certain types of cancer in the past (such as lymphoma or leukemia), you are at higher risk for complications from the flu.”

While cancer patients or survivors may not be more likely to get the flu, they are more likely for complications from the flu, so it’s important to protect them with a flu shot and perhaps even an additional pneumococcal vaccination. You can also take other preventative steps like washing your hands, limiting close contact with others and—of course—wearing a mask.

Warm Up to Cold Showers

Let’s just get this out of the way: cold showers are uncomfortable. We get it, there’s a reason the Ancient Greeks invented heating systems for their baths. On a cold day, an early morning, honestly whenever, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of a warm, blanket-y shower. That being said, what if we told you that cold showers could have a positive impact on both your health and your weight? Would you consider a change to your routine?

According to Daniel Wallen of Lifehack, cold showers can help you burn fat. Wallen writes that “exposure to cold temperatures increased the metabolic rate of brown fat by fifteen fold, which could help a person drop nine pounds in a year if sustained.” That’s right, cold showers activate our good fat to fight against our bad fat.

Cold showers also aid in recovery after exercise. You probably know that athletes take ice baths after a hard workout or game to reduce soreness, “but you can obtain a similar benefit with a quick cold shower after your training sessions,” according to Wallen. And strong recovery means strong workouts. 

Wallen continues to explain how cold showers can help us stay alert and energized. Makes sense, right? We all know that rush (for better or worse) of jumping into cold water—that translates to showers, too. Wallen explains that “when cold water pours over your body, your breathing deepens in response to the shock of the cold (this is your body trying to keep you warm by increasing overall oxygen intake). Your heart rate will also increase, resulting in a rush of blood through your body that will help you get energized for the day. 

Cold showers can also help to keep you healthy, literally. Cold showers speed up your metabolism, which triggers your immune system to release “virus-fighting white blood cells that will help you get sick less frequently.” Definitely worth a few minutes of cold.

Lastly, cold showers can help your skin. “Hot water dries out your skin, while cold water tightens your cuticles and pores, preventing them from getting clogged.” This can help reduce acne and cut down on breakouts, leaving your confidence sky high.

So, are you convinced yet? If you want to give cold showers a try but aren’t ready to brave the low temperatures from start to finish, try alternating. Simply turn the water from hot to cold every 30-60 seconds, your body will still reap the benefits of cold and the comforts of warmth.

How to Meditate at Home

Meditation is a centuries-old practice for reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing mental wellbeing and, in many cases, improving overall health. Nowadays, mental-health apps are starting to bring meditation more into the mainstream and while some people meditate in groups, many more meditate at home.

How can you start your own at-home meditation routine? Mindworks has some tips:

Think about your motivation
Are you meditating because you want to manage stress, sleep better, or cope with chronic pain? If so, you may do well with guided meditation, relaxation meditation, or chanting. Are you looking to gain insights into the mind? This is the true goal of mindfulness and awareness meditation. Is your primary objective to develop qualities such as patience, empathy and generosity? Gratitude meditation is a good choice (if you can do a morning gratitude meditation it can benefit your whole day). Do you want to go deeper into your relationship with the divine presence? Spiritual meditation can take you there.

Start small and work your way up
While learning how to meditate at home, it’s important to start with small, manageable sessions. Even three minutes will make a difference. It might sound super short, but for some beginners, sitting in awareness for a few minutes feels like forever. Starting with short sessions also helps you to gain the momentum you’ll need to sustain your practice in the long run. As many meditation experts suggest, the quality of your meditation is more important than the length.

Pick a convenient time and comfortable spot
One of the best ways to meditate at home is to find a quiet place away from noisy distractions. Pick a time that’s convenient for you. Early morning is a perennial favorite time to meditate since this time of day is generally peaceful and there are few interruptions. You’ll also need to find a comfortable position. While some meditators like sitting in the lotus position, there are other good options. You can sit on a meditation cushion, chair or even a couch, so long as you feel comfortable and you can sit up straight. Do your best to find a position where your spine is aligned. Your neck and shoulders should be relaxed, and your eyes can be half open or shut during the meditation session.

Try a guided meditation
Since you’re just beginning, guided meditation can add a welcome structure to your practice. Mindworks App is a complete resource that offers Guided Meditations, Mind Talks, inspirational Daily Cups and much more, all developed and curated by internationally-known meditation experts. Have a seat, choose from the guided meditations, and enjoy the journey.

Whatever form of meditation you choose, awareness of the present moment is key. When you meditate, you train in being aware of whatever object of meditation you’ve chosen. There will be distractions in the form of sounds, odors, sensations of discomfort, tension, itching, etc. In addition, there will be distractions that your mind will produce all on its own: to-do lists, things you should have done or said, things you plan to do or say, emotions, daydreams… the list is endless. To help the mind stay focused on the here and now, one of the best ways to meditate at home is to focus on the process of breathing.

Trungram Gyalwa, a renowned meditation master from the Himalayas, teaches that compassion is a fundamental quality that’s hard-wired in all of us. Meditation helps us control negative emotions (such as anger and envy) and uncover positive qualities such as loving, kindness and compassion. Meditation gives us all the tools we need to develop the goodness that already exists within. “

Now that you have the tools to begin your meditation routine, all you have to do is carve out some time for yourself and begin. Ready? 3…2…ohm.

Resilience: Flourishing in the Face of Adversity

Challenges are a part of life, for all of us. Some big, some small and some that seem impossible to overcome. The key to thriving throughout our lives is not the absence of these challenges, but the ability to respond to them and overcome them. That’s resilience.

Taryn Stejskal wrote about five habits that particularly resilient people put into practice:

"1. Vulnerability
Resilient leaders let their whole authentic selves to shine forth, they allow their inside selves: thoughts, feelings, and experience to be congruent with their outside selves: the self they project to the world.

2. Productive perseverance
Develop the flexibility and intelligence to navigate the strategic dilemma of opposing forces; to know when to pivot, to rethink the plan; know when to maintain the mission.

3. Connection
Purpose inspires greater meaning and closeness with others, and prevents us from being derailed from our path.

4. Grati-osity
Be patient. Most people have to wait to realize this benefit which often follows this pattern: pain -> waiting ->growth ->grati-osity.

5. Possibility
It’s an age-old tale, coming back after failure, and standing up one more time than we fall down. Now it has a name: Adversity Quotient (AQ): The inability to be deterred by failure. Perhaps it’s not IQ or EQ, but the ability to persevere, despite the odds, to acknowledge fear, setbacks, and failure, and forge onward is the stuff of true success.”

Life doesn’t come with a guidebook. Everyone will face everyday challenges or obstacles with more lasting impact. While each change affects us differently, being prepared for the twists and turns with the right tools of resilience will allow us not only to endure, but to grow.

5 Tips for Keeping Calm

We all worry. We get upset, feel anxious and experience stress. It’s just a part of life. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be somethingthat we can’t control. Taking both preventative and in-the-moment steps can help us take the reins and stay calm, so we can take on whatever comes our way.

An article on Undo-Ordinary outlined five ways we can keep calm and remain in control of ourselves and our lives:

There is something precious and necessary about the Breathe function on the Apple Watch. Sometimes, you just need a reminder to fill your lungs up with all you can take and just let it go.

It’s a shame I have to remind adults to put proper fuel in their body. Think of it as driving a car. Your car moves with the help of gasoline. When the car runs out of gas it starts to malfunction and eventually stops performing until you fill it up again. Water is the gasoline and your body is the vehicle. Fuel up to keep up with whatever comes your way.

You want to perform better at your job and enjoy your life a bit more? Calm down. I know stress makes you do a lot of things you wouldn’t imagine but imagine yourself beyond the stress. You have the power to actually control your behavior and responses to situations that are out of your control. Cause guess what, all situations are out of your control.”

The article continued to suggest we alkaline our bodies and try a variety of essential oils at home to help find balance and harness our inner calm. Staying cool in stressful situations is possible, we just need to equip ourselves with the right tools and techniques. Then we can overcome, well, anything.


How to Set Goals in Times of Uncertainty

Our everyday lives have been shifted and destabilized with the ongoing global pandemic. As we move forward in this time of uncertainty, a few experts offer their ideas on how to best make decisions and set goals.

Goal coach and speaker Jacki Carr recently wrote an article on Medium speaking directly to this common question: How do I set goals in times of uncertainty?

Here’s an excerpt:

“As we are entering a time in our lives we have never been before, some of us might be in waiting mode until things normalize until we normalize. Some of us might have a rule we set that goals can only be set when we are stable and sound in mind, body, and globe. (Author’s Notes:

We make up rules for ourselves to live by and often forget to check in to see if the rules still serve us or are even our own rules for living or someone else’s?). Some of us might feel fear and goals written in fear create more fear, they say. And some of us are relying on old goals, old ways in hope that it will all shake out.

Here is the deal, I never even wrote about the Coronavirus or COVID-19. I did not mention it up there. Because whenever someone is reading this, they are most definitely entering a time in their lives they have never been before.
Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change”.

We are always in a state of change, evolution, disruption, or expansion.

We don’t move backwards, time keeps on keepin’ on.
And so do we.

Therefore, when in our lives have we ever actually set goals in times of certainty?
I will tell you…

Never have we ever.
Because there is no. such. thing.

Take a moment to flip back in the book pages of your life. Tell me when you set a goal and had the exact road map to get there? When have you known every one of the moments that would lead to the finish line?”

A recent article in MindBodyGreen added to the conversation, recommending exchanging plans for present mindedness.

“Planning is important. It helps us organize our lives and create structures and goals for ourselves. That being said, as a society we have a habit of overplanning. We can all be guilty of this. We get focused on planning things down to a T. When we plan, we feel in control, which in turn makes us feel less vulnerable.

Moreover, sometimes the best things in life happen when we don't try to control them and instead let ourselves be vulnerable to the mysterious workings of the universe. I'm sure you can find dozens of examples of how chance and serendipity have led you to some of your happiest and most important connections in life.

So in this moment of unprecedented uncertainty, when all of your best-laid plans will likely seem foolish a year from now anyway, trying to live in the moment as much as possible is important. Let's help ourselves practice present-mindedness when we can and not take for granted the here and now by focusing too much on a planned future.”

Meditation Linked to Fewer Mistakes

If the prospect of a more peaceful, less reactive, and clearer state of being doesn’t get you to take a break and meditate, new research from Michigan State University linking mindfulness with fewer mistakes might persuade you.

A recent CNBC article outlined the recent study in which 212 undergraduate college students with no prior meditation experience listened to a guided meditation by Steven Hickman, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founding director of the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness.

Here’s a segment of the report: “The meditation instructed participants to notice the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations that arose in the moment and take note of them without judgment.

After meditating, participants completed a quiz on a computer that was intended to distract them and test their concentration. Throughout the experiment, participants were wearing electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, so researchers could measure their brain waves.

Researchers were looking for a specific neural signal that fires a half-second after you make a mistake, called ‘error positivity.’ They found that the strength of the ‘mistake’ signal was stronger in people who had meditated, meaning they were able to recognize and correct their slip-ups.

‘It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment,’ Jason Moser, the co-study author said in a press release.”

What made the meditation in this study unique is that instead of focusing on the breath, research participants were instructed to pay close to attention to the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that came up during the session.

“The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery,” said Jeff Lin, the co-author of the study.

Listen to the 20 minute seated meditation here.