No-one tells you much about the time after cancer is ‘over’. Let’s pretend for a minute we’re clear on what ‘over’ means (because we rarely are) and move to that time afterwards – weeks, months or, yep, even years later when some sort of normal life beckons you. You feel great because it’s ended but you feel weird because it’s ended.
Shouldn’t you be celebrating and firing on all cylinders by now? Shouldn’t you be living each day with wild abandon and shouting from the rooftops how amazing it feels?
That would be nice, and there may be an hour of two of that, but frankly you’re knackered, dazed, putting yourself back together again and trying to make sense of it all whilst moving forward.
This is OVERWHELMING to say the least, so here’s 3 simple steps you can take to dealing with that.
Step 1 – continue to prioritise your health
It’s tempting to throw everything to the wind and say ‘f*ck it’ and go crazy. You’ll want to do this at some point probably even if you’re still exhausted from the whole thing. Celebration and doing things to make you feel great are important; just don’t forget to keep thinking about your health.
I don’t mean you have to take up the next vegan diet that comes your way, be alcohol free or live without sin. I mean, take care each day to look after yourself in a small, easy and manageable way that adds up in the end to positive physical and mental wellbeing.
Get good sleep for you, eat well with the diet you need, drink enough water to keep hydrated – just simple everyday things that keep you on top of your health.
Step 2 – figure out your next move
Keeping focused on your priorities after a cancer experience is important. Why? Because otherwise you’ll feel you have to do, see, have, need it all and now, which isn’t a good use of your energy. Knowing your priorities and allowing yourself to focus on one or two things at a time will be key.
Maybe you’re building strength back after chemo and figuring out when to get back to work. Fine – do this and try not to add too much else to your plate.
Maybe you’re looking after your young family and planning a house move. Great – just watch you don’t add too much else to that. Why? Because you’ll try to do too much all at once, which usually results in achieving less and feeling worse off in the process.
Step 3 – keep things simple
After finding focus, you want to get your priorities clear, to ensure you have simple steps to achieving them.
Maybe you have on-going conversations with work about your return in a few months but don’t let them creep into your everyday and cloud your recovery process.
Maybe you are thinking about fertility which is all consuming, but keep that to-do list as clear as it can be, free from clutter, to keep you on track everyday to achieve your bigger goals.
When you make things more complicated, there are too many moving parts that you’re managing at once. This leads to less down time and more overwhelm when you’re thinking about it all. Get clear and simple in your everyday tasks to reach the goals you want instead.
You may think it would be impossible to forget you had cancer, but sometimes we’re getting on with life and trying to achieve things, like we would have done Before Cancer (BC), and not able to do them as quickly, or with the same ease. You’ve probably heard of chemo brain but outside of that, there’s so much to take in in the changes from BC to after, that we often minimise the experience in order to get on with our lives.
Minimising the experience is an automatic protection mechanism to save you from going over and over the detail all the time. This is helpful, but don’t let it go so far that you completely discount your cancer experience. Reminding ourselves that it happened can indeed be an important part of knowing why some things are harder or different now.
Remember these steps, and that things change, and that it IS possible to find focus again. Starting here, you’ll be along the right tracks to moving forward from it all with less overwhelm.
Want to work through the full 7 steps to dealing with overwhelm after cancer? Take a look here.