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Cancer and COVID-19

During these uncertain times, it’s important to look after yourself and those around you. To do this, we encourage you to get reliable information and advice on the coronavirus (COVID-19) from credible sources.

Although we do not provide medical advice we are here to support our community as much as we can. Cancer Australia is a national government agency working to reduce the impact of cancer on all Australians. You can access their up-to-date online resource hub for people living with cancer on COVID-19 here.

Alone but not Lonely

The COVID-19 pandemic is a fertile ground for those of us with a tendency for anxious thoughts. We're all navigating a new normal, and unknown circumstances can prove to be challenging.

Here's a short guide on how a few of us at CancerAid are keeping on top of our wellbeing during this time:

1. Physically distance but socially connected.

We sometimes feel like the label 'social distancing' is a bit of a misnomer.  While we must be physically apart, we are emotionally and psychologically all in this together. Staying socially connected with others will make us happier, healthier and more socially responsible. In this shared reality, social media has never been more important for providing connection. At CancerAid we keep in contact with each other and with friends and family via various digital channels and video conferencing.

Clinical psychologist, Esther Perel suggests "starting a digital Sunday supper with friends via conference video call. Start a book or film club. Share music. It’s important to continue to culturally connect in ways that aren’t defined by sharing updates about Coronavirus."

2. To a degree, you can avoid the news:

There is plenty of COVID-19 information out there to consume. Updates roll in minute-to-minute, information is constantly changing and everyone's conversation seems to centre on it, but sometimes we experience that it generate more worry than sense of understanding the situation. If you've felt worry creeping up when watching the news, you can aim to have a couple of news sources that you check, and set a daily time limit on how much you consume. Alternatively, ask friends or family to contact you in the event of an emergency situation to keep you informed.

3. Exercise

Exercise is a classic anxiety reduction strategy and proven to increase the release of endorphins (Bernstien and McNally 2018). You don't need fancy equipment or a lot time - there are now a heap of free online classes, fitness apps and some suggestions on the CancerAid app to get you started. If you are a patient, you should always speak to your clinical care team before starting a new exercise regime.

4. Control

Find something you can control. Social neuroscientist, Professor John Cacioppo, suggests that one possible way to ward of loneliness and anxiety whilst in self-isolation is to find new ways to regain control. Based on his neurological research,  a sense of control is fundamental to one's sense of mental wellbeing. In a landscape filled with uncertainty, control your little corner of the world. Anchor yourself in the environment that you can control - the people you catch up with regularly, the time you wake up, and the clothing you decide to wear.

5. You do you

There's a lot of content floating around telling us to 'use this time wisely' but there is absolutely no right and no wrong way to spend this time. We suggest you use this time however it suits you. If you want to binge movies, binge away. If you want to learn a language, learn a language. If all you manage to do is to have a shower - that's okay. Be kind to yourself and others along the way.

Wash your hands, stay home and this too shall pass.

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