20th Sep, 2020

Macmillan doctors offer advice on stepping out as shielding ends

Correspondent 2nd Aug, 2020

THE policy of ‘shielding’ of people especially at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they get coronavirus comes to an official end this Saturday, August 1.

People living with cancer – especially those having treatment that compromises their immune system- are considered some of the most vulnerable people.

Having followed strict guidelines for over 13 weeks, which has involved minimal contact with others, cancer patients are understandably feeling nervous about restrictions easing.

Research by Macmillan Cancer Support found the virus has left as many as one in four people with cancer in the UK (around 840,000) feeling stressed, anxious or depressed and one in eight people (around 390,000) have seen their mental health worsen in the pandemic.

Here Macmillan psychologists at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Dr Stephanie Davies and Dr Kate Davies, provided some tips on how to cope:

Stephanie says: ‘Having cancer during the time of Covid is a significant and unprecedented challenge, getting through it must have been very tough at times. We hope you are able to take moments to be proud of yourself.

Although you may not be required to shield anymore, this doesn’t mean the world will automatically feel safe.

Others around you, who might not have had such recent experiences of serious illness or hospitals, might find this difficult to understand.

Your ideas about risk might be different. Keep conversations going, each time you make a change discuss what this activity will need to look like for it to be safe for you.

Don’t feel bad about feeling anxious! Although unpleasant, anyone in your position would feel this way.

Anxiety can present as worrying thoughts, or bodily symptoms such as a pounding heart or tension.

Make changes gradually and at your own pace, the anxiety will reduce as you do more. Don’t jump into something very frightening straight away.’

Kate added: ‘If anxiety comes along, acknowledge that it is there.

Being anxious isn’t necessarily a sign you need to stop what you are doing. If you feel physically anxious, you can try and breathe at a slower pace (in for four counts, hold for four counts, out for four counts) and continue the activity if you can.

Try and take in the surroundings and notice where you are; how does the air feel on your skin? How many different sounds can you here?

Count things, watch the way things move. Bring yourself out of your head and into the present.

After the activity, spend a moment reflecting on how you feel.

Did that trip to the park cheer you up despite feeling anxious to start with? This can motivate you and help you overcome your worries for the next time.

Write a list of things that impact your mood, and then which is in your control and what is not. It is okay to feel anxious or frustrated with what you can’t control, but then re-focus on what you can.

Remember that you have dealt with worries and uncertainties around your health prior to Covid, this is nothing new. Think about what helped you before that could help you now.’

You can find ways to help you keep healthy, mentally and physically, as well as information on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting cancer care on Macmillan’s coronavirus hub, www.macmillan.org.uk/coronavirus

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