How to Practice Self-Care When You Have Lung Cancer

by Sheila M. Eldred Health Writer

It’s no secret that fatigue can impact your quality of life as a lung cancer patient. Surprisingly, though, getting more rest doesn’t always help. Self-care strategies do, according to a study in Oncology Nursing Forum. Self-care can also reduce stress and may even speed up healing. So, indulge. No more guilt! Here are numerous loving ways to put yourself first.

Senior couple meditating.

Make a minute for mindfulness

Did you know that mindfulness can be as simple as focusing on your breathing for a minute? These “micro-practices,” which can also include journaling and body scanning, may inspire you to start a regular practice. Mindfulness has been linked to decreased stress and anxiety in cancer patients. If you want to take your practice further, meditation has been shown to control pain and high blood pressure, help you sleep, and reduce fatigue.

Woman doing a yoga pose in nature.

Try a tree pose

Like mindfulness and meditation, yoga can help you appreciate the present moment and relax. Programs designed specifically at cancer patients often provide community benefits as well. Other types of exercise can be beneficial. Inquire at your local YMCA about opportunities for cancer patients (bonus: many are free!)

Romantic candles, rose petals, and chocolate.

Connect With Your Partner

Self-care should be fun, and that includes making time to Netflix and chill with your honey. And remember, there's more than one way to maintain that sense of closeness with your partner, especially when you might not always be feeling up for more than cuddling on the couch. Check out these tips for a little inspiration. You'll be glad you did.

Senior man laughing.

Laugh whenever you can

Research reveals that laughing is linked to everything from easing pain to improving sleep, suggesting enough benefits that some hospitals even offer laughter therapy. Laughing triggers the release of endorphins, which is one of the body’s ways of relieving pain. Even if you don’t feel like laughing, forced laughter carries many of the same benefits. To get your endorphins flowing, search for laughter clubs or laughter yoga programs in your area.

Group of people laughing in a movie theater.

Go see a movie

Building on the idea that laughing can help, going to the movie theater and seeing a funny movie is a great weekend or weeknight activity. Go with yourself as a treat, or go with family and friends to see that new comedy or thriller as a way to connect. Better yet, see what movie groups your local theater offers to help expand your social community.

"Yes!" speech bubble.

Say yes to help

This is not the time to be a martyr and do everything yourself, LiveBetterWithCancer reminds us. If someone offers to set up a meal train or do your laundry, the best answer is probably, “yes, thanks!” And it’s equally acceptable to request help. If that seems overwhelming, find just one friend who can act as a coordinator and communicator.

Men laughing together.

Find family and friends

Socializing is linked to avoiding cancer-related fatigue, a 2017 study shows. You may find support both in old friendships and new. It can be especially helpful to talk to people with lung cancer who share many of your own experiences. You may find benefits in catching up in person or chatting on the phone or via online forums.

Woman lounging on a tropical beach.

Go far away

Plan a vacation, even just for a day, to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. You don’t even need to go, but the planning and daydreaming could help you put some distance between your current locale/situation and where you might one day go.

Table full of healthy foods

Bon Appetit

Don’t forget to nourish your body physically: Indulge yourself in healthy treats (here are some tips for how to eat. You may find your tastes changing, and you may feel like eating at non-traditional times — that’s perfectly OK, according to Live Better With Cancer.

Sheila M. Eldred
Meet Our Writer
Sheila M. Eldred

Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a graduate of Columbia’s School of Journalism and a former newspaper reporter. As a freelance health journalist, she writes about everything from life-threatening diseases to elite athletes. Her stories have appeared in The New York Times, Nature, FiveThirtyEight, Pacific Standard, STAT News, and other publications. In her spare time, she and her family love running, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking in Minneapolis.