- Stress can have a negative effect on your health, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
- Engaging in exercise, finding activities you enjoy, and seeking out support are a few ways you can reduce your stress.
- Reducing your stress can have a positive impact on your outlook with CLL.
If you’re living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), you’ve probably heard it’s very important to manage your stress.
While it’s true for everyone that managing stress can improve quality of life, 2018 research also suggests that keeping yourself as stress-free as possible can help prevent CLL from worsening and may also help prevent relapses.
That means after being diagnosed with CLL you have to strive to be better than the average person at managing your stress. Fortunately there are resources that can help you to do just that.
If you or a loved one has CLL, read on to learn about the link between CLL and stress, plus learn some useful tips for managing stress while living with CLL.
Receiving a diagnosis of any long-term condition can be very stressful.
You might worry about:
- your outlook
- the treatment involved
- feeling unwell in general
- logistics like finances
- how your condition might affect your day-to-day life
Coping with stress effectively is a very important part of self-care for anyone.
Managing stress is perhaps more important if you have CLL.
The 2018 research mentioned earlier, which centered on stress and CLL, suggested that stress relates to immune and inflammatory processes that contribute to an increase in cancer cells.
The researchers note that living with CLL can be very stressful, whether due to:
- the condition itself
- concerns about relapsing and future treatment challenges
The research showed that stress promotes B-cells that produce inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukins 6 (IL‐6) and IL‐10. Higher levels of IL-6 and IL-10 are associated with shorter survival.
However, while CLL puts you at risk for greater stress, the researchers found that learning to manage and reduce your stress can improve your outlook.
While managing stress with CLL can be daunting, you can take action to reduce your stress level. The following steps can help you cope with stress.
Regular exercise can boost your mood and help you manage your stress.
The American Cancer Society notes that exercising can:
- lessen depression and anxiety
- help you maintain your independence
- reduce nausea and fatigue
- improve the quality of your life
Talk with your doctor about safely creating an exercise routine that will work for you.
Talk with someone
Talking about your feelings with a friend or family member can help you manage your stress. Having people who provide you with emotional support can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
If you’re finding it difficult to reach out to friends or family members or want to connect with someone who can relate to your experience, you can try joining a support group.
The American Cancer Society has a list of resources to help you find support in your area or even connect with others online.
Counseling or therapy
While talking with friends or family or connecting with a support group is generally a good idea, it doesn’t have to be the only resource to help you manage your stress.
Speaking with a therapist or a counselor gives you an outlet to discuss your feelings and examine your worries without judgement.
The American Cancer Society says that meditation can help you lower stress and anxiety. It may also help you sleep better and reduce your fatigue.
There are many ways to meditate, so you might need to try a few before finding what works for you.
Some people recommend repeating a word or phrase, called a mantra. Others prefer meditating through physical movement, like tai chi or yoga. There are also apps that can encourage and guide you through simple meditations.
One of the great things about meditation is that it doesn’t require any special tools or preparation. Simply find a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing or other soothing elements.
Don’t try to begin meditation during moments of high stress. Instead, begin when you have time to relax and focus.
While meditation may feel awkward at first, making it a regular habit can help you feel more comfortable. It can take a few weeks to start seeing the benefits, but consistency will help you build your skills.
The best results happen with 10 to 15 minutes of daily practice.
Going for a walk or a bike ride, gardening, or just reading a book in the sun can all help you get outside more frequently.
Make time for hobbies
Think about the things you already enjoy that you could spend more time on, or consider picking up a new hobby or interest.
Ideas for hobbies include:
- arts and crafts
Find what you like and make time to do it.
Work with your care team
While not everyone needs the same or immediate treatment for CLL, sometimes concerns about the treatment itself can be a source of stress. This stress could be due to issues like:
- concerns about when to begin or potential side effects
- challenges in making and maintaining appointments
- worry about the financial cost of treatment
Work with your providers to discuss the right choices for you. They may be able to suggest less invasive or expensive treatment options. They may also be able to provide resources for finding emotional or financial support.
Unmanaged stress may cause long term issues.
Not only can stress aggravate CLL and other diseases, but it can negatively affect the brain and nervous system, the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and more.
If you take steps to lower your stress levels, like those discussed above, you can lower the risks of long term stress. Plus, lowering your stress levels through self-care can lower your inflammation markers.
Living with CLL can be very stressful. However, it’s important to be aware that stress has negative effects on CLL and overall health and well-being.
You can learn to reduce your stress levels with some self-care practices and through support of loved ones and healthcare professionals.
Reducing your stress can help you feel better and have an improved quality of life — and it may have a positive impact on your CLL.