Being diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment through radiation and chemotherapy takes an emotional, physical and psychological toll on patients. The recovery process can be fraught with stress, including how you will be able to pay for treatment, coming to terms with new physical limitations, and the constant anxiety of how your loved ones are managing this difficult situation.
It is just as important to care for your mental health during treatment and recovery as it is to take care of your physical symptoms. One of the ways that you can occupy your mind and body in a productive way is to find daily tasks that involve both physical and mental stimulation without draining your energy. Some of the common forms of cancer that may require a difficult treatment process include bladder, stomach, breast, kidney, colon, pancreatic, leukemia and lung cancer.
How Working with Your Hands Can Reduce Stress
According to some recent studies, working with your hands in the garden can help to alleviate chronic and acute stress. It is often referred to as horticultural therapy and offers patients a sense of pride and satisfaction in their work when they see their gardens growing. This therapy has been proven to be successful with a wide range of psychological issues, but it is especially well-suited for those who may be in a weakened physical state because it is adaptable to a variety of physical abilities and limitations.
Depression During and After the Treatment Process
One of the unfortunate realities of chemotherapy and radiation is that many patients experience depression both during and after treatment. The loss of physical capabilities and the exhaustion that follows treatment can make patients feel as though regular tasks are too difficult to bother completing any longer. They may start to lose hope that they can go on to lead fulfilling lives.
While other mental health treatment may be necessary, finding an enjoyable task that a patient can look forward to doing each day is a great supplement. Planting and harvesting their own garden is a way for patients to take a proactive role in their treatment and keep their minds busy on something other than the negative side effects they are facing from treatment. It can also help reduce anxiety, which is often associated with depression. Having a daily task to participate in will prevent patients from dwelling on their limitations and can be a boost to their self-esteem.
Tips to Start an Easy Garden
You do not have to be an expert gardener to grow some plants successfully and experience the joy of gardening. In fact, here at Brown’s Greens, we encourage the beginner gardeners in our community to first start their gardening habits by finding a few plants and techniques that are easy and simple in order to build confidence. Go to your local garden center, purchase a pretty pot or two (make sure they have drainage holes at the bottom), a bag of potting soil, and some easy veggie seeds or starts (small plants) that don’t get too big. An associate from the garden center should be able to help you pick out some plants, but we recommend trying some salad greens, carrots, or select herbs, all of which are pretty easy in Colorado. Take them home, plant them into your pot/s, water them nice and deeply after planting, put the pot/s in a mostly sunny area, and patiently wait as they mature. Make sure to keep the soil moist, and ask your local garden center for some advice on simple fertilizing once the plants get a little larger.
Keeping things simple at first and avoiding taking on harder plants and garden systems that have higher risks of failure will help ease you into gardening without discouragement. As you grow in confidence and excitement about growing your garden, you can start converting some of your landscape into garden space and increasing the variety and difficulty of the crops that you plant. But there’s no rush. Gardening should be fun, first and foremost.
In sum, growing a garden can be just what the doctor ordered in terms of preventing depression during the treatment process. Light physical activity and an enjoyable task can help reduce stress and anxiety.