If you are coping with mesothelioma, either as a patient or a caregiver, you know the daily challenges of dealing with the physical symptoms of this serious cancer and the side effects of mesothelioma treatment. Coping with mesothelioma takes an emotional toll as well; many patients grapple with anxiety and depression.
Numerous studies have shown that one thing that often helps relieve both the physical and emotional pain of a mesothelioma diagnosis: spirituality. You don’t have to be religious to find relief in spiritual practices when you are coping with mesothelioma.
What Are Spiritual Practices?
Spirituality can overlap with religion, but it’s not the same. Spiritual practices are anything that brings serenity and peace into your life.
For many people, their religious practice is deeply spiritual. For others, being in nature, meditating, creating art, singing, or doing yoga may give a feeling of connection to forces larger than themselves.
Spirituality is a sense of belonging in the world, of being connected to others, cared for by a greater wisdom. You may find this place of comfort in church or in a forest – or both.
Challenges in Coping with Mesothelioma
Coping with mesothelioma can be a challenge to your spirituality. You may be angry at God. You might feel abandoned and unprotected. This is an understandable reaction to the shock of a mesothelioma diagnosis. For many, however, the illness ultimately drives them to seek out a new spirituality or connect more strongly with their current spiritual practices.
Fear, anxiety, and depression are common among mesothelioma patients and their caregivers. It’s understandable, even natural, to experience some emotional distress when you are dealing with a health crisis.
How you cope with these challenges could affect your mesothelioma prognosis. Emotional stress gets in the way of your body’s natural healing powers, so it’s important to find ways to support your emotional health. Spiritual practices can provide this support.
Studies have shown that cancer patients with a strong sense of spirituality often have better outcomes than those who do not feel that connection. Spiritual practices have been shown to lead to better emotional and physical health in those coping with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Research has also shown that, while many cancer patients would like spiritual care to be integrated with their medical care, most medical professionals don’t provide enough support in this area. Don’t be afraid to bring up the topic. Ask your doctor or nurse for the resources you need to support your spiritual practices when you are in the hospital or in a rehab facility.
Find a way to continue spiritual practices that are meaningful to you no matter where your mesothelioma treatment takes you. Spirituality can go with you everywhere, even into the sterile setting of a medical building.
Spiritual Suggestions for Coping with Mesothelioma
You may not think of yourself as a spiritual person. That doesn’t mean you can’t adopt soothing spiritual practices to help while you are coping with mesothelioma. Whether you go to church every Sunday or are a confirmed atheist, consider trying one or more of these spiritual practices (or others that you think of). It could improve your outlook and your outcomes.
- Talk to a spiritual counselor.
Talk with a chaplain or other spiritual counselor. If you aren’t able to speak with someone from your own religious tradition, have a conversation with someone from a different faith. Chances are that the counselor will be able to provide you with compassion and support on your journey to spiritual healing. You may be surprised by what you learn from a spiritual or religious counselor, even one who does not share your faith.
- Go on a nature pilgrimage.
Do you remember the joyful feeling of a sunrise over the lake where you spent childhood summers? Does your heart sing when your feet crunch across the twigs in your favorite forest? These are spiritual experiences and that can provide a space of peace for you while you are coping with mesothelioma.
You could travel to a special place where you have had spiritual experiences in the past. Or you might find spirituality in a city park or your own back yard, or all of the above. Natural beauty has a great power to soothe and heal.
- Go to church.
Perhaps you have fallen away from your religious practice. You might find spiritual relief in rediscovering your religion. Or you might appreciate the spiritual practices and wisdom found in a new congregation – or several.
If you’re having a hard time finding the spirituality in religion to help you cope with mesothelioma, become exploratory. Try out different religious practices until you find one that speaks to you. The spiritual relief found in places of worship can make coping with mesothelioma much easier to bear.
- Try meditation or prayer.
Studies show that meditation can calm your brain and boost your immune response. It helps improve your mood, relieving depression and worry. Meditating can help you feel physical pain less sharply.
If you have a hard time getting yourself to meditate, try taking a class. Some people find it easier to meditate in a room with others; you might be able attend group meditations at a meditation center.
If meditation is not for you, try prayer. Prayer may provide many of the same health benefits as meditation.
And, of course, feel free to take up both of these healing spiritual practices.
- Make music. Listen to music.
Many people find spiritual support in singing or playing an instrument. If you have a tin ear but you love music, go to a concert or simply put on the headphones and you’re your favorite music sweep over you. Music can provide wonderful spiritual healing.
- Make art. Surround yourself with art.
As with music, many people find healing in visual art. Playing with paints or clay, woodworking or collage can all be spiritual practices. Treat yourself to an art class or simply paint for the fun of it at home.
Being around art created by others can also be healing. Allow yourself time to sit in a museum gallery and gaze at a painting that lifts your heart.
7. Try a yoga class.
Many people find spirituality in movement. Walking, swimming, dance, or other movement can be spiritual practices.
If coping with mesothelioma has impaired your ability to move, find a gentle yoga class and a teacher who will tailor the poses to your physical ability. Many yoga classes include a spiritual component. There are also other types of gentle movement that include spiritual practices, such as tai chi and qigong.
Choose one of these spiritual practices that speaks to you or try all of them. Whether you are the patient or the caregiver, coping with mesothelioma will be one of the hardest things you do in your life. Spirituality can help ease that burden and keep joy and hope alive in your heart during this difficult time.