6th April 2020

Tony’s top tips for managing anxiety whilst shielding

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“I’m Tony. I am living with stage four lung cancer and brain and kidney metastases. Like all those living with lung cancer, I am classed as ‘vulnerable’ and been advised to ‘shield’ for 12 weeks.

It’s very easy, given everything that is going on around us, to feel anxious. I’m a pretty positive guy but, like most if not all lung cancer patients, I am extremely worried about the situation. I’m worried my next scan will be cancelled. I’m worried about the prioritisation of ventilators. I’m worried that coronavirus will become a priority over cancer and that resources will be diverted from the treatment of cancer and patients will suffer and, probably, die prematurely.

It’s natural to feel like this. I think it would be odd if we didn’t feel like this! However, it’s really important to try and manage your anxiety. There’s so much going on that we can’t control, so I have chosen to focus on what I can.

Listen to the experts

I think it’s really important that we get our information from the scientists and healthcare professionals, rather than the news or social media. So much of the news is negative, reporting on the number of cases of coronavirus there now are and how many people have died from it. It is nearly impossible to remain positive if all we hear is such sad, and scary, news.

Structure your day

When you can’t go out, it is really easy to just laze about all day but, for me, this only makes me feel worse. I need to give my day some structure and some purpose, so I make sure I get showered and dressed every day, just as I would normally. I make sure I eat at regular times and go to bed around the same time. I also make sure I have something to occupy myself throughout the day too.

It’s good to talk

People who know me know I love to talk, so this is not a hard one for me but I understand that, when it comes to serious things like anxiety and fear, many people tend to clam up. However, it is so important to talk to someone if you are feeling anxious.

This can be your family but, again, I know many of us want to protect our family, so you may find it more helpful to talk to someone outside your household. This could be your specialist nurse, or even the team at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. They have just launched their new Keep in Touch Support Service, where a member of the team will give you a call on a regular basis to check everything is ok and if not, they’ll help try to resolve it.

Turn to your hobbies

I am occupying a lot of my time with my hobbies. My main hobbies are gardening, reading, cooking and exercise. It’s especially good at the minute to get outside in the garden and, thankfully, the weather has been pretty good.

Exercise is even more important

I appreciate exercise can be difficult for some people with lung cancer, and even more so now given the restraints of shielding. However, it is really important to try and keep as active as possible. There are some really good programmes online that can be done at home with no special equipments.

Learn something new

This time shielding is the perfect opportunity to learn something new. There are lots of courses on a wide variety of subjects available online and many are now at a discounted rate. You could learn a new language, learn to dance or learn some new home repairs.

Embrace technology

We are so fortunate to have so much technology at the touch of a button so, while we may not be able to see our loved ones directly, we can still keep in touch with them online. There’s Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp. All of these are quite easy to use – even I can do it!

The gift of time

How many times have we moaned that we don’t have time to do something round the house?! Well, there’s no excuse now! This is a great opportunity to catch up on all those jobs or things you’ve been putting off for years.

I hope my tips have helped. Just remember to pace yourself and do the things you can. We are potentially in this for quite a while so don’t do everything at once otherwise you’ll run out of things to do! This is a marathon not a sprint.

Take care. Stay safe and remember Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is here if you need them.