Going Back To Work After Cancer: 4 Ways To Cope Better
Dominica Chua, a counsellor from Parkway Cancer Centre, talks about how you can cope better when returning to work during or after cancer treatment.
Whether you should return to work or stop work completely during treatment is a personal decision; there is no wrong or right answer. As each person responds differently to his or her treatment regime, it is about making the best choice for your body and the circumstances you are in.
Here are four things you can do to cope better psychologically and emotionally during your cancer journey if you choose to go back to work.
Your cancer diagnosis and treatment may take on a far more positive light when you have a growth mindset – where you see adversity as part of a journey, and look for opportunities to overcome it with grit and persistence.
Adopting such a growth mindset can help you stay open, positive and resilient to the many changes that lie ahead when returning to work. It allows you to remain spontaneous and help you trust in the natural process of life. In letting things unfold on their own, you may be able to keep your negative thoughts and feelings in check better, and stay hopeful while transiting back to work during treatment.
Mindfulness is about being present in the here and now, and adopting a curious, open, and non-judgemental perception of what you are experiencing internally and externally. Practising mindfulness regularly can help you to manage stress better generally.
One common way to practise mindfulness is by gently focusing on the rhythm of our breaths. Spend five to 10 minutes noticing the motion of inhaling and exhaling. While this is simple to practise on your own, it is always easier and more fun to do it in a group or with a yoga teacher or a counsellor.
3. Manage expectations
A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing experience, and you may have to cope with many changes such as side effects and changes in routine. If you choose to continue working during treatment, you may find yourself facing new challenges and concerns at work.
Be gentle with yourself. Set realistic expectations and achievable goals, taking into consideration the changes that are happening in your life. Be open and honest with your colleagues and supervisors about the changes you may need at work to better manage your back-to-work transition.
Juggling between work and cancer treatment is never easy. It is common to experience a wide range of emotions such as shock, fear, anxiety or even anger. You may even be so caught up with home or work responsibilities and overlook time for yourself or to slow down.
Some people choose to ‘escape’ by busying themselves with excessive work. However, setting aside time for activities you enjoy or even spending some time alone in quiet reflection, can help you to manage the difficulties in cancer treatment and returning to work.
‘I have cancer’
Your colleagues may feel awkward about your cancer diagnosis, and may not know how to respond or what to say to you. And you may find yourself in a similar spot.
Plan ahead. Before you return to work, decide and rehearse ahead of time what to tell your colleagues, how much to tell them, or even who to tell.
Be true to yourself. Be honest with what you sense, feel or think at the moment. Share with prudence and ease, do not feel compelled to share more than you want to, no matter how well-meaning the concerns and advice you receive.