Self-Care for Individuals with MPNs

Receiving a diagnosis of a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) can leave you and your loved ones feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, anxious and out of control. It can be an emotional roller coaster. You can reclaim some control and reduce the long-term impact on your daily life with self-care. Of course, everyone’s situation is unique and what works for one person might not work for you but taking care of your body and mind is essential to living well. 

Slow down.
It’s understandable that you would panic, but it’s important to take a deep breath, stay calm and take some time to digest your diagnosis before making any major medical decisions. Taking it slow will allow you to process your diagnosis, learn coping skills and understand your options to focus on living one day at a time.

Get active.
You don’t have to run a marathon, but exercising can give you energy, lift your mood, and keep your body strong. Walking is highly recommended. You may not always feel like working out, but even just a small amount of physical exertion, such as stretching, can activate your body’s natural relaxation response. It works your muscles and your mind to release tension, ease pain and stiffness and improve circulation. 

Write down your feelings.
An MPN diagnosis is a lot to process and it can be difficult to completely wrap your head around it. It doesn’t have to be a great work of literature and its’ not necessary to write about your cancer in every entry, but recording your feelings in a journal can be a good tool to make you aware of your emotions so you can better manage your reactions to them. 

Avoid addiction.
Unfortunately, pain is a reality for many people with an MPN. Prescribed medications can help patients manage discomfort. Opioids, a type of painkiller commonly prescribed to cancer patients, are highly addictive and should be taken with care and on the schedule provided by your physician. Opioid abuse can be fatal, and the side effects of dependency may be more damaging than the disease itself.

Nourish your body.
In addition to refraining from factors that can be detrimental to your health, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet to prevent additional health conditions. Prevention’s A Doctor’s Quest To Heal His Own Cancer With Food goes into great detail regarding how certain types of nutrition can keep the body healthy and strong.

Feed your soul. 
Your spiritual and emotional wellness is equally as important as your physical health. Resources that offer support and guidance are available, from talking through your feelings with a counselor to connecting with fellow MPN patients

Listen to the world.
Adding mindfulness—the practice of living in the moment and listening to your body, mind, and the world around you—to your daily routine can be a big help. Simple mindfulness exercises can be practiced anywhere and anytime and require no special equipment. There is no one right way to practice mindfulness. It can involve breathing exercises, guided imagery and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.

Count on others.
Leaning on the support of others is another critical part of self-care. When friends and family members offer to help, take them up on the offer! Better yet, ask for what you need. Often people want to help but they don’t know how. 

Stay socially engaged.
Something as simple as talking with a friend on the phone or meeting a friend for coffee can brighten your day and help you feel connected. When you feel up to it, visits from friends and family can also lift your spirits.

Finding small ways to care for yourself every day—pampering yourself with a relaxing bath, praying, meditating, listening to music or spending time in nature—can help you feel spiritually nourished. These small actions can make a big difference in how your feel and your overall outlook on life. The MPN Research Foundation understands the challenges your face and can help you find the support you need.

Please consult your doctor before making significant changes to your routine.

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