Prioritizing Your Mental and Physical Health, and Finding Your Purpose
- “Real Housewives of Orange County” star Emily Simpson, 47, is prioritizing her physical and mental health by leading a healthier lifestyle. She said she’s felt better since dedicating much of her time to exercising and eating better.
- Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and managing stress are what SurvivorNet experts recommend for people regardless of their health, but especially for cancer warriors and survivors, as it can help stave off recurrence in cancer patients, according to Dr. Ken Miller, the Director of Outpatient Oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
- Dr. Scott Irwin, director of supportive care services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, also adds that patients dealing with added stress or depression also face a higher risk of recurrence.
- Genetic testing can help determine the best course of mental health treatment for people struggling with anxiety and depression. The test can give doctors a profile of how a person will likely respond to different psychiatric medications.
“Real Housewives of Orange County” star Emily Simpson, 47, is prioritizing her physical and mental health while keeping up with mom duties and being a reality TV star. While admitting that leading a healthy lifestyle and managing your mental health can be “hard,” she encourages her followers that they, too, can transform their lives.
View this post on InstagramRead More“…I’ve dedicated myself to improving my physical and mental health,” Simpson wrote in her Instagram post.
“Getting up at 6 am is hard, Going to the gym 6-7 days per week is hard…Depression is hard, feeling sand and lethargic is hard, Inflammation is hard…Choose your hard,” she continued.
She recently claimed her efforts allowed her to lose 40 pounds.
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Her posts garnered thousands of comments and likes.
“You are killing it, Emily! You’re motivating me to start working out,” one Instagram user wrote.
“Wow, you look amazing, but I bet the biggest gains are the ones you feel on the inside. Love seeing this,” another woman wrote.
However, despite being showered with applause, some women on social media complimented Simpson’s health and fitness with a hint of caution.
“You do look amazing and are putting in the work. However, it can be demoralizing to ‘normal’ women who also put in the work for way more than six months and don’t get results like yours,” Instagram user Maria Dean wrote.
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Many of Simpon’s Instagram posts are dedicated to her exercising or her children.
“I have more energy than I’ve had in years, and I wake up every morning at 6 am happy, healthy, strong (mentally and physically), and ready to crush the day with an early morning workout and spend the rest of the day being the best mom and wife I can be,” Simpson wrote.
Regardless of what your takeaway from Simpon’s social media post aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle, there are numerous benefits to eating well and exercising to manage or stave off the onset of cancer.
Hopeful Stories on the Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle
Living a Healthy Lifestyle
The general recommendations for a healthy lifestyle are the same whether you have cancer or not. Dr. Ken Miller, the Director of Outpatient Oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, has some guidelines for cancer survivors who are concerned about a recurrence:
- Exercise at least two hours a week, and walking counts.
- Eat a low-fat diet.
- Eat a colorful diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Studies have shown that being obese can increase your risk for several types of cancer.
WATCH: How to maintain a healthy diet.
Importance of a Healthy Diet
Keeping a nutrient-rich diet has many benefits no matter your age or health battle you may or may not be facing. However, your diet can greatly impact cancer warriors even during cancer treatment.
Krista Maruschak, a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic, says your diet while undergoing chemotherapy is critical.
“When the patient is in chemotherapy, we really just want to manage their side effects, and we want to maintain their weight,” Maruschak told SurvivorNet.
Maruschak recommends six small meals throughout the day. She suggested adding olive oil, avocado, dairy, peanut butter, nuts, and hummus to boost calories and protein.
A recent study showed the association between ultra-processed food consumption and colorectal cancer risk among men and women. The study looked at the diets of over 200,000 men and women over a period of up to 28 years, and the U.S. study found a clear link between “ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer,” the third most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. in men.
Ultra-processed foods include pre-packaged products like soups, sauces, frozen pizzas, microwave meals, and foods like hot dogs, ham, salami, bacon, French fries, sodas, sausages, store-bought cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, and many more.
Regular consumption of unhealthy foods also leads to obesity and cardiovascular disease and can impact one’s overall mortality rate. Try to make healthy food choices as often as possible.
Instead of cakes, cookies, and hot dogs, opt for healthier choices at the grocery store and while ordering takeout. Steer towards leafy greens, “good” fats like salmon and almonds, antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, “superfoods” like green tea, and more. Your body and your long-term health will thank you!
Regarding beverages, think beyond sugary drinks and consider how alcohol impacts your health. The National Cancer Institute reported 4% of cancer cases in 2020 “can be attributed to alcohol consumption.
SurvivorNet Medical Advisor Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a Medical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet that “One of the things that we know [due to the statement from ASCO], is that actually, alcohol does increase the risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t dramatically increase the risk of breast cancer, but with every drink, there is a linear response.”
Keeping Fit and Managing Stress
Similarly to a balanced and healthy diet, staying fit with regular exercise has many benefits for cancer warriors and their loved ones.
“The more physically fit you are going through your cancer treatment, the fewer side effects you’ll have and the faster you’ll get back to your normal quality of life,” Dr. Sairah Ahmed told SurvivorNet. Dr. Ahmed is an associate professor in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma, Division of Cancer Medicine, at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Besides physical fitness, Dr. Ahmed emphasizes the importance of emotional strength for patients and their loved ones.
“Stress control is often something that is not talked about and is not given much weight, but there is a lot of stress, both in terms of the patient who’s going through cancer, as well as the family who has to support that patient,” Dr. Ahmed says.
Of course, there are health worries. But there are so many more challenging factors to tackle, too.
“There’s financial stress, there’s emotional stress, and being able to deal with that as well as talk to professionals when you need it is very important,” Dr. Ahmed says.
“Staying on cancer treatment is the one thing that will help to cure your disease, and if you are so sad or so overwhelmed that that doesn’t happen, then you’re actually going to compromise your cancer treatment,” Dr. Ahmed adds.
She recommends preparing for stress and seeking professional support as a key piece of preparing for cancer treatment.
Managing Your Mental Health
Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and behave. Certain triggers like stress, traumatic events, or changes in your physical health can affect your mental health.
Psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Boardman suggests people working on their mental health to practice positive psychology. Positive psychology focuses on encouraging feelings of positivity among patients and finding what brings a sense of vitality to their lives.
WATCH: Managing your mental health amid a health challenge.
Dr. Boardman also suggests asking yourself questions about how you deal with stressful situations to see if they’re working or need adjusting.
“Are your coping strategies in the way that you’re using them now? Are they as effective as they were in the past? Take a look at your beliefs. Do you have any fixed beliefs that are counterproductive and are impeding you from taking positive steps?” Dr. Boardman said.
“Depression and stress make it harder to treat cancer [and] make it harder to tolerate the treatments,” Dr. Scott Irwin, director of supportive care services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
“There’s data that if you have extra stress or depression that you may not recover or you have a higher risk of recurrence, so in treating the depression, we’re actually impacting the cancer care outcomes,” Dr. Irwin added.
Genetic testing successfully matches patients with the right medication to offset bouts of anxiety or depression.
“This test covers all of the psych medications, essentially, and it also covers pain medications. It’s such a great test,” Dr. Lori Plutchik, licensed psychiatrist and co-founder of Caring For Caregivers, previously told SurvivorNet.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you find yourself struggling with a diagnosis or helping a loved one cope with their emotions, consider asking your doctor the following questions:
- How can I go about improving my outlook/mental health?
- Are there any activities I can do to encourage positive feelings?
- When should I seek other interventions if I’m still struggling?
- How can seeking these connections help me in my day-to-day life?