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EPISODE 1: 9 MINUTES

Finding Your Strengths. Together.

In this episode, our hosts suggest ways to identify what you do well and how to use your strengths to your advantage. They emphasize building on skills you have, so you can listen for what feels helpful and relevant to your experience.

Pfizer Oncology Together Podcast – Episode 1: Finding Your Strengths

ANNOUNCER:

This is the Skill Set Podcast. Brought to you by Pfizer Oncology Together.

HUNTER:

Today I want to talk to you about Margaret.

Margaret is stubborn. She’s always been stubborn. She once stayed on the phone with the cable company for 6 hours because she insisted on talking to the manager’s manager. You don’t want to get into a staring contest with Margaret.

At age 53, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That stubbornness didn’t go away. Instead, Margaret rolled it right into the kind of perseverance that can be helpful to someone with cancer. Margaret saw four oncologists before she found the one she wanted. She stuck to her treatment plan. Giving up never crossed her mind.

Just like Margaret used her stubbornness to help her persevere, you can use your unique qualities to your advantage when you’re living with cancer.

Welcome to The Skill Set: Know-How for People Living With Cancer. We’re here to offer support, help you build skills, and hopefully help you see the experience of living with cancer in a new light.

Hi, I’m Hunter Holbrook.

SASHA:

Hi, I’m Sasha Broustovetskaia.

HUNTER:

We’re health behaviorists with a background in research, communication, and mental health.

What does that mean? It means we study human behavior and how changing it can affect your health. We take the science of behavior change and translate it into strategies that people can use in their lives.

SASHA:

We’re not medical doctors. We don’t give medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider about any medical concerns. We’re here to provide practical tips and real-world ideas for how you can help build and sustain healthy habits.

HUNTER:

Today on The Skill Set:

Everyone has strengths. What are yours? How can you use your strengths during cancer treatment?

SASHA:

Living with cancer can be rough, and it’s natural to feel down. After all, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future. It’s a major life change, and a lot of people with cancer go through a grieving process. It’s tough for anyone – so remember to be kind to yourself as you go through this.

Besides that, there are side effects of treatment that can be physically demanding. Side effects may vary from person to person, but it’s possible you’ll go through the changes in energy level, appetite, and physical appearance. All in all, you should expect changes.

You may have to develop new skills to deal with these changes or find new ways to strengthen the skills you already have.

HUNTER:

Yeah, and something else that may be important to you: studies have shown that for many people, having a positive mindset can lead to more creativity in problem solving.

SASHA:

Yeah, so let’s unpack that a little bit more.

HUNTER:

Sure. First off, what is a positive mindset?

It doesn’t mean being happy all the time–I mean let’s face it, when you live with cancer, or when you’re caring for someone with cancer, you’re probably going to have all kinds of feelings.

Your mindset is really your way of thinking; it’s how your opinions shape and process incoming information. When bad news comes in, what do you do? Do you avoid it? Do you question it? Do you look for ways to overcome it?

A positive mindset is more of a filter that you can apply to your thoughts. You’ll probably have negative thoughts and positive thoughts – you can use a positive mindset skill to help create more positive thoughts.

SASHA:

One good way to develop your positive mindset is to think about your strengths. Focus on what you do well and how you can use those strengths as you face treatment.

What are the strengths that you can use to your advantage? Let’s look at some examples.

So for example: being a good teammate.

Remember, you have a team of health care professionals around you. You’re part of the team, and your teammates rely on you to tell them what you’re experiencing. And you are your own teammate. Just as you don’t have to do everything, you also don’t have to be hard on yourself when something doesn’t work out. Every member of the team can support the others. You don’t have to do everything.

Some other related strengths are things like communicating well, and being kind to others, and being patient.

One other thing that’s important to remember is when living with cancer, some of the problems you face are out of your control. Control what you can, and go easy on yourself if something doesn’t go the way you hope.

HUNTER:

Yeah, strengths don’t mean you have to be superhuman. Really simple, practical things can also be strengths. Things like the ability to wait, a good sense of humor, or even following directions.

SASHA:

If you’re having trouble thinking of your strengths, ask your family and friends what they think. They may point out something you didn’t expect. Even if you don’t talk to someone, you can think, “What strengths would a friend say I have?”

HUNTER:

That’s a good question, Sasha. What would you say is a strength of mine?

SASHA:

Hmm. Let me think about that… Well… you’re always on time for things.

HUNTER:

Oh! Well good! Thanks. That’s a great one.

No kidding, this is a valuable habit when you’re going through medical treatment. Your health care team really appreciates it if you’re on time for appointments.

SASHA:

But being on time isn’t naturally in everyone’s skill set.

HUNTER:

So let’s use this as a window to look at a skill that can potentially help anyone: problem solving. Being late isn’t a flaw, it’s a problem you can solve.

How can you get out of the door on time? Try setting an alarm for yourself. Set the alarm every time you make an appointment, and now you’re building a good habit. So look at that, your problem-solving skills have strengthened your punctuality.

So if problem solving is a skill you have, add it to your list of strengths.

SASHA:

Keep in mind, everyone’s list of strengths is different; so focus on what you personally do well. You don’t have to put all of our examples on your list.

HUNTER:

That also brings us back to the positive mindset we discussed earlier.

SASHA:

Yeah, rather than getting down on yourself for being late, try a different system and see if you can find what works for you.

So here’s another strength: Reaching out for a helping hand.

It’s okay to ask for help. I know for some people, asking for help can be difficult. People may not like to admit that they can’t do something by themselves, or they may not want to be a burden to others.

But reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re resourceful. The people who support you are huge assets, and your strength is your willingness to access them.

So think about this: Who supports you? Who can drive you to and from appointments? Who can help with child care or house cleaning?

HUNTER:

Don’t feel like you have to rely on others for everything. One way you could support yourself is by seeing how you could look at a situation differently. This strength is called framing.

Having cancer can be rough. Your life can change in so many ways. There’s no point in pretending that the experience is easy.

But for some people, it may help to take this difficult experience and find opportunities to use it in a way that’s meaningful. It helps them maintain a sense of their identity to take up an art form, tell their stories, or to strengthen their relationships with others.

SASHA:

And some people keep a journal to help themselves process the cancer experience. Some may tell their stories in public. Here’s a person who did both.

For the first year after Beth was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, she reflected on how much her family meant to her. She wanted to tell her story while also paying tribute to her family.

So she asked a photographer friend to come over once a week for three months and take photos of her with her husband and son, as they lived their everyday lives.

She also started writing a journal about her experience. And she had the photographer take pictures of her handwritten journal entries and post them on a website, side by side with the photos of her family.

The result was a beautiful pairing of the black-and-white images and Beth’s heartfelt words. So the strength she used was the ability to reframe her experience and transform it.

This project was personally meaningful to Beth. But obviously, not everyone takes on that kind of commitment. There are all kinds of things, big and small, that can help people find meaning.

Consider how you might reframe your experience with cancer. What could you do that might help you find meaning? Everyone takes something different from their experience. It’s yours to explore.

HUNTER:

So let’s look back at what we’ve talked about. What does it all mean for you?

You can work to create a positive mindset by focusing on your strengths. Everyone’s strengths are different. So find what works for you.

What strategies can you take from all of these?

SASHA:

Here are three things to try:

First, find a friend or loved one and discuss what each of your strengths are.

Second, make a list of your strengths and brainstorm ways to apply them.

And finally, set yourself a goal to use one of your strengths in a way that’s related to cancer treatment. Try to be specific when you set the goal, and set a time frame for when you could realistically accomplish it.

HUNTER:

And that’s it for today’s episode. On our next episode, we’ll talk about Communicating Difficult Emotions. Till then, happy skill-building!

SASHA:

I’m Sasha Broustovetskaia.

HUNTER:

I’m Hunter Holbrook. We’ll talk to you next time.

EPISODE 2: 11 MINUTES

Communicating Difficult Emotions

When you live with cancer, it can get emotional. Talking about how you feel with people you love can be a helpful way to cope, but it can be hard to find the right words. How do you start the conversation? In this episode, our hosts help you discover healthy ways to express your emotions, including how to prepare beforehand and how to keep the conversation productive.

Pfizer Oncology Together Podcast - Episode 2: Communicating Difficult Emotions

ANNOUNCER:

This is the Skill Set Podcast, brought to you by Pfizer Oncology Together.

HUNTER:

When Phoebe was diagnosed with breast cancer, she felt like the ground had been pulled out from under her. She was overwhelmed, thinking about everything that was to come—all the ways her life was about to change.

SASHA:

On the way home from the doctor’s office, Phoebe told herself she needed to talk with three people: her husband Toby, her son Daniel, and her best friend Liz. These are people she loves more than anyone. She needs their help, their understanding, and their support.

HUNTER:

But Phoebe’s never had cancer before. She doesn’t have a plan for talking about it. Just telling her loved ones that she has cancer is a tough first step, and many other difficult conversations will follow.

SASHA:

When someone has cancer, it gets emotional. What can a person do to prepare for these conversations?

HUNTER:

Welcome to The Skill Set: Know-How for People Living With Cancer. We’re here to offer support, help you build skills, and hopefully help you see the experience of living with cancer in a new light. Hi, I’m Hunter Holbrook.

SASHA:

Hi, and I’m Sasha Broustovetskaia.

HUNTER:

We’re health behaviorists with backgrounds in research, communication, and mental health. So what does that mean? We study human behavior and how changing it can affect your health. We take the science of behavior change and translate it into strategies that people can use in their lives.

SASHA:

We’re not medical doctors. We don’t give medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider about any medical concerns. We’re here to provide practical tips and real-world ideas for how you can help build and sustain healthy habits that can help you continue to grow.

HUNTER:

Today on The Skill Set : Communicating difficult emotions.

SASHA:

So what makes an emotion difficult? Does the emotion cause you pain or sadness? Are you feeling fear? Anger? Frustration? In the moment, it can be hard to find words for what you’re feeling. You may not call it anything. You just feel how you feel, and that’s OK. It’s understandable that talking about it can be tough. Sometimes it might help to take a step back and just say, “I’m afraid” or “I’m angry.”

HUNTER:

Everyone responds to the experience of living with cancer in their own way. We’re not here to tell you how to feel. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s real and valid. What we can do is help you find useful ways to talk about how you’re feeling with someone you love.

SASHA:

Studies have shown that expressing your emotions can be a helpful way to cope with cancer. For example: talking with people you love about your cancer-related concerns can bring you closer to each other and strengthen your relationship. People who are expressive about their emotions following primary cancer treatment can benefit in a lot of ways, including decreased stress.

It’s OK if you aren’t completely comfortable talking about your feelings. Expressing emotions may not come easily to everyone. Talking about how you feel is a skill, and you can develop the skill through practice. It’s not just natural communicators who can benefit from this. HUNTER:

That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to talk about your emotions all the time with everyone. It helps if the person you talk with is receptive—be sure they want to hear what you have to say.

SASHA:

If you talk about how sad or angry you are and hardly ever talk about anything else, you may hurt your relationships with friends and loved ones.

HUNTER:

You may even wear yourself down by reflecting too much on your emotions. Still, as long as you keep it in balance and make it constructive for yourself and the listener, expressing your emotions can be a very healthy thing.

SASHA:

Before you talk to someone about an emotional topic, it’s a good idea to get a handle on how safe you feel with this person. Do you feel comfortable sharing your emotions? How close are the two of you? When you talk to this person, do you feel heard? Do you feel appreciated?

HUNTER:

Discussing emotional subjects comes easily to some people. Others prefer to keep their emotions to themselves. A lot of people fall somewhere in between. All of those are OK.

SASHA:

How we express our emotions is influenced by our own experiences—the culture we come from, the values our families instill in us, and the relationships that shape us throughout our lives. When you’re preparing to talk with someone about an emotional matter, it may help to consider how similar or different their cultures, values, and social experiences are to yours. Based on that, how do you think they’ll respond? If your loved one comes from a family or a culture that doesn’t value expressing emotion, they may be hesitant to express emotion in return. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to them, but it may help you set a realistic expectation.

HUNTER:

It’s also important to think about what you want from the conversation. You may want something, such as help getting to appointments or help with household chores. In that case, be specific and direct, and let the listener know how they can help.

SASHA:

Or, you may not want the person to do anything—you may just want them to listen and be present with you.

HUNTER:

So here’s a helpful tip: Before you start a tough conversation, try envisioning how you want it to go. Think about what you want to say and how you’ll say it, and how you anticipate the listener will respond. A little mental rehearsal may help you feel more comfortable going in. When you finish with your preparation, take an extra moment to accept that the conversation may not go exactly as you expect. So let’s take another look at Phoebe, the example we brought up earlier. She’s planning to talk with her husband, her grown son, and her best friend. These are three very different conversations. Phoebe will have different needs from the three people, so she may take a different approach to each one.

SASHA:

Her husband Toby is likely to be the person she talks to first. He lives with her, and he’s probably going to be her main caregiver. He’s the one she’ll talk with on a daily basis. When you talk with someone regularly about emotional subjects, it’s a good idea to set up kind of a structure for these conversations.

First, establish the best time of day to talk. So, Phoebe knows Toby isn’t a morning person, so she doesn’t bring up serious topics at 7 AM.

HUNTER:

I definitely understand that. I don’t like having serious conversations too early in the morning either.

SASHA:

Yeah, I’m not a morning person either. But if I want to talk to one of my friends and catch up with her, I have to do it in the morning.

HUNTER:

It can also be a good idea to ask for permission before you start talking about something heavy. For example: “Would it be OK if we talk about something that’s concerning me?”

SASHA:

Let the listener know what you hope to get from the conversation. You can tell them upfront if you need help or want their feedback. And it’s OK if you don’t want any action from them; you can tell them you just want to share how you’re feeling.

HUNTER:

So, if Phoebe wants to vent about something she’s going through, and Toby jumps in and starts offering advice, then there’s a disconnect. Phoebe’s emotional needs aren’t being met, and Toby doesn’t understand why she’s not accepting his help.

SASHA:

As you talk, check in with the listener. Do they understand what you’re saying, or how you’re feeling? You can give them a chance to reflect back what they’ve heard and express their own thoughts and feelings about it. If both of you can express yourselves, it helps close the “conversational loop.”

HUNTER:

In emotional conversations, it’s OK to express what you’re feeling. You may feel angry or frustrated, but try not to direct that at the person you’re talking to. Explain your emotions clearly to help make the conversation feel more productive and focused.

For example: “I feel ____________ when ________________ because ______________.”

SASHA:

“I feel anxious when I tell you what I’m going through because I don’t want to cause you more stress.”

HUNTER:

Being specific helps too: “I feel bad” is not as helpful as “I’m feeling nervous about my appointment tomorrow.”

SASHA:

So before she talks with Toby, Phoebe can do the following:

First, identify what she’s feeling and why. Second, figure out what she wants or needs. Next, make a plan for the conversation, such as: pick a time that works for both of them, think about what she wants to say, and imagine how she hopes he’ll respond. And lastly, accept that the conversation may not go exactly as she envisions it.

HUNTER:

Then, during the conversation, she can:

Tell him what she hopes to get from the conversation, describe how she’s feeling and why, ask for what she wants, and check in with him to see if he understands.

She can take those steps with any conversation with a loved one. But depending on the person, she may want different things from the conversation, or she may have different concerns.

SASHA:

So with her son Daniel, she may be concerned about feeling vulnerable in front of him, or that Daniel becomes sad or angry, or having to explain what she’s going through physically.

HUNTER:

With her friend Liz, she may be concerned about putting a burden on her friend, expressing her feelings of fear and frustration, or talking about the uncertainty of the future.

SASHA:

And of course, she may be concerned about causing all three of them extra stress. That’s something that many people with cancer worry about.

HUNTER:

But research has shown time and time again that talking about it is more helpful than avoiding it. When you reach out to loved ones to express emotion, it can bring you together and help you cope with the experience of having cancer.

SASHA:

And one final note: Depending on what’s happening in your life—or in the world—sometimes unexpected issues can get in the way. Emergencies, illness, natural disasters, and the like can affect how you communicate. You may not be able to see your loved ones in person, so sometimes there’s no alternative but to have an emotional conversation over the phone or video chat.

HUNTER:

Aside from cancer, you may have other health-related issues that keep you from communicating as usual; that, on top of all the usual cancer-related stress, may make you feel a need for frequent emotional support. For those reasons, it’s all the more important to stay connected with the people you love. You may have to put more work into planning, and the means of communication may not be ideal, but you can still create opportunities for meaningful conversations.

SASHA:

As always, if you feel you need more support than your loved ones can provide, it’s OK to seek support from a mental health professional. And you may want to ask your Care Champion to send you the Pfizer Communication Cards. These cards have a lot of examples of how to talk with loved ones about difficult topics.

HUNTER:

So what strategy can you take as you get ready to talk about emotional subjects with your loved ones? In the next week, try taking these steps to prepare for a conversation:

Identify what you’re feeling and why. Figure out what you want. Plan the conversation—like when to have it and how you hope it will go. And accept that the conversation may not go exactly as you envision it.

SASHA:

Then, when you start to talk, let the listener know what you want to get from the conversation. Describe how you’re feeling and why. Ask for what you want, and then check in to make sure you’re being heard.

HUNTER:

That’s it for today’s episode. Til next time, happy skill-building!

SASHA:

I’m Sasha Broustovetskaia.

HUNTER:

And I’m Hunter Holbrook. We’ll talk to you next time.

EPISODE 3: 12 MINUTES

Taking Care of Your Overall Well-being

The stress and daily disruptions of living with cancer can wear you down physically and emotionally. In this episode, health behaviorists Hunter Holbrook and Sasha Broustovetskaia explain in practical terms how mindfulness can help with stress and anxiety. They also suggest simple ways to find mindful moments in everyday tasks. This episode includes tips, examples, and two brief, guided exercises to help you try mindfulness and see if it might work for you.

Pfizer Oncology Together Podcast – Episode 3: Taking Care of Your Overall Well-being

ANNOUNCER:

This is the Skill Set Podcast, brought to you by Pfizer Oncology Together.

HUNTER:

Naomi and Greg are in the kitchen. They’ve been married for three years, and since Naomi was diagnosed with breast cancer, Greg has taken over preparing meals. Greg is proud of his cooking, and he has really made an effort to prepare foods that Naomi can eat while she’s on treatment.

SASHA:

But today, Naomi isn’t feeling well. She makes a blunt comment on how the smell of the food is turning her stomach. Greg feels hurt, and he says he’s doing his best. They start to argue, both of them angry and irritated.

HUNTER:

So how did they get to this point? Neither of them is trying to hurt the other. But when you put it in context, it’s easy to see why it happens.

SASHA:

It’s partly from a buildup of stress. One thing about Naomi—she likes being around people. Because of her cancer treatment, she’s had to take a hiatus from work, and she feels frustrated that on most days she doesn’t get to interact with anyone but Greg.

HUNTER:

Right. Greg, on the other hand, he values his alone time. In the role of caregiver for Naomi, he has to be on call to help her most of the time, and he feels like he never gets a break to recharge.

SASHA:

Both of them have emotional needs that aren’t being met, and they haven’t learned the skills to deal with their frustration, so they take it out on each other.

HUNTER:

As you probably know, when you live with cancer, it isn’t just the disease and the treatment you have to manage. You may also go through a lot of stress and big disruptions to the life you knew before. Cancer isn’t just overwhelming physically, it can also wear you down mentally and emotionally.

SASHA:

Today we’re going to talk about one way that may help build resilience and strengthen your overall wellbeing. It can help with relieving stress and fatigue, help you make the most of how you eat and exercise, and possibly change how you interact with people around you.

HUNTER:

Welcome to The Skill Set: Know-How for People Living With Cancer. We’re here to offer support, help you build skills, and hopefully help you see the experience of living with cancer in a new light.

Hi, I’m Hunter Holbrook.

SASHA:

Hi, I’m Sasha Broustovetskaia.

We’re health behaviorists with backgrounds in research, communication, and mental health. So what does that mean? We study human behavior and how changing it can affect your health. We take the science of behavior change and translate it into strategies that people can use in their lives.

HUNTER:

We’re not medical doctors. We don’t give medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider about any medical concerns, and discuss any changes to your physical activity or diet with your healthcare team. We’re here to provide practical tips and real-world ideas. We give you the tools to build and sustain healthy habits that can help you continue to grow.

Today on The Skill Set: Taking care of your overall well-being.

SASHA:

It’s normal, when you live with cancer, to feel a loss of control, a sense of helplessness. It happens to a lot of people, and it can be frustrating, creating a lot of stress, and it can lead to feeling wound up as you move through the day.

Think about the argument between Naomi and Greg. That argument isn’t really about the smell of cooking food. It’s a sign that the tension of living with cancer is affecting how they treat each other. They may not even realize it’s happening. So what can people in that situation do?

HUNTER:

Well, one way to reduce stress and anxiety is to take a mindful approach to everyday tasks.

You may have heard the term mindfulness before. Let’s unpack it a bit – what is mindfulness?

SASHA:

Very simply, mindfulness is being aware, on purpose, of what’s happening in the present moment. You make a choice to pay attention and observe your surroundings and your thoughts without getting caught up in them.

Living with a lot of stress can be like shaking a snow globe. The snowflakes are what you think, what you feel emotionally, and what you sense physically. When the snowflakes get shaken up, it’s overwhelming. When you take a moment to be mindful, you give your thoughts and feelings a chance to settle and be still, so you can manage them more easily.

HUNTER:

By focusing on one thing, you allow your thoughts to become calm. A lot of people choose to focus on their breathing. No matter what else is happening, you can always feel your breath and hear it. You can use it as an anchor to help you stay present, to keep you from being swept up by other things.

So take a deep breath. Focus on inhaling slowly through the nose. Then focus on breathing out through the mouth.

SASHA:

When you’re being mindful, try to avoid judging your thoughts or your experience in the moment. Open yourself up to noticing things, but don’t label them as good, bad, or otherwise. You may have a thought. You may hear a noise. You may notice a smell. Whatever it is, whether it’s coming from you or somewhere outside of you, don’t evaluate it, don’t criticize it – simply let it be.

HUNTER:

So if a person walks by, if a bird chirps, if you hear a dumptruck driving by outside… acknowledge it. That's all. Just think, “Hey, it's a dumptruck.” Then bring yourself back to the thing you were focusing on.

SASHA:

Here's an important thing to remember: It's okay if you get distracted. In fact, getting distracted is a key part of the process. You start by focusing, then when you get distracted, acknowledge the distraction, and bring yourself back to your focus. Doing that over and over is how you develop the skill of mindfulness.

HUNTER:

It may sound simple, but it can take some practice to get better at bringing your attention to the present moment. Don't expect for it to feel natural the first time. Doing it on a regular basis can really help reduce the stress and anxiety that come with living with cancer.

There can be other benefits too. Mindfulness may not only help you manage stress, it may impact other aspects of your health. Some people find that practicing mindfulness helps with sleep, overall mood, and fatigue. The benefits can vary from person to person.

SASHA:

Another great thing about it: Being mindful doesn't have to require a big time commitment.

HUNTER:

So how much time do you need?

SASHA:

You can do it in as little as 10 minutes. Studies have shown that a few minutes of a mindful breathing meditation can help the mind focus and improve attention. We recommend starting even smaller, taking one or two mindful moments each day. You can bring moment-to-moment attention to the tasks of ordinary living. You can be mindful while you're washing dishes, while you're brushing teeth, or even taking out the garbage. Try it for a week and then check in with yourself to see how you feel.

HUNTER:

Think about all the things you do each day while you're basically on autopilot. During routine tasks, it's easy to let your thoughts wander to whatever is causing you stress.

SASHA:

I think most of us have been there.

HUNTER:

Well, there have been times when I've eaten an entire meal and just missed it. I ate, I chewed, but all I was thinking about was my to-do list. And then when I was done, I was like, “What happened?” It might have been delicious, but I wasn't really there for it. I barely paid attention to the meal at all because I was so caught up with things outside the present moment.

SASHA:

Eating mindfully can be a good way to get the benefits of mindfulness without adding any time to your schedule. If you turn a meal or snack into a mindful moment, you can use that few minutes to help you feel more relaxed and more ready to face the day.

HUNTER:

Grab a piece of fruit and give it a try. Say you choose an apple. Pay attention to how it feels in your hand. Hear the sound it makes when you tap it. Notice the smoothness of the peel, irregularities in the shape, all of it. As you take a bite, let go of everything else that's happened that day and any concerns you may have. Simply be present and experience the apple.

SASHA:

Even the process of preparing food can be mindful. When you're at home making some comfort food that you've made many times before, try doing it mindfully. Even something as simple as a peanut butter sandwich — try to take yourself off autopilot. Consciously move through each step, as if you're making the meal for the first time. As you're making the sandwich, what do you smell? What does the bread feel like in your hands?

HUNTER:

Once you get comfortable with mindful cooking, you might want to move on to mindfully preparing more advanced recipes. Ask your Care Champion to send you the recipe packs for some healthy meal suggestions.

You can try the same while you're doing routine chores. Try folding laundry; try brushing your teeth. Whatever you're doing, focus on each small step and really open yourself up to what you hear and what you feel.

SASHA:

In addition to everyday tasks, you can build mindfulness into regular exercise. Doing mild to moderate exercise several times a week can have a positive impact on emotional wellbeing, and it can also reduce fatigue during cancer treatment.

HUNTER:

There are a lot of ways to exercise, but there's no right way for everyone. As always, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise plan to make sure it's appropriate for you.

SASHA:

You might consider going for daily walks or taking a yoga class with a trained instructor. As you exercise, stay in the present moment. Focus on your breathing or on the motion of your body. Remember, it's important not to judge anything that goes through your mind or affects you physically. If unhelpful thoughts interrupt your focus, simply acknowledge them, then return to focusing on the exercise.

HUNTER:

Of course, while you are undergoing treatment for cancer, you may not be able to exercise on a given day. If you aren't able to schedule exercise, you may find it helpful to break up the stress by taking a moment to stretch. You can do it in as little as 60 seconds.

SASHA:

If you're in a position where you're able to do it safely, try some mindful exercise right where you are. Sitting in a chair, align your body so that your head is straight up, neck relaxed. Take one hand and put gentle pressure on your neck and shoulders. Breathe deeply. Notice any tension you feel in your muscles. Let your head slowly tip to the right side until you feel a stretch in your neck. Tip it to the other side and feel the stretch in that direction. Slowly bring your head back up. Roll your shoulders from forward to back. Breathe deeply. As you stretch, pay attention to how your neck and shoulders feel.

Feel free to pause the podcast if you want to keep doing this for a few minutes.

HUNTER:

You can do this any time during the day, as many times as you like. Each time you do it, you allow your muscles to loosen. You become aware of your breathing. It may help you continue your day with less tension in your body. For additional ideas, ask your Care Champion to send you the guide to Relaxation Techniques.

SASHA:

So when you reduce stress through mindfulness, you might find that it has an impact on your mood and overall wellbeing. Think about the example with Naomi and Greg. What happens when Naomi and Greg start incorporating mindfulness into their daily lives? They notice that they carry less tension with them, and when stressful situations come up, they're able to manage them more easily.

HUNTER:

For them, the skill of being in the moment might start to carry over into their conversations. When they talk, they can be more present with each other because they've learned how to be present by themselves.

If they could revisit the scene in the kitchen, perhaps Naomi takes a mindful moment when she smells the food, allowing her to center herself and be gentler when she tells Greg how she feels.

SASHA:

Maybe Greg becomes more aware of how the smell affects Naomi, so after she speaks, he responds in a more understanding way. Practicing mindfulness each day might help them develop more patience with each other, even when circumstances aren't ideal.

HUNTER:

Keep in mind, everyone's experience with mindfulness is different. Some people pick up the skills of mindfulness easily, and for others, it can take more practice. It may help to start by being mindful in small moments throughout the day.

SASHA:

Remember, when you're applying mindfulness in your daily life, focus on these three things:

Let yourself become aware of what you're experiencing in the moment

HUNTER:

Don't judge your thoughts or experiences as good or bad

SASHA:

If something makes you lose your focus, simply acknowledge it, then return to the present moment

HUNTER:

That's all for this episode of The Skill Set. Thanks for joining us. Now go forth and try some mindful eating. Pick up a piece of fruit and enjoy the full experience of eating it. Wishing you a mindful bon appetit.

SASHA:

I'm Sasha Broustovetskaia.

HUNTER:

I'm Hunter Holbrook. We'll talk to you again soon.