According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, up to a third of cancer patients experience depression and anxiety, regardless of where they are in their cancer trajectory.
The American Cancer Society describes common symptoms of clinical depression as the following:
Ongoing sad, hopeless, or “empty” mood for most of the day
Loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the time
Being slowed down or restless and agitated almost every day, enough for others to notice
Extreme tiredness or loss of energy
Trouble sleeping with early waking, sleeping too much, or not being able to sleep
Trouble focusing thoughts, remembering, or making decisions
Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
Although these common effects of cancer are strongly associated with reductions in quality of life, they are often left unaddressed during cancer recovery. When neglected, depression and anxiety negatively influence treatment adherence, survival rates, and cost of treatment.
If depression is severe, it will warrant the help of a mental health professional.
For others, exercise might be an effective solution!
After all, a wise woman (a.k.a., Elle Woods) once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!” – and there is some truth to this statement! Research does actually demonstrate that exercise helps mitigate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When someone begins to exercise, it initiates a biological cascade of events that results in the release of endorphins -- those chemicals that make you happy! In addition, serotonin is released, which also boosts mood and is often found in lower levels in people with depression. Interestingly, serotonin also improves memory and concentration!
Finally, exercise leads to the release of growth factors, as well. Growth factors cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections…particularly in the region of the brain called the hippocampus.
This is important, because for a long time, physicians have observed that the hippocampus is smaller in individuals who suffer from depression. Since the hippocampus is responsible for regulating mood, it makes sense that a smaller hippocampus would be associated with depression!
Therefore, these improved nerve cell connections in the hippocampus help relieve symptoms depression!
As you know, at Maple Tree, our motto is “Something is always better than nothing”. Therefore, if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, and the disturbed sleep, reduced energy, body aches, and appetite changes are stealing your motivation to exercise, there is hope!
Even as little as 5 minutes of activity a day will help!
Before you know it, 5 minutes will become 10. Then, 10 minutes will become 15. Soon, you will be able to complete 30 minutes at a time!
The key is to pick an activity you enjoy and commit to doing it. After a few weeks, you will begin to feel better!