Spirituality is often a taboo topic, which many people avoid talking about out of uncertainty regarding others’ feelings on the subject. However, for some people facing a cancer diagnosis, spirituality can provide help for cancer patients through comfort and peace in a time when it is needed most.
According to a report in the Washington Post, having faith in a higher power can have real results for people dealing with disaster. For instance, those who relied on spirituality in the trying days following Hurricane Katrina had better mental-health outcomes than those who didn’t report strong ties to their faith. That stat continued a few years later after floods hit South Carolina; those who “surrendered” to spirituality were found to be more resilient and better able to cope.
Spirituality can also be a help for cancer patients, many of whom are left wondering after a diagnosis why they were afflicted, what their future holds and what will happen to them and their families if the worst happens. Some of the anxiety over not having answers to those tough questions can be alleviated by spirituality, as such faith typically dictates that a higher power, not us, is in charge. Giving up the control, then, may make some people more at peace with their diagnosis, lowering stress levels, which can even contribute to better health outcomes.
Some people, however, are turned off by the idea of spirituality, perhaps mistakenly associating it with religion — an area that can be politically or morally charged. It’s an important distinction to make, as religion is traditionally a communal exercise, while spirituality is a more individualized practice. Since it is so subjective, then, spirituality can take many different forms; being “spiritual” doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to believe in a traditional God or back the ideas promoted by leading churches. Spirituality can, of course, lead you to a church pew or it can even be as simple as finding a connection with nature. Spirituality is your personal relationship, your unique ideas and your own way of looking at the meaning of the world.
From medication to counseling, there are many options that seek to provide mental-health help for cancer patients. Spirituality, however, is one area that patients themselves can define, dictate and determine how it will play a role in their cancer journey.