How Should Cancer Researchers Manage Stress?

It is impossible not to feel a certain kind of stress when you’re studying and researching about any type of cancer. For many of us, it hits close to home. Cancer has been a part of almost all of us in the past decades. We know someone who has suffered from it. We lost people because of it. It’s not so impossible to think that even people who are paid to study it feel a certain kind of anxiety, sadness, and depression because of the gloom that the big C brings to people.

But what if you are in the middle of research about cancer? Although some types of cancers are curable, some carry with it the darkness that this illness brings. Multiple myeloma cancer is one such type. These cancer cells accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out the normal cells that produce antibodies to protect a person from infection. Myeloma has no cure, but doctors can improve the quality of life of the patient.

Even for researchers, dealing with this type of cancer comes with certain heartaches. While it is easier now to find participants for a study because there are market research companies that specifically look for multiple myeloma study participants, the scars of having to face cancer patients right on the face never really go away. These remain with the researchers, who have to deal with the stress and anxiety all while trying to conclude the research.

Set Goals and Priorities

It is hard not to get sucked in with the personal stories that you hear from cancer patients and survivors. Sometimes, you feel like bawling your eyes out of frustration and sadness. But remember that your goal is to help them and future cancer patients with your research. It’s essential to set goals and priorities from the start.

The goals will help align your motivation and repurpose every meeting to the fulfillment of those goals. While it can be hard to separate your emotions from the mental anguish of knowing what cancer patients go through every day, keep your eyes on the prize, as they say.

Try a Relaxing Activity

reading a book

If you are suffering from stress because of what you’ve been studying for years, imagine how much more stressful it is for cancer patients? Every time you meet for a survey, experiment, or interview, do relaxing activities that will put them in a mood to talk about what they’re going through. A simple meditation technique will improve their mood and well-being.

This will also be helpful for researchers as they struggle with the stress of their studies and with having first-hand knowledge of how this illness is hurting families around the world. Before you conduct the interview, for example, do some breathing exercises to calm your mind and senses. You will see the difference this makes in the way you conduct the interview with the participants.

Talk to a Professional

Experts encourage cancer patient caregivers to undergo therapy so that they can manage their emotions and stress better. What makes you think that researchers are any better? Researchers aren’t immune to the complex feelings one has to go through when they have to deal with cancer patients on a regular basis. There is nothing shameful about seeking professional help. You will be a better researcher when you can manage the stress that comes with the job.

Stay Connected

Many researchers struggle to stay connected with their family and friends when they are in the middle of a big study. Losing that connection, however, can take its toll on your mental health. In fact, you should stay connected with your study participants. Others might think that this will mean opening yourself up to the pain of knowing that many of these cancer patients are not going to make it but having that connection yields more positive feelings than negative.

Researchers cannot completely walk away from their emotions—the empathy they feel for others’ sufferings. Knowing what happens to their study participants will help them stay connected. Even though learning about someone’s demise has never produced positive feelings, the thought of knowing what happens to these people is better than being kept in the dark.

Being around people who are sick can, indeed, be stressful. However, it can be inspiring, too. Researchers can learn not only about their field of study but also about how these people face all the hardships of their illnesses. There is so much to learn from cancer patients, but to maximize this learning, you also have to manage the stress that comes with it.

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