One of the ways cancer and it’s treatment effects is long lasting fatigue. Unfortunately, managing that fatigue is something that many survivors find challenging to deal with and they end up judging themselves at the idea of resting more than they used to.
In this episode, I’m going to share more insights on what contributes to fatigue after breast cancer treatment and why it's not only okay to give yourself permission to nap, but how doing so can actually improve your health.
Grab a cozy blanket, listen in and then catch some extra Zs for your body and your brain.
Referred to in this episode:
Read the full transcript below:
Laura Lummer 0:00
You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started. Hey, friends, welcome to another episode of Better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And I am so glad that you are taking the time today to listen to this show. This is our Tuesday terrain talk. And today I want to talk to you about something that I hope when you walk away from this, you feel a little more at peace with giving yourself some time for rest. So I want to start off by defining the difference between sleep and rest and what I'm talking about. So when I'm talking about sleep, I'm saying when you go to bed at night, right, you turn off the lights, it's nighttime, and you're going to bed for your six to eight hours of sleep at night. That's what I'm referring to when I say sleep. When I'm talking about rest, or napping, I'm talking about something different about listening to your body at periods throughout the day, recognizing the fatigue level that you're at, and actually planning to stop. So we'll plant a short planned period of rest of sleep and say short, which I'll get into in a minute because timing is actually very important. But before I even talk about why we want to talk about rest, or napping, or timing are the benefits, I'm gonna share a story with you.
Laura Lummer 1:53
I coach a lot of women, and a lot of them struggle with fatigue. Now, fatigue, which I will also talk about in a minute, is very related to cancer treatment. menopause, fatigue related menopause fatigue is one of the most common symptoms that women experience after menopause. And I'll get into why in a sec. But the problem isn't the fatigue as much as it is the way we resist the fatigue, we fight so hard. Because we're not willing to be in our life present in the moment, we're not willing to accept where we're at wherever that is, right. We're constantly fighting, it should be different should be like it used to be, but it isn't. And if I can give you any gift in the world, it would be let go of the ideas of what used to be and learn to embrace what is now because when you can do that, you're going to start taking much better care of yourself. When we can stop and be in this moment. Say, this is why I'm now this is what I'm experiencing now. This is what I need now. Okay, I got my own back. I'm going to do this for myself, right? But when we get into the mindset and the thoughts and the judgments shouldn't be this way, this isn't right. This isn't good. I don't like it. What will people think of me, we're just really causing a lot of harm towards so we're not doing ourselves any favors. So here's my story is when I was initially diagnosed with cancer in 2011, I was fortunate enough to have known a woman who had already been through breast cancer, I think twice actually at that point she had been through breast cancer. And before I even started treatment, she gave me some really good advice. I didn't know it at the time, because I didn't know what I was walking into. But what she said to me, is Laura, you've got to give yourself permission to do whatever you have to do to stay comfortable as you go through this process. That means take all the meds, tell your doctor every single symptom you have because they can help you with them. Don't feel like you have to put up with stuff that doesn't feel good. They have ways of supporting you. But you got to give yourself permission to accept the help. Okay. No, I did not know what she was talking about. Because I hadn't started chemo. I hadn't even had my first surgery yet. This was right after I was diagnosed. But I learned very quickly exactly what she meant. So I'm going through chemotherapy, I'm working full time. I'm exhausted. You know the feeling if you've been through chemotherapy, IV chemotherapy, it's it's exhausting. But I had all these thoughts, right. I'm a professional. I'm in a leadership position at an organization. I can't just nap. You know, what is your story around napping? I hear stories all the time. I can take a nap. That's a lazy. I feel old. That's not right. I shouldn't have to do that. But the bottom line is none of that stuff matters when your body is screaming Hate you that it has to stop. And you know that feeling right, you know what I mean? So I would notice that I'd be sitting at my desk staring at a computer screen. And I'd realize, I have no idea how long I've been staring at the screen. I have no idea. When I had my last thought, when I took my last action, when I actually did something, I've just been sitting here, blank with a head full of cotton, like just not even being able to think so I'm so tired. And I remembered my friend's advice. And at one point, I decided, that's it. I am not being productive here. This is not okay. My desire to push through this fatigue is not helping anyone. It's not supporting my body. It's certainly not helping my work environment, because being awake and being productive are two very different things. And I was not being productive in any way, shape, or form, I couldn't even think straight. So I finally decided I was going to set myself up. And I was going to give myself permission to take a nap. during my lunch break, I brought a small beanbag chair into work. And I also had a yoga mat because I did teach yoga, lunchtime yoga and certain days at my organization at that time. So I brought a little throw pillow, which I kept in the bottom drawer of my desk, a little blanket, and I had my yoga mat in my beanbag chair under my desk. And I gave myself permission to net when needed, because I realized that if I did that I was helping myself because I could take a power nap. And then I could wake up and actually think again. And so I was also helping my organization. And I was helping my team because I was being more present and productive if I allowed myself to rest. And I looked very forward to those naps, because there was no question at that time, I needed them. And it wasn't only during chemotherapy, but for a long time afterwards. And then fast forward to my 2020 diagnosis. And the radiation that I went through then, which was about I think, initially I went through 30 days of radiation. That was exhausting. There's no way I was gonna get through the day without her nap going through radiation, and for months after months after radiation. And even now I'm on oral chemotherapy, and from time to time when I feel really fatigued or I noticed, oh, I am in a brain fog. I'm tired. I take a nap. Okay, and I love my power naps. Now, I want to talk to you a little bit about why really, this isn't a problem, unless you make it a problem. And why we feel fatigue, and afternoon fatigue and how cancer treatment, which if you've been through chemotherapy more often than not has put you into a chemically induced menopause, and how all of that contributes to fatigue. So the bottom line is you're experiencing a biological event, right? Whether it's menopause, or whether it's the inflammatory response to many treatments for cancer, right? So let me give you a little insight on what's actually happening. And then I want to talk to you about why taking a power nap is something that is so beneficial for you. And I want you to think about this, as we talk in this podcast, I want you to think about this. Rest is a right that you have. Rest is not a reward. You don't have to work really hard, or earn the privilege to rest. Your body sometimes needs rest in it's a right that you have to rest when you need it. Okay, you don't have to earn it, you don't have to tell yourself that you haven't deserved this downtime. Okay, rest is a right is a part of a healthy lifestyle program. So let me tell you a little bit about fatigue, and where it's related to cancer, and menopause. So I want to share a quote with you from an article I found written by Dr. Christopher Serrano. He's a OB GYN in San Antonio, Texas. And he says that fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. And that many women attribute that fatigue to poor sleep to stress or to other factors. That he says that fatigue during menopause is directly related to the drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone that happened during this time. The both of these hormones play a big role in metabolism, which is the way that our body uses calories to support our normal function. We've talked about that many times on the Tuesday terrain talks. And when levels of estrogen and progesterone decline your energy levels also drop which leads to fatigue Que biological process, no judgment in that there's nothing wrong with you. Right? What's happening is your body is going through a process, your hormones are changing. And this is just where you are at in your life. Okay. Now, another symptom of menopause is that we get night sweats, and we get hot flashes. And we have interrupted sleep, oftentimes, a lot. And for a long period of time, we can experience sleep disruption. Now I've done previous shows on what happens when we have sleep disruption, right, it increases our stress levels and increases our cortisol levels. And it leads to brain fog and fatigue throughout the day. So this biological event of menopause, which either we've gone into it naturally, or we've been thrown into it by a cancer treatment affects these hormones. And because your hormones are being affected, your body feels fatigue, because these hormones affect you in a way of giving you hot flashes and night sweats, your sleep is interrupted, and then your body's going to feel fatigue. I want to just emphasize that, because it's so important that you realize there's nothing wrong with you, you are not lazy, you are not broken, you are not a bad person. There's nothing to be ashamed of, in the fact that you feel fatigue, because it's perfectly normal, that you feel fatigued. So when you feel this fatigue and you hear yourself, say I don't want to feel like this, I just want to feel normal. Remember this, that is normal, it is normal for where you're at. It is absolutely expected for where you're at. Okay? So let yourself just embrace that for a moment. Oh, hey, just like back when I was having menstrual cycles, and my hormones were raging and I'd have PMS or I'd have cramps. That wasn't abnormal, right? That was expected it was normal. Fatigue is also expected and normal after menopause. All right, there's one thing. A second really important factor to consider when you're feeling fatigue is chronically low levels of inflammation. Now, I want to share with you some information from an article published by Oxford University in their cancer spectrum journal. So in this study, they talk about how inflammation is a consequence of many cancer treatments. Because the treatments we go through the chemotherapy, it creates inflammation, and part of that is to fight off tumors, right to enhance what the study says anti tumor immunity, but as a result of creating that kind of inflammation. And this is a quote, the side effects are sustained long after cancer treatment has ended, and may coincide with sustained chronic low grade systemic inflammation that compromises the health of organs in the body and central nervous system. Okay. What does that mean? It means that our body is trying to heal, it's got this chronic low level inflammation, and what do we need to do in order to heal sleep, we have to have rest, right, our body heals, cleans itself up and recovers when we rest. It goes on to say that the assessment of circulating cytokines and their downstream products, so proteins that are made in our body and their downstream products are considered to serve as potential biomarkers for systemic inflammation, identifying cancer survivors that risk of inflammation associated disorders. And in relation to the central nervous system. inflammatory markers are associated with cancer related fatigue, with anxiety and depression. And in some studies in women with breast cancer, cancer related cognitive impairment, okay. Again, here's the fact right, there's nothing wrong with you. Chemotherapy causes chronic long term inflammation. And yet this article says that low levels of C reactive protein, also known as CRP, which is an inflammatory marker, are in contrast, with previous studies showing that C reactive protein levels in 734 breast cancer survivors that were observed were much higher above the clinical cutoff of 231 months after diagnosis. Okay. So once again, there's inflammation happening in the body. We've got all these biological processes. We're in menopause, we're coming out of cancer treatment. We look on the outside normal again, right? Maybe we have shorter hair, maybe we don't have hair yet, but then your hairs grow Going back. And we as survivors often struggle with this when people think I look great, but I don't feel normal inside, I don't feel great. I don't have my grounding, I don't have my footing. And yet we do that to ourselves, right? We look at ourselves and we say, well look at me, I should be back to normal by now. But why, when this The facts are the facts, and the facts are that your hormone levels have changed. So this is normal. Now, this is how your body works now. And your body may be dealing with chronic long term inflammation. So again, we come back to this being in the moment and saying, Okay, if I could let go of what I'm telling myself should I should be feeling and I, I should be wanting, and I shouldn't have to do. And I can just embrace and love myself in this moment and say, This is what's happening to me now. Like it or not, want it or not want to resist it or not? This is what's happening to me now. And what do I need in order to take care of myself? Because this is what's happening now. I want to offer to you, my friend, that what are the things you can do to take care of yourself is take a nap. All right. Let me tell you a little bit about napping. Let's talk about power naps. Because sometimes when I talk to people about resting about taking a nap and their thoughts, there's a lot of thoughts around taking rest during the daytime or sleeping during the daytime. And one of those thoughts is also I'm afraid if if I take a nap, I won't be able to sleep at night. And so it's important that we understand that there's actually studies behind this and information behind this, which means there's actually a right way to take a nap. So let's talk about that. In an article which I will also link to in the show notes for this episode that was published by the Sleep Foundation. It says that a power nap to be effective needs to be timed so that a person wakes up when they're in the early and lighter stages of sleep. This is really important. And when I told you the story of how I would take naps at my lunchtime, I always set an alarm. Because I didn't want to feel groggy, right, I wanted to feel refreshed. And that groggy feeling again in this article, it refers to it, they call it sleep inertia. And that's that sluggish, funky feeling. If you sleep too long and feel groggy, and you feel like oh gosh, that just made it worse. So be sure once you've given yourself kind and gentle permission to take a nap because your body is saying please take a nap. I'm really tired and I need a little bit of healing and a little bit of energy and a moment to clear my brain, then taking a short nap for less than 20 minutes is highly recommended. So let me tell you what the Sleep Foundation says happens if you take a power nap. So I'll quote this first. It says research shows that a 10 to 20 minute power nap can be refreshing and make you feel more awake. It improves alertness and functioning right away with little or no grogginess and power naps are unlikely to interfere with nighttime sleep if they're taken in the early or mid afternoon. And in that article, here are the benefits of taking a power nap. power naps are associated with reduced fatigue. That's not surprising, increased alertness and attention, improved performance and safety for shiftworkers. Better memory,
Laura Lummer 18:26
decreased reaction time boosted mood and improved heart health. That's interesting right now in another article by the balanced midlife on the benefits of napping during menopause, it says that napping during the day can provide an opportunity to catch up on lost sleep like we were talking about a minute ago, and promote restorative sleep and alleviate the fatigue and tiredness experienced during menopause. It goes on to say that short power naps can provide a quick energy boost, enhance alertness and allow women to better manage their daily activities and responsibilities. That taking time for a nap can provide a break from daily stressors and contribute to an overall sense of well being. And that incorporating nerves into your routine, women and menopause can enhance cognitive abilities, boost memory consolidation and improve overall brain function. napping. This article says provides an opportunity for the body to relax and rebalance hormone levels, promoting a sense of calm and wellbeing. So you got all the information, you know that it's normal. It's not bad, it's not wrong, you're not broken. And you hear me tell you that research itself shows there are benefits. Right? We're getting a double whammy from cancer treatment and dealing with inflammation and medications and menopause and all of this coming together and Rest is another way to give yourself some love. So what are all the thoughts you have about napping? What are all the thoughts you have that stopped you from taking care of yourself when you are just feeling like you're slugging through muck and mud like quicksand is in your mind? But you tell yourself you can't read? Don't do this. It's lazy. It's not right. It's not okay. Those are all just stories. They're just thoughts, right? Napping isn't bad, you just choose to make it that way, if that's the way that you want to think about it. So you may not have the opportunity like I did to have a private space where you can turn off the lights and lock the door and take a nap in the middle of the day. So what could you do if you're in a work environment? Well, you can go out to your car. And if you don't want to sleep in the parking lot at work, drive to a park, drive to a grocery store parking lot and park out in the back. You know, do something for yourself that you feel comfortable with and that you feel safe doing. But give yourself the beauty of that short period of rest and see how much it benefits you. If you're at home, again, work through your stories. Sometimes when we have a lot of resistance come up for things I recommend this I'm sure I've talked about on the show before that if you feel really tired, and you feel like you want to take a nap. But you notice you're resisting it, you just got a lot of thoughts about it. Take out a pencil and paper and write at the top of it, taking a nap, write everything you think about taking a nap, look at your thoughts. And then ask yourself when you look at these thoughts, is this true? And does it serve you to think it because you get to choose. So if you're looking at, I'm feeling so tired, I'm not productive. There's no sense in you being away. Because you're not getting anything done. You can't think straight, you're in a brain fog and you're in a mood funk. But if you took 20 minutes out of your day and set a timer, maybe nobody even notice you were asleep for 20 minutes, you could have a much better day. And you could be giving your body exactly what it needs. Now, if you need more reassurance about that, click the show notes and read the articles and read the studies that I refer to you. Because I want you to understand that part of taking care of your train isn't just getting out there working out getting out there and moving and getting up and fixing food and prepping food and eating the right food and counting calories. And some of it is just stop. You know, just relax. Let yourself relax. Don't get yourself, don't judge yourself. really tune in and listen to your partner in this life, which is your body. And when your body says to you, please let me take a nap. Go ahead, let it take a nap. Go to sleep. And remember that rest is a right. It's not a reward. You don't have to bust your butt to earn it. All right, you deserve to take the rest you need. All right, my friends. If you like what you hear here in the podcast, if you feel supported by the information you get in this podcast, come and join me in the better than before breast cancer life coaching membership, because that is what we do in that membership. We talk about all the things that are real and true. And it's a safe space because you were with a community of women who have been through or are going through what you are going through. We're all in this together. And there's no reason to go it alone because when you go it alone, you're actually not alone. You're in there with your brain and your brain is usually fighting you most of the way. So come to a place where you get the support you need without the fight you can find all the details at the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash live coaching or scroll down where you listening to this podcast and just click on the link and join me and I'll see you there. Until next time take care of yourself.
Speaker 2 24:07
Use courage to the test laid all your doubts your mind is clearer than before your heart is full and wanting more your futures given all you know has you been waiting on