This isn’t the easiest time of year, and you might just want to stay inside and hibernate - especially if you’re dealing with a prostate problem. So I’ve been asking people with prostate problems, as well as my colleagues here in the Information and Specialist Nurse teams, what works for them. It’s a mixed bag of tips and personal experiences that have come back - some touching, some funny, and some just great ideas. I hope the winter blues don’t get to you. But if you’re feeling down, pick one of these ideas and try it. You never know, it might work for you too.
Even if it’s just to go for a stroll, have coffee somewhere and watch the world go by. “For me the worst trap to fall into is lazing around on the sofa watching daytime TV. It’s important that I get out of the house into the elements. I feel a sense of achievement which gives my mind a boost too.”
This was easily the most popular suggestion, maybe because it’s so simple. There are long-term health benefits of course, but it can also give you an immediate boost. “I firmly believe that being active is vital” Everyone has their own way of making it work, whether it’s working out in the local park, getting out on the bike, learning Tai Chi or walking on the beach with the dog. One man told me he’s made it his goal to climb Ben Nevis in September! And one woman’s running the Manchester 10k run to raise money for the hospital who are looking after her dad, even though she’s never run in her life! “I go to the gym about four times a week - it’s seen me drop over a stone in weight these last two years, and three inches off my waist. I feel great - so much more energy and interest in life.”
A lot of people told me their family and social lives help them stay happy. It might be as simple as going out for a meal, or going for a walk and feeding the ducks with the grandchildren. You could go on a day trip together, or just spend an evening in talking. “All my time I am trying to create memories for family and friends. For me it’s making time with them purposeful and memorable.”
You could take up a new hobby. Try painting or sketching, learn to play a musical instrument or speak a new language, join a book club, or take up photography. “Not having enough to do doesn’t help. I try getting involved in activities which still run during winter and find it’s one of the best ways to avoid feeling down.” Another man told me “I throw myself into everything - from local talks to national matters with the National Cancer Research Institute. I play football every week and although I've given up the rugby I've "volunteered" to play in the annual Boxing Day match. Life is what you make it and mine is okay.”
Do something nice for a friend, family member or stranger. “I bought a person on the street a coffee the other day. Don't know him, never met him – just bought it and gave it to him. If you’ve never done this, try it. It’s worth it for the smile.”
This one might not sound important, but it can do more than you might expect. One of my colleagues has discovered the calming effects of meditation: “Even just 10 minutes a day helps reduce my anxiety levels and appreciate life. I started by going to a class, but there are also lots of podcasts you can download and books and CDs. The best way to see if you like it is to try it.”
This is a great way to spend time with family or friends and escape the British winter if you can. Sunshine can help boost your vitamin D levels – which helps keep your bones strong. You can use this as handy excuse to take a trip. “I have always thought that winter sun is something we should experience, not just for enjoyment, but for our health. So a week in Tenerife is one of my favourite things to do in winter.”
Some men have told me that volunteering has helped with their overall well-being and happiness. Whether it’s for Prostate Cancer UK or another cause that’s close to your heart, it’s an opportunity to meet people, use your skills and find a real sense of involvement. “I’m only too pleased to help in any way to ‘give something back’ to the system for mending me! “Having a prostate problem is not much fun, but being able to use that experience to help others is some consolation” Find out how you can volunteer for us.
Ali, one of our Specialist Nurses, has noticed some men find it helps to enjoy the little things in life. Hug someone close to you, watch your favourite film or read a great book. Visit your grandchildren so you can see them smile and laugh. See a comedy show - laughter is a great tonic. One man told me: “Our pet rats Echo and Willow always make me smile. They greet me when I come down each morning and sit with me on my reclining chair. They share my coffee and will happily snack on whatever I'm snacking on. They chew everything, but love nothing better than cuddling up inside my dressing gown and having a wee snooze.”
One man I spoke to had these words to share: “Set yourself a goal to achieve every day, and always do today what you would have previously left until tomorrow, and never, never give up hope.” Read more information about living with prostate cancer