Being diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming. It’s normal to experience feelings of sadness, distress or discouragement as you come to terms with your new reality and cope with the physical symptoms and adjustments you may need to make in your life. Your doctor is familiar with treating the physical aspects of your disease, but they may overlook the emotional and psychological struggles you might face.
It’s normal to feel sad or discouraged following your cancer diagnosis, but if you experience depression, it can inhibit your motivation, ability to cope with your treatment or symptoms, and has been linked to poor physical outcomes. Taking care of your emotional health may help you to better handle stress or pain.
Here are some tips to help you take care of your emotional health & wellbeing during this challenging time:
Face your diagnosis head on
Although denial might be your first reaction, accepting your diagnosis can be one of the best ways to cope with your illness. One study showed that women with cancer who actively confronted their diagnosis were more adjusted 3 years later compared to those who didn’t. Empower yourself by asking your doctor any questions you might have about your cancer and treatment plan. Find out what steps you can take to optimize your recovery, such as eating healthy food.
Use your diagnosis to find perspective in your life. Look at the big picture. Dealing with difficult situations can teach you a lot about yourself and help you appreciate the things that really matter.
Talk, talk, talk
Having a strong emotional support system is important to help you deal with your diagnosis. Talking with friends, family or people that are going through a similar journey can help to relieve the stress and anxiety you’re facing. Let it all out: laugh, cry, scream… whatever emotions you need to express in the moment. Consider joining a cancer support group. Your doctor can help connect you to one in your area.
Enjoy a simple moment
Try to do one thing that you enjoy every day. Grab a coffee with a friend, catch up on a T.V. show you love, buy yourself a new pair of shoes. Taking even a short break from the stresses of your cancer diagnosis and treatment can help refuel and uplift you.
Write it down
Putting your feelings down on paper can be extremely healing. Keep a journal and write down what you’re going through each day and the emotions that come along with it. This can help you process what you’re feeling and work through it.
Try to focus on the positive things in your life. Write down something that you’re grateful for each day. Practicing gratitude can benefit you by improving your self-esteem and optimism, and help you come to terms with your cancer diagnosis.
Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. Try taking a meditation class or practice it at home on your own by downloading an app or listening to an audio recording.
Know when to ask for help
Although feeling blue following a cancer diagnosis is to be expected, if the feelings of sadness last for more than a couple of weeks, if you start losing pleasure in the activities you used to love, or if your mood begins to affect your day-to-day life, you may be dealing with a more serious condition. In this case, speak with your healthcare professional right away. They will work with you to find the right solution to help you feel better.