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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hearing the word “cancer” from a doctor often unleashes a flood of emotions, concerns and fears that can be difficult to process and manage. In addition to worrying about managing your physical symptoms, cancer can often cause emotional symptoms that you weren’t as prepared for. Some of the common emotional concerns that people living with cancer are faced with include learning how to manage stressful situations, fears about the future, and how your family and friends will handle the news. At the Cancer Support Community we assure you you’re not alone in your fears, and there are ways you can manage your emotional well-being so you can live well with cancer.

Managing stress

The study of psychoneuroimmunology studies the link between our mental health and physical health, and suggests that our thoughts, feelings and attitudes can have an impact on our overall health during and after cancer treatment. This link makes managing reactions to stressful situations especially important. There are several techniques you can use to counteract stress when you feel it starting to affect your wellbeing. Breathing exercises can help you relax and visualize what makes feel strong and healthy. Recalling positive emotions or life events through guided imagery can take your mind off what is causing you harmful stress. Getting in touch with spirituality, whether through prayer, yoga, music or writing can also be comforting and ease the common feeling of being alone. For more tips on ways to combat stress throughout your journey with cancer click here. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or having trouble managing your stress levels, call the Cancer Support Helpline at 1-888-793-9355, Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-8 p.m. ET.

Fears about the future

It’s not uncommon to worry about what the future will hold for you and your loved ones when you’re facing a serious diagnosis. However, if you feel that fears about the future are consuming your every thought, you may miss out on enjoying the things that normally bring you pleasure, such as time with family and friends. To cope with this uncertainty, reach out to family and friends, a faith leader or mental health professional about your concerns and ways to ease them. Your health team can also offer you peace of mind by giving you a better understanding of your diagnosis, or prescribe you with stress-reducing medication. Finally, living with cancer doesn’t mean you should stop planning for the future. Keep moving ahead one step at a time.

Worries about family, children and friends

A cancer diagnosis can change the way you relate to your family and friends, and the way they relate to you. Those closest to you may feel scared or overwhelmed with your diagnosis, and you may be worried they will pull away from you. To cope with these worries, be honest with your loved ones about what you’re feeling and what you need most from them. Be open with them, and ask them to do the same with you. It can be useful to put together a list of tasks you would like help with from family and friends. Attending a support group or sitting down with a cancer counselor as a group can also be beneficial in letting everyone express their worries and learn how to be there for one another during this difficult time.

It may seem sometimes like cancer produces an endless amount of fears and anxieties, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Talk to your loved ones and your healthcare team about any emotional stress you may have. And for additional support, check out CSC’s social and emotional support programs here, and check here for an affiliate near you.