Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment can affect not only the patient but also their family and friends. It is not uncommon to feel anxious, stressed or depressed during what is a difficult time for everyone. It is also possible that it can trigger an existing mental health problem.
Therefore, it is important to think about, and look after your mental health. Some of the simplest way to protect your mental health and boost your mood are through looking after your physical health, such as exercise, sleeping well and a balance diet.
It is also important to remember that you are not alone. Talking to friends, family or your healthcare team may help, but there is also dedicated support available in the form of specialist counselors and psychologists if needed. There are also a number of exercises and resources available that some people find helpful.
is about learning something new or enjoying a film, a book or music. Do what matters.
What can help with preparing for treatment?
Listen to yourself with acceptance
People diagnosed with cancer will have a range of thoughts and feelings from self-criticism and hopelessness to denial and anxiety. The first step to make space for these thoughts and feelings, exactly as they are, without judgement and without trying to change them. Be willing to have uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Remember you are more than your thoughts and feelings.
Notice your breathing
By slowing down and noticing your breathing, we work out how to respond. You can also notice the contact between your feet and the floor, how it feels to move your body and to notice what you can see, hear and smell. This helps you connect with the present moment.
Acknowledge what is in your control
There is a random nature to cancer and much of the experience is out of your control. There is evidence that the way we approach our life and the choices we make outside of our cancer, can improve our quality of life. You are not to blame for your situation.
Remember what helps
Think back to how you have coped in difficult times in the past. Think about what you like to have in your week. For some people this is about catching up with friends or making time for exercise and cooking a nutritious meal, for others it is about learning something new or enjoying a film, a book or music. Do what matters.
Knowing what to expect in your treatment journey
Don’t expect to take it all in at once. Stay informed at your own pace.
Open up when you’re ready
Getting the balance between maintaining privacy and sharing your experiences is different for everyone. Seek out the people you can trust. Peer support can be helpful, finding people who are on a similar journey. Maggies, Macmillan and FACT can help with this.
Break down decisions into small steps
All choices have costs and benefits. Writing things down can gain perspective and work out what is right for you.
Treat yourself with kindness
Learning to cope with a cancer diagnosis is trial and error. Opening up to difficult feelings can be scary, connecting to the present moment can be hard, and doing what matters can be challenging. How do you want to be to yourself at these times? Notice when you are criticising yourself. Be kind, self-forgiving and listen to yourself with acceptance.