Finding ways to cope with your diagnosis of cancer can be very difficult. One day you are living your life and doing what you like to do. Then you receive your diagnosis, life changes and you have to find ways of accepting that change and learn how to cope with the reality of the situation.
Emotional resilience refers to how you adapt to stressful situations such as a cancer diagnosis.
Ways to help yourself build your emotional resilience.
Learning to accept your diagnosis – This is difficult and you may want to run and hide. Unfortunately, you can’t change the diagnosis but you can take control and move with it.
In a book called ‘The road less travelled’ ( Peck 1978 ) it states that once we admit and understand difficult times it will cease to be so difficult.
Try to find out as much information about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Write down your questions before you see the Doctor and take a member of your family or friends with you for support.
Move Step by Step through your journey
Be realistic about your diagnosis. You will have good and bad days throughout your journey and this is acceptable. During these times take steps to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. Setting small realistic goals in everything you do will help you focus on you daily activities. This will help reduce stress and improve your emotional resilience.
Build relationships – family, friends and the hospital teams are all important people who will care for you and listen to your needs at points in your cancer journey. It’s hard to go through cancer care alone so try to include these key people in your journey. You will meet other patients who understand what you are going through and you can offer mutual support.
Make time for friends, talking to them can help you to put things into perspective.
Sleep - Take a nap when you feel you need it. Being well rested can increase your ability to deal with difficult situations.
Take some exercise – Physical activity is important for reducing stress levels and preventing some of its damaging effects on the body. This can be a short walk or gentle exercise in the hospital or home. There is usually a physiotherapist involved in cancer care. So ask you nurse or physiotherapist if they can recommend any gentle exercise for you.
Eat Well. – It can be tempting to eat too much or not eat at all when you receive your diagnosis. You may also dislike the smell and taste of food during your treatment. It is important that you try to maintain your food and fluid intake. Having smaller regular meals is helpful and having a regular drink can help you to do this. If you are struggling ask your nurse to refer you to the dietician.
Be Mindful – be aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this mindfulness. It can positively change the way you feel about your diagnosis and treatment plan.
Cancer and its treatment can be stressful for people with cancer and their caregivers. Relaxation techniques and other mind/body practices can help calm your mind and sharpen your ability to focus.
Use relaxation techniques. You may already know what helps you to relax like having a bath, listening to music or going out for a walk. There are other ways of helping you relax, such as breathing techniques, massage, mediation. (see attached links )
‘The road less travelled’ (1978 ) M Scott – Peck, Touchstone