How do I cope with it all?
The strongest emotions often subside gradually over time, and adjustment becomes more and more an inner work in itself. This gives you more time to deal with the many changes that cancer brings.
What might help?
At this time, it is important to have space to process your own experiences, as well as the grief that can be a present emotion in dealing with the abandonment of your dreams or goals in life. You may be working through your own identity and values, what the changes and losses mean and how they will change your life.
Things that require concentration may feel difficult, getting things started may feel more laborious, and you may feel more irritable than usual.
What might help?
Do you spend a lot of time worrying about the future? Your ideas about what might happen may not be based on solid information. These beliefs expose you to negativity and exaggeration. By focusing on what is happening now, you will be more open to becoming aware of what is valuable and meaningful to you in the moment and to using your resources for that.
Confronting your feelings
Emotions act as important guides to help you act as the situation demands. This is true even if you have been diagnosed with cancer and are experiencing emotions that you may never have felt so strongly before. There is no right or wrong way to feel during an illness. It is very likely that other people with cancer are feeling the same way you are.
When you are feeling strongly, it may be difficult to separate the facts from the feelings, and you may be urged to act quickly without dwelling on the facts or focusing only on potential threats.
Do you recognise any of the following familiar thought patterns?
- “If I let my emotions get the better of me, I won’t be able to fight the disease”
- “I shouldn’t react so strongly. It is important that I do not worry my loved ones with my feelings.”
- “It might be easier if I didn’t talk to anyone about my illness. I don’t want others to worry.”
- “I prepare for the worst so that I won’t be disappointed”
- “Accepting and facing fear and anxiety would be like accepting cancer. I have to fight without giving up.”
Attitudes of other people to “thinking positively” can feel like invalidation. Instead, the expectation of positivity in social relationships can increase your anxiety and feel like an unreasonable burden. The experience of feeling fear or anxiety because of a “bad attitude” can feel invalidating and you may start to blame yourself for these feelings. There is no need to do this, learn to be aware of blaming yourself.
A Awareness of emotions
- Be aware of your feelings, stop and ask yourself “What is this feeling?” instead of avoiding it. Only by being aware of your feelings can you influence them. Look at your emotions as if from a distance, without judgement.
- Identify what thoughts are associated with the feeling.
Pay attention to how the feeling feels in your body and your physical reactions
- Check the facts, what you actually know about the issue, and what is in your imagination.
- Evaluate whether your feelings and the intensity of your feelings match the facts.
- Evaluate other possible perspectives and make an informed decision about what is important to pay attention to at this time.
- Practice letting the thoughts go, as if you were looking at them on a conveyor belt. Thoughts come and go. The practice may seem difficult at first, but you can make progress.
B Act against the feeling
Sometimes intense fear, sadness or anger will not help or support your recovery or survival and will prevent you from doing meaningful things. You can practise acting against what your feelings are telling you. The purpose of working against your emotions is to move towards what you fear, to move closer to the fear rather than running away from it. Focusing on your breathing can be an important way to help your body regulate your rapid heartbeat. You can also place a hand gently on your chest and stomach as you breathe. There are times in everyday life when you can consciously evoke the opposite emotion to fear, anger or sadness. Meet a friend, sing a song, watch a comedy, do some exercise. Whatever you do, try to give it your full attention.
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