With Mental Health Awareness Week under way, we look at ways of coping with the emotional impact of a breast cancer diagnosis.
How you feel when you are told you have breast cancer will be personal to you, and there is no right or wrong way to react. You may experience emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger and disbelief. Signs of stress and anxiety can also be physical, such as tightness in the chest and a racing heart rate.
You may find these feelings become so overwhelming that they interfere with sleeping, eating and going about everyday life. Here are a some techniques that can help to break the cycle:
Make time to worry
Odd though it may sound, setting aside time to worry can help you redirect negative thoughts and focus on positive ones the rest of the time. Write down all the things you’re worried about and put the list in a drawer, saying to yourself, ‘I’m finished with all my worries for today, but I can come back to this the same time tomorrow.’
Regular physical activity can clear your mind and reduce stress levels. Consider brisk walking, cycling, hiking, water aerobics – even gardening! How much exercise you do is up to you even 15 minutes a day can help, but at least 2 hours 30 minutes of moderate activity a week is recommended.
Complementary therapies such as massage, yoga and acupuncture can ease tension and leave you feeling calm and relaxed. Check with your specialist team before having any complementary therapies.
Mindfulness is a key theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2015. Being mindful means becoming more aware of the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that are around us at any one time, as well as the thoughts and feelings that happen from one moment to the next. It can improve wellbeing. Mindfulness can help to create balance during moments of stress and anxiety, or when you feel overwhelmed by your diagnosis. Read about techniques such as the body scan exercise.
Talking to others with breast cancer
It can also help to talk to people in a similar situation, whether it’s via an online forum, over the phone, or face to face at a support group. Breast Cancer Care’s Someone Like Me service offers support by email and phone, or you can visit our online Forum for discussions on a range of topics.
What if my low mood doesn’t go away?
If you’re worried that you might be depressed, talk to your specialist team or GP. If you continue to feel low or negative feelings keep coming back, this may indicate that you’re depressed. Depression is a common condition which can have a broad range of symptoms, from feeling tearful and irritable to having no will to live.
Your GP may recommend a talking therapy such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you talk through your feelings. In some circumstances you may also be prescribed antidepressants as an extra support during a particularly difficult time.
If you want to talk to someone in complete confidence, you can call our free helpline on 0808 800 6000, or the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.