Tips to Help You Cope With Your Cancer Diagnosis

By Jacqueline Schomber, PsyD

Chief Director of Behavioral Health

Enjoy these 10 tips to help you cope with your cancer diagnosis.

  1. Write down what you need most right now. Give yourself time to process new information and challenging emotions.

  1. Build a supportive care team—Your care team may include your doctors, nurses,  and other healthcare professionals. It is important that you feel comfortable and well-supported by your team members. Let them know if you have any questions or concerns about your treatment plan. If you find it difficult to communicate with them or you are unhappy with the care they provide, speak up. We all know our bodies better than anyone else, and advocating for ourselves is important. 

  1. Reach out to family and friends for emotional and practical support. Try to be open about your feelings and fears with them. It's okay to feel frustrated or angry. It’s also okay to want to take breaks from talking about your diagnosis. Let your family and friends know you are not in the mood to discuss it. 

  1. Visit a mental health professional or join a support group—If possible, try to find a mental health professional with experience treating people with cancer; this can be more helpful than someone who does not, as you most likely will not have to waste time or energy bringing them up to speed on the basics. We know the language and are ready to offer support and help.

  1. Take a proactive role in your care- there are many things that you cannot control about your cancer diagnosis. Focusing on things you can control and taking a proactive role in your care may help you feel less helpless. That might look like making your own appointments, keeping track of your medical records, etc. 

  1. Practice stress management—It is hard to avoid stress altogether, but limiting sources of stress may help manage depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. It also has a positive effect on your blood pressure and overall health. Some stress-relieving exercises include breathing exercises, medication, tai chi, warm baths, and soothing music. 

  1. Move regularly- even low-impact exercises such as walking, stretching, and water aerobics are great for releasing endorphins.

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet- eating a well-balanced diet can help support your physical and mental well-being. 

  1. Get active in your community. Participating in community activities may help limit feelings of loneliness and isolation while helping you stay physically and socially active.

  1. Seek out joy and meaning. What gives you joy in life? What helps your life feel meaningful? Finding sources of joy and meaning may help provide comfort and build resilience. Some people find it helpful to develop gratitude practice, such as writing down things you are grateful for each day. For example, a ripe piece of fruit that you enjoyed for breakfast. This often helps us to appreciate simple sources of joy and comfort. 

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