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There are many coping mechanisms and strategies, which can help you to manage your emotions and feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
It’s normal for your emotions to become overwhelming but there are ways to manage this. Coping mechanisms are a way of managing your feelings to put you in the right frame of mind for treatment and dealing with your blood cancer.
Being diagnosed with blood cancer and going through treatment is a major life event, and it isn’t easy. The emotions you may feel are a valid response to your situation and are normal, appropriate and acceptable - not a sign that you are negative, over-reacting, weak or have a mental illness.
Whilst talking to others is a good place to start, it is important that you validate your own feelings and that you treat yourself with empathy and compassion – just as you would a close friend or family member.
Processing what is happening to you, rather than ignoring it, is useful and necessary because it helps you to make sense of things and to adjust. It includes internal reflection (thinking about your situation privately) as well as talking to other people about your feelings and your concerns. As human beings we have a strong tendency to look for meaning and after a blood cancer diagnosis, there is a increased tendency to ask questions when there may be no answers e.g., ‘Why me?’
Ideally, you should try to strike a balance between allowing yourself time and space to think about your illness and periods of time when you think less about your difficulties, concentrating more on the ‘here and now’ and things in your life that you enjoy.
Too much focus on your illness can be exhausting and distressing and prevent you from functioning normally or enjoying life. Similarly, not addressing it at all could be a sign of denial and is not helpful either. It’s important to strike a balance.
The mind can have a profound effect on your emotions. When you are ill, many of your concerns will be reasonable and these should not be dismissed as irrational. However, if you dwell on extreme, ‘black and white’ negative thoughts, inevitably you will feel more distressed and could leading to more anxiety, depression, tension and avoiding enjoyable things.
It can be helpful to write thoughts down and then to ask yourself whether they are facts or opinions. Sometimes arguing with your thoughts can be exhausting and the best thing to do is take a break from thinking. Things that help with managing your thoughts are actively doing things you enjoy, relaxation techniques, distractions activities and practising things like yoga, mindfulness or meditation.
When you are experiencing a range of intense feelings and emotions, and of course, when you are ill, you may not feel like doing much physical activity. But it is important you remain fit, active and socialise where you can; exercise and social activities are a great way to help control the intensity of some of your feelings.
This is because when you exercise, endorphins get released into your system. These are the body’s natural painkillers and antidepressants. When you see other people and engage in things you enjoy, life has an increased sense of meaning, or pleasure and reward.
Don't push yourself too much, though. Listen to your body, but do try and do something physical, even if it’s a more gentle walk, it can help.
Some people find that complementary therapies help them to relax and cope with some of the emotions they are experiencing. Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and hypnotherapy are just a few that may help. Having a massage or reflexology may also help you feel better.
Some cancer centres such as Maggie’s may have therapists who can help with relaxation techniques. If you are going to try a complementary therapy, it’s important that they are properly trained and qualified. There is information about this is in our complementary therapies section.
Hospices can also help cancer patients, not just people who are seriously ill or at the end of their life.
They can offer symptom control, psychological support and a range of complementary therapies.
Visiting a hospice for day therapy is usually free and may give you the opportunity to meet people going through a similar experience. Your GP or hospital doctor can refer you to a hospice if this is something you’re interested in.
Published Feb 2016
Next planned review: Feb 2018