Staying positive through cancer
It can be hard to avoid negative thoughts when you have been diagnosed with cancer or are battling the disease. Here are some strategies on how to deal with the distressing thoughts and worries better.
It is natural for people going through stressful situations to experience persistent negative thoughts. Being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatments are events that may trigger distressing thoughts and worries.
Distractions may help to keep these worries at bay temporarily, only for them to surface again during vulnerable or idle moments. You may feel helpless, angry or even be self-loathing, and as a result, you may find it hard to sleep well, eat well or enjoy the things you used to do or like. These thoughts, if perpetuated, may even lead to clinical depression.
Here are some strategies which may help you to handle negative thoughts better.
1. Identify what triggers your negative thoughts
Analysing the possible source of distress can help bring about greater self-awareness and positive change. For example, it may help you to recognise the vicious cycle of negative thoughts and remove yourself from it early. Once you realise what triggers the negative thought, you can then stop it from escalating which can subsequently impact your behaviour. Also, refrain from catastrophising or making negative predictions prematurely.
Sometimes, there are situations with no answers, and acceptance becomes essential.
It may help to talk to a counsellor who can support you on this process of self-discovery and transform self-defeating thoughts to life-affirming ones.
2. Count your blessings
Keeping a gratitude journal, or a form of a diary that helps you remember the positive things in your lives, may help you find solace.
At the end of each day, think about things in your day that you can be grateful for.
These things do not need to be grand gestures or big events. They can be small blessings such as lovely weather, a good conversation with a friend or simply being able to enjoy a nice dessert.
This gratitude exercise allows you to expand your mind and change your negative perspectives into more positive ones.
3. Repeat a comforting phrase/prayer/song/poem
During difficult times, try to replace negative thoughts with something that lifts your spirits.
This can be in the form of an empowering statement, mantra or prayer. Repeat this to yourself, consciously breathing in each word and exhaling your anxieties.
4. Read or watch inspirational stories of cancer survivors
When you are feeling down, it may be useful to know that you are not alone. Many others have walked this difficult path before you and emerged more resilient and positive.
Allow these stories to spur you on during your most challenging moments; remind yourself continually that you can not only survive, but also thrive.
5. Stay in the present
Staying in the present moment – the ‘here-and-now’ – is a skill you can practise with breathing and meditation.
By being aware and mindful of your thoughts, feelings and experiences in the present moment, you will find yourself growing in resilience and becoming less reactive and agitated.
6. Schedule a ‘worry break’
While it is not good to spend all day caught up in your worries and anxieties, it is not possible to block out all of such thoughts.
As such, give yourself a ‘worry break’ every day where you can indulge yourself in your worries for about 20 to 30 minutes. During the day, when you find such worries creeping in, remind yourself to “postpone” it to that timeslot.
This becomes your allocated space to explore your biggest insecurities while containing it to a specific time-frame.
7. Reach out to someone you know who is suffering
Some cancer patients have found comfort and strength in sharing their stories and sufferings with fellow patients to encourage them.
Sometimes, in acknowledging the pain and anxieties of another, you grow in gentleness towards yourself and in compassion towards others.
However, you may wish to consider reaching out to others when you feel emotionally ready to do so.
8. Seek professional help
There is nothing to be ashamed of if you ask for help when you need it. If you feel overwhelmed such that it affects your work, school or home routines, or even your relationships negatively, do consider seeking help from a counsellor.
Written by Amanda Tan
Source: CanHOPE. CanHOPE
is a non-profit cancer counselling and support service provided by Parkway Cancer Centre.