Tips to Improve Mental Health for Cancer Patients

Confronting her problems
Shot of a psychologist consulting her female client during a therapy session

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they’re most likely overwhelmed with emotion or the complete opposite – a lack thereof. Both situations can be detrimental to a patient’s health. Mental distress can last throughout a patient’s cancer timeline and even years after, so it’s important to manage as soon as possible. Studies show a deep link between a person’s mental and physical health with a positive mental outlook potentially contributing to an improved prognosis and vice versa.

How Cancer Impacts Emotional Health

A person’s physical and mental state are intricately linked. When someone has a positive mental outlook about something, it’s usually easier for them to manage the negative situations and obstacles they encounter. Conversely, being clouded with depression and anger may cause the individual to feel impatient, uncooperative, hopeless, or trapped in the situation among other things. This could also potentially cause rifts between the patient and their loved ones, as the patient can sometimes lash out or completely withdraw from people when they feel this way.

Besides that, mental stress can have a physical impact on the body. When the brain senses stress, it immediately releases hormones that trigger the body’s defense responses. These look like a range of normal bodily functions that are actually designed to resist negative outside forces. To better prepare for impact, parts of the body like the chest, blood vessels, and muscles may tighten, causing aches, high blood pressure, and pain. The heart could also start beating rapidly to pump nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and limbs quicker, potentially causing trouble breathing or shortness of breath. Other negative reactions a cancer patient can experience from mental distress include stomach ache, high blood pressure, and weakened immune system to name a few. It’s important to note, however, that every person is different, and can have completely different effects, or even no reaction at all.

Why a Healthy Mental Outlook Matters

A cancer patient’s body is already under stress from fighting developing tumors. Someone experiencing mental distress on top of that could experience compounding effects that further slow or hinder the immune system’s ability to fight tumors, manage treatments, and heal. Fortunately, there are several methods and techniques for coping with cancer that are available to almost anyone who needs it.

5 Mental Health Tips for Cancer Patients

These tips are not guaranteed but have worked in other cancer patients. Not everyone is affected the same, even if they have a similar illness or related emotions.

  • Don’t keep it bottled in.

This is probably one of the most important tips. It’s unhealthy to keep feelings and emotions locked inside can really mess with you and sometimes make you feel physically worse. Cancer patients may feel like their situation is too much, a burden, or that for whatever reason others don’t want to, don’t understand, or can’t handle hearing about it. Try your best to talk about fears, doubts, concerns, and anything else that may be bothering you during this difficult time. Utilize family, loved ones, therapists, counselors, and other available cancer support communities to share concerns. Patients can feel lighter, more connected, and at peace when they talk about their issues with someone who has personal experience with a similar situation, or even someone without experience who just wants to listen.

  • Talk to a professional.

This method encompasses routine talking sessions with a therapist, psychiatrist, counselor, or other professionals. Talk therapy can be helpful for cancer patients because it gives them an outlet to express their concerns, fears, or other issues with a person that has specialized experience. Therapists can relay techniques to help a patient cope and better manage their illness.

  • Find a support system.

Sometimes you may need to confide in more than just family or friends. When you are left feeling like you need a little more support, there is a community available to help. Search for things like support groups, or a community of people who have experienced similar situations that can offer guidance and support. Groups can be online or in person.

  • Keep a routine.

Don’t stop living your life when you get sick, it can be beneficial to keep some of the same routines. Instead of dropping some stuff, you can modify your activities to match your current capabilities. Talk to your doctor about your concerns first and see what they recommend. You don’t want to overdo it, as this could eventually cause more harm than good.

  • Set aside time to do things you like.

Self-care is important because it can be easy to get caught up and only focus on treatment and recovery. Try to find a hobby or something you enjoy doing that isn’t too physically or mentally demanding. Binge a cool show, paint a picture, spend time outside, or just set aside some fun activity with loved ones or friends, it’s good to try and forget about the stress for a little while and only concentrate on something entertaining.

Things to Consider

Sometimes things like costs, lack of resources, or access to transportation, can stop a person from seeking the help they need during a particularly difficult time of emotional or mental crisis. Reach out to a nearby healthcare facility, nurses, your doctor, or cancer care team will have some local support resources to get you started on the path to better mental health.

Author Bio:

Jennifer Verta thrives as a digital content writer and SEO specialist at Mesothelioma Hub. She has been producing content for clients since before she graduated from the University of Colorado at Denver with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a Minor in English Writing. Jen’s mission is to help promote awareness of mesothelioma to as many people as possible by providing only the most up-to-date and accurate content available. When she isn’t cranking the gears at work, Jen can be found snowboarding, hiking, catching live music, or socializing with friends.