Breast Cancer and Mental Health

Breast Cancer and Mental Health

October is the month of the pink ribbon – a symbol of support to those who have fought or are currently fighting through breast cancer. 1 in 8 women receive a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in their life – making it the most common cancer among women. There are some things we can never be prepared for, and cancer is one of them.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer naturally brings with it a tidal wave of emotions, like shock. anxiety, and grief. If you or someone you love are experiencing diagnosis or treatment, you have our support and admiration. As a team of psychologists, we understand the heartache and heaviness you carry. Breast cancer is difficult for everyone involved, and mental health plays an important role.

Diagnosis can bring on a feeling of loss and completely alter your state of mind, especially if you feel blind sighted by it. Studies have even found that survivors are more at risk for mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. In honor of those fighting breast cancer, here are some helpful ways to support yourself through this unprecedented time.

Managing Mental Health as a Breast Cancer Survivor or Post-Diagnosis

Those who’ve been diagnosed and even survivors of breast cancer carry around a lot of stress and anxiety. It’s common to question your body and every ache and pain you feel – it can cause you to fear the worst. In fact, cancer can be considered a traumatic event, and the experience can leave a residue of negative emotions.

I’m here to remind you that you’re more than your cancer, and you deserve a life that reflects that truth. Taking control of your mental health must become a top priority, because it’s the foundation for living life on your own terms. Let’s explore ways you can support your mental health during this time.

Avoid Stifling Emotions

Once you’ve emotionally recovered, it’s normal to want to move on from this experience and pretend it never happened. Remember that grief and anxiety can hit you when you least expect it. Try to avoid slipping into a toxic positivity mindset. Make room for the negative emotions that may come up now or in the future.

Avoiding and bottling up emotions only makes them stronger and leads to physical stress. Talk with other survivors, friends, and mental health professionals. Journal about your feelings and fears.

Take Control of your Health

Feeling anxious that you’ll get sick again or that things might get worse is a mentally heavy load. It gets even heavier with the worry of making follow-up care appointments and having a post-cancer health plan. This is where creating an action plans come in handy.

Having a plan in place for how to manage your health and regular follow-ups will remove a lot of the tension and worry. You can rest knowing that you have plans to check the status of your health on a regular basis. This will allow you to be more present in your day-to-day life, so you can focus on what’s important.

Practice Regular Mindfulness

The energy it takes to recover from breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is a lot on the body. It’s important that you aren’t expending even more energy by mulling and remaining in a constant state of anxiety.

Mindfulness and being present to the moment you’re in gives your mind and body the space to heal. If mindfulness were easy, we’d all be doing it. Since being in a state of mindfulness is difficult to do all the time, make it something you take time to practice on a regular basis. Implementing this practice can help reduce the psychological effects that come with living through breast cancer.

Find Your Joy

The good times are what make the hard times worth it. You are overcoming something that takes a lot of bravery and strength. It can be all too easy to get lost in the serious part of life that you forget to prioritize the things that spark your joy.

Don’t forget about the stuff that you find passion in. More than ever, you deserve to experience the things that bring you the most joy. You deserve lighthearted fun and time doing things that spark a fire in your heart. Here are just a few oddly specific examples of finding joy through a hard time:

 

Getting Professional Support

Living through the stress of cancer is a unique experience, and a lot of friends and family may not know how to fully support you. It can feel very isolating. There is also a lot to unpack after going through something so life changing.

If there was ever a time to take care of your mental health, it’s in the throes of cancer. Your mental and physical wellbeing are too intimately linked to ignore the emotional effects of having cancer. Support from a therapist can help you feel not only less alone but also validated in your emotions.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

 

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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