Emotional management – you are what you feel

Emotional management is one of the most important aspects to consider when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer (or any cancer for that matter). The steps to take, following diagnosis, are very complex, and an inability to cope with or express your feelings may arise. Krupa Parekh-Padia offers ways to deal with this whirlwind of emotion.

During the course of this stressful clinical pathway, I have found that a good number of patients are so overwhelmed, that an inability to cope with or express their feelings develop. The fact in the matter is there is no single way to express feelings. I’ve always told my patients, “Whatever you’re feeling in that moment, just let it out because you owe it to your mind, body and overall self.”

We often see cancer patients and their loved ones overcome with anxiety, fear, stress and depression. It’s important to understand that these feelings are completely normal to have once cancer becomes a part of their lives. We must also keep in mind that it is vital to have healthy ways in dealing with each of these emotions.

From the initial conversation of being diagnosed with cancer, shock and grief instantly hits, and in that moment there are so many thoughts racing through your mind. Often, there’s a fear of asking questions because the answers can be too painful or complicated to understand. Anxiety and stress are triggered when the avenue of treatment is being discussed. Not to mention that during treatment or post treatment, side effects, self-image as well as everyday life stressors burdens patients, and again triggers a plethora of overwhelming emotions.

Anxiety: 

Meditation, deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

• Exercising.

• Seeing a therapist.

• Talking through the root of your anxiety.

• Partaking in activities you enjoy (book clubs, volunteering, cooking or baking).

Stress:

• Meditation, deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

• Exercising.

• Writing down your stressors and tackling them individually.

• Partaking in activities you enjoy (book clubs, volunteering, cooking or baking).

Depression:

• Engaging in physical activity (within recommended limits).

• Partaking in activities you enjoy (book clubs, volunteering, cooking or baking).

• Speaking to your healthcare provider.

• Joining a support group.

Fear:

• Asking your doctor or navigator questions.

• Avoid seeking answers on the internet or through third parties.

• Speaking to an oncology psychologist.

• Joining a support group.

So the big question is: how do you deal with these feelings? 

With each emotion (anxiety, fear, stress and depression), techniques, such as meditation and utilising deep breathing, have been found to be extremely useful. You’ll find that a lot of these techniques collectively aid each of these emotions.

Exercising regularly or engaging in physical activity allows the body to produce endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) that can counter feelings of stress. This particular chemical  promotes an overall happier state of mind, improves the ability to sleep and reduces stress levels. Yoga is wonderful as it engages all three – breathing techniques, meditation and exercise

Using ‘distracting techniques’ such as cooking, baking, scrapbooking, reading, colouring etc. are wonderful ways to de-stress and reduce anxiety. Additionally, finding support group programmes is a great way to connect with people who can help you cope with your emotions, and manage your life through treatment and recovery.

With regard to medically related questions, please talk to your healthcare provider or the unit’s patient navigator as it is important that you receive the correct answers. Googling or searching for answers on the internet will only heighten your fear and anxiety.

Uncontrollable levels of anxiety, stress and depression must be talked out with a healthcare professional. Sometimes, we need a little extra help in calming down our minds and bodies. Speaking  to someone who can prescribe antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicines may be necessary. Remember, the unhealthy thing to do is to bottle up your feelings and close yourself off from everyone around you. So reach out to – family, friends, your doctors or patient navigator (me!), so we can help you cope during this time.

MEET THE EXPERT

Krupa Parekh-Padia was born in South Africa and brought up in USA. She is a California State University, Los Angeles BSc. Nursing graduate. She started off her career at Keck Medical Centre of the University of Southern California where she specialised in surgical oncology. She is now working as your patient navigator at the Netcare Milpark Breast Care Centre of Excellence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.