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Fostering Emotional Wellness Through Awareness
We know that pursuing treatment can be a difficult choice that may feel overwhelming, and bring feelings such as sorrow, fear, anger, or anxiety. These emotions can be especially confusing or difficult as they may be new, and unlike anything you have experienced before.
Building an accurate awareness of these emotions is an essential part of developing emotional wellness. Though it may seem difficult or even counterintuitive, one important way to build this awareness is to lean into, instead of pushing away, difficult emotions. When leaning into difficult emotions, we allow ourselves to temporarily experience them while at the same time know that they will fade away. As a result, instead of allowing fear to take over, we acknowledge the feeling of fear while keeping ourselves open to positive emotional experiences that often follow such as love, support, and determination to succeed and overcome.
With this mindset you can pursue other aspects of wellness, including a deeper understanding of your strengths and limitations. You will be able to build stronger, more meaningful relationships, all of which will help you cope with treatment stressors.
In early 2020, our lives have all been impacted by a global phenomenon. ChemoExperts wants to acknowledge new challenges faced by every one of us by providing you with additional resources to help you stay emotionally healthy during this time:
Per Drs. Whalley and Kaur, we as humans have the ability to visualize what the future may bring. This allows us to go to school, go to work, take care of children, go for a walk, and perform millions of other functions that can only be accomplished by using this unique gift. When we use this ability to achieve our own unique set of goals, our ability to think ahead is helpful to us. However, worrying is another form of thinking ahead, and while it is completely normal and good to worry when it helps us to take action needed to achieve our goals, worrying has the potential to leave us feeling anxious and cause us to stop doing things that make us happy.
- For example, worrying about worst case scenarios is completely natural, but it is important to realize how it may affect you, without even realizing it. The anxiety associated with excessive worrying can lead to physical changes in our body such as:
- muscle tension, aches, and pain
- changes in bowel movements
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling tired easily
- having trouble getting the motivation to do something, such as going for a walk
What can I do to help with worrying?
Worrying about problems that need solving now can be helpful, whereas worrying about problems for which nothing can be done may not. Sometimes worry insists that you pay attention to it now, but it does not have to be that way! Fill your day with things that bring you happiness, achievement, closer to family and friends, and kind things you can do for others. This will help you to postpone worry and set aside a time of day to deal with it. For example, take 20 minutes at the end of the day to first bring yourself back to the present. Focus on breathing and consider playing music (see reference on music therapy below) that helps to anchor you in the here and now, without any distractions around you.
Having a sense of control of the situation helps tilt the type of worry into good worrying and helps it from getting out of control and becoming a problem.
Before taking medications to reduce anxiety (which may make you tired and sleepy), consider trying some of these things to help maintain a better sense of control:
Life H.A.C.Ks (Happiness, Achievement, Connectedness, and Kindness):
1) Do things that bring you Happiness. Examples may include:
- go for a walk (bring a dog if you have one!), go for a run, go for a bike ride, exercise at home (every bit counts!)
- immerse yourself in nature
- relax by watching a tv show or movie
- listen to your favorite music
2) Do things that bring you a sense of Achievement. Examples may include:
- create art
- write a letter and mail it
- clean your bathroom
- clean your garage
- clean your bedroom
- clean your closet
- organize your work space
- learn a new skill
- fix something that might be broken
3) Do things that Connect yourself with those around you. Examples may include:
- talk with friends or family by phone
- talk with friends or family by video chat
- talk with friends or family at the park
4) Show Kindness towards others. Examples may include:
- send someone a gift
- do something nice for a neighbor
It is good to remind yourself that if you are worrying about a problem you cannot fix now, it may be best to find a way to let go of the worry and focus on a life HACK: something that brings you
happiness, achievement, connected to family and friends, or kindness towards others.
At the end of each day, you can reflect on which of these you were able to do. This will help you to determine if you spent most of the day watching TV, which means that less time was devoted towards achievement, connection with others, and kindness. While watching television all day may be fine on occasion, it is important to have balance. Consider creating a new routine to help provide structure to your day allowing you to set and achieve realistic goals as these will go a long way towards filling your emotional wellness tank. Limit triggers that cause worry by sticking to your routine.
Dr Matthew Whalley (clinical psychologist) and Dr Hardeep Kaur (clinical psychologist). Free Guide To Living With Worry And Anxiety Amidst Global Uncertainty. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Ways to build Emotional Wellness at home:
- Broaden emotional awareness through acceptance of your emotions
- Utilize your support system of family and friends
- Engage in meaningful hobbies and activities
- Identify stressors and what to do with them
- Speak with a therapist, such as a social worker or psychologist
- Clarify a sense of identity
Ways to build Emotional Wellness in the clinic:
- Increase knowledge of the treatment and learn how best to manage expected side effects
- Ensure EVERY medication taken has a clear purpose
- Take notes during your doctor visits to increase your understanding of the situation
Benefits of Pursuing Emotional Wellness?
- Increases sense of purpose and hope
- Enriches relationships with family and friends
- Less time spent away from work
- Increased resiliency and feeling less like a victim
- Stronger sense of what you are capable of accomplishing
Because of these direct results, cultivating emotional wellness may lead to direct medical benefits, including:
- Reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations
- Reduced number of medications taken on a daily basis
- Increased treatment success, including greater remission rates
Share this page:
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Working during chemotherapy:
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Created: March 31, 2017 Updated: March 27, 2020