Coping with emotions

People cope with strong emotions in different ways. You may want to try some of these different coping strategies to see what works for you.

Recognize and be honest about your feelings. Try to describe or talk about them. It may be hard to tell your family and friends how you really feel because you want to protect them. But being honest can help improve communication and strengthen your relationships with those you care about.

Talk to someone. Finding the courage to talk to just one person can be the first step to feeling better. It could be a friend, a relative or a mental health professional. It may also help to talk to someone who has had a similar cancer experience.

Talk to your healthcare team. Let them know how you are feeling and if you’re having problems coping. They can help find resources that can help you cope. Ask questions. Tell your healthcare team if you don’t understand what they’re saying or when you want more information or help.

Learn about cancer and its treatment, as much as is comfortable for you. Some people find that looking for information and using that information to make decisions helps them feel more in control. Others prefer not to know too much and don’t take part in decision-making about their care. Tell your healthcare team how much you want to know.

Be as physically active as possible. Exercise helps improve your mood, your sleep and your appetite.

Eat well. Eating a variety of foods and well-balanced meals can help you feel better and stay stronger.

Keep your life as normal as possible. Even though a cancer diagnosis can upset many things in your life, try to carry on with your normal routine and habits as much as you can. Get up and dressed every day. Keep your social life active.

Decide what’s important to you. Stay involved in activities that you enjoy and have meaning for you. You can manage your time by making a realistic list of things to do each day.

Try meditation, yoga or relaxation techniques. These practices can help lessen stress, anxiety or anger, allowing you to feel calmer and more in control of what’s happening in your life.

Seek out the positive. Spend time with people who make you laugh or do something that makes you feel good. Many people find that spending time with pets helps them feel calm and more positive.

Change your surroundings. Take a break or a walk and give yourself some quiet time. Spend some time at a place that you find calming, like a beach or park.

Look to your spiritual faith. You may find comfort in talking with a spiritual leader or clergy member.

Keep a journal or diary. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you cope and understand your emotions. A journal is also a good place to write positive feelings, so you can look at them again when you feel low.

Reach out to friends and family. Let people know what is happening and that it would be nice to see them. Try phoning an absent relative or friend, sending an email or writing them a letter.

Try social networking. Many people turn to online communities for support and information on coping. These include Facebook groups and online message boards for people with cancer. They provide a place to share your experiences and build relationships without leaving your home.

Look beyond the cancer. Many people feel better when they stay busy. Some can still go to work but may need to adjust their work schedule. Hobbies such as music, crafts or reading can also help take your mind off cancer for a while.

Think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t do. Remind yourself that you are coping, no matter how bad you feel.

Tell people if you need more help. Tell your healthcare team if you are still having problems coping with your emotions. They may refer you to a specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist for medicine or therapy to treat depression or anxiety.

Be positive – in your own way. Having a positive attitude does not mean you have to be happy or cheerful all the time. It is positive to just be aware and accept your feelings, even if you are worried, depressed or angry. Feeling that you have to hide your feelings all the time can drain your energy and stop you from talking about fears and feelings that are real and that deserve to be talked about.

Expert review and references

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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