Self-Care When Facing the Emotional and Psychological Effects of Cancer

By Bethany Hatton

The Psychological Effects of Cancer

Cancer care has progressed significantly in the past few years, but it is still the second-leading cause of death in the United States. A cancer diagnoses rocks a person’s world and can have a negative impact on their mental health. In fact, the emotional and psychological effects can be just as difficult to deal with as the physical ones.

Cancer patients often experience various psychiatric issues:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Grief
  • Antisocial tendencies
  • Aggression

Unfortunately, these problems only make recovery that much more difficult. The mind and body are intrinsically connected. Just as a cancer diagnosis can lead to these psychiatric struggles, feelings of depression and anxiety can make it harder for the body to defend itself from illness. That’s why it is as important to practice mental self-care as it is to go through with physical treatment for cancer.

Don’t Give Up Activities You Enjoy

Fitting in doctor appointments and treatments into your already packed schedule may prompt some sacrifices. However, don’t give up those activities that bring you happiness and reduce stress. Keep up with your favorite hobbies as a source of grounding. Carrying on with the things you love helps to normalize the situation while also boosting positive feelings thanks to a rush of dopamine in the brain.

Spend Time with Those You Love

Nothing makes us appreciate the people in our life like the threat of losing them. Use this cancer diagnoses as the excuse you need to reconnect with the people you love. When spending time with them, don’t just focus on your cancer. Instead, do activities you enjoy together and make memories you can refer to when you are feeling down about your diagnosis.

Prepare Healthy Foods

Your treatment should be left to your oncologist. However, cooking wholesome meals for yourself is a great way to support healthy body function. Make wholesome dishes that nourish your body in its state. Use plenty of fruits and vegetables from across the color spectrum. Start experimenting with new whole grains. Hit up your local farmers market for the best selection of naturally raised meats. If nausea is a problem, try foods that can stimulate the appetite. You can also talk to your doctor about ways to reduce nausea.

Get Moving

Cancer and treatment drain the body of its energy. Moderate exercise supports your body’s recovery while alleviating both physical and mental symptoms. Try gentle exercises such as walking, swimming, or going to a yoga class to reap the benefits.

Express Yourself

When you are diagnosed with cancer, there are a lot of emotions. You may feel betrayed by your body and alone in the experience. Seeking support from others who have either been where you are or are going through treatment themselves can help with feelings of isolation. At your support group, you have the opportunity to vent about your feelings and difficulties without feeling like you are burdening those around you.

Support groups aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean lone wolves should keep their emotions inside of them. If you’d rather not join a group, try starting a cancer journal where you can express your frustrations and the difficulties you encounter while going through treatment. Keeping all that negative energy in isn’t good for you so let it out.


Cancer doesn’t just affect a person physically. A diagnosis can be as damaging to a person’s mental health as it is to their physical well-being. To combat the negative effects, practice self-care and support your overall health with a holistic approach.

Image via Pexels

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