Understanding and Managing your
feelings during Treatment

Recognising when difficult feelings show up for you will enable you to make decisions about how you manage difficult feelings.

Understanding your Feelings

Think about a time in your life when you experienced a difficult feeling such as stress, worry, fear, anger or low mood. Reflect back on whether there were any changes in your thinking or worries you may have had. There might have been changes in your body (e.g. increased heart rate, tension, sleep issues).

Think about how you would recognise this feeling if it showed up for you again.

You may find that changes in your behaviour such as withdrawing or keeping busy are a sign you are experiencing difficult feelings. Sometimes family members or friends notice changes in us and our behaviour that we do not always see ourselves. It can be helpful to involve them in thinking about how to recognise when difficult feelings show up for you and identify ways they may be able to support you.

Managing difficult Feelings

One of the easiest ways to manage difficult feelings is to do a little bit more of what you know already helps. It can be difficult to change habits and learn new ways to manage during times of stress.

Think about what you already do to manage your wellbeing and try to do a little bit more of it. For example, if walking helps, think about other places or times you could walk too. You may want to think about ways to enhance strategies you already use.

You may be using strategies to manage difficult feelings and improve your wellbeing without realising. It might be helpful to ask family members or friends whether they have noticed you doing anything to help manage your feelings. Often family or friends notice changes in our behaviour that we do not always notice.

Research suggests that if you consciously choose to do something to improve your wellbeing, you are more likely to perceive it as helpful.

You may notice that you engage in less helpful strategies to manage difficult feelings. It is important to avoid using strategies such as tobacco, alcohol and other substances to manage difficult feelings.

Support is available if you find yourself engaging in these coping strategies.

Managing intense or overwhelming feelings

During treatment, you may experience periods of intense, overwhelming feelings such as disbelief, fear, sadness, anxiety or anger. You may feel frightened about facing treatment and it may be difficult to tolerate the uncertainty regarding the potential effectiveness and side effects of treatment.

It is common to experience a rollercoaster of emotion for some time during treatment. It may be difficult to know what to expect from treatment. Periods of intense, overwhelming feelings can be a common emotional response to a diagnosis of cancer and may continue during treatment. However, if you find that these feelings become increasingly present and feel unmanageable it is important to seek support. Use the Wellbeing Self-Evaluation Tool to help you understand your feelings and when to seek support.

Be proactive in managing your feelings. Consider whether there are situations or triggers that may lead to you feeling overwhelmed. Think about what changes other people might notice in you if you began to feel overwhelmed. There may be things you could do differently to help you better tolerate and manage these feelings. It might be helpful to let your care team know if you have a history of experiencing mental health or psychological difficulties. This would help your care team support you more effectively.

You may experience waves of distress or intense feelings. The waves are likely to continue during treatment. You cannot control or stop these waves of feelings but you can learn how to surf them. Finding a way to surf these waves of feelings allows you to ride each wave of feelings as it comes and goes.

Further support and help:

The advice on these pages is designed to help you prepare for the treatment ahead and support you through to recovery.

If you need further advice and support please discuss this with your key worker or healthcare professional.

  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board Cancer support line:
    02920 745655  (9:00am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 4:00pm)
  • Macmillan Cancer Support:
    0808 808 00 00
  • Maggie’s Cardiff:
    029 2240 8024
  • Tenovus Cancer Care:
    0808 808 1010
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