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Tips for mentally facing a cancer diagnosis.

"Approximately 30 per cent of individuals diagnosed with cancer will experience clinical depression or anxiety disorder,” says Dr. Sheila Tervit, PhD, C, Psych., a psychologist at Connect Cognitive Therapy in Mississauga , Ont., and consultant for Wellspring Cancer Support Network (wellspring.ca). “Although each person’s experience is unique, following a diagnosis of cancer, individuals often feel anxiety, fear and a sense of being overwhelmed by new information. Individuals may feel a loss of control or a sense of helplessness associated with role changes, physical changes and emotional upheaval” associated with breast cancer. Dr. Tervit provides us with expert tips on how to better deal with the psychological stressors of breast cancer.

1. Try cognitive-behavioural therapy. Cognitive behavioural strategies, such as distraction, relaxation and mindfulness techniques, help manage emotions. But the most effective coping strategies are specific to an individual’s unique experience.

2. Be aware of and utilize your support network. A support network may involve family, friends, coworkers, professionals or community resources.

3. Manage expectations, which may include TAKING a day-by-day approach. It is helpful to expect that emotions will be variable and that physical changes will occur.

4. Engage in an outlet, a creative one, such as journaling or art, and/or a physical outlet, such as exercise or playing a sport.  

5. Finally, be realistic. “Individuals and their loved ones often ask about the importance of ‘being positive.’ While a positive approach or outlook can be helpful, it is not realistic to be positive all the time.” One should express all emotions, both positive and negative.