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Mental Health After Life-Changing Diagnosis

By Complete Care Specialist January 31, 2021

Whether it’s cancer, a serious injury or heart disease, receiving a life-changing diagnosis is never easy. More often than not, worry and depression begin to set in as your mind begins playing out the worst-case scenarios upon hearing the news.

Depression and anxiety are serious concerns for individuals who receive a life-changing diagnosis. In fact, one in four people with cancer diagnoses have difficulty functioning and following treatment plans because of depression.

However, it’s important to remember that all hope isn’t lost — while it certainly won’t be easy, there are simple ways you can help manage your mental health and regain a positive outlook on life. 

The first step is recognizing signs of depression or anxiety. There are many symptoms of depression and anxiety, including:

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Agitation
  • Drastic changes in eating habits
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering details

If any of these symptoms are present in your daily life, speak to your doctor about how to treat a mental illness. Once you understand your state of mind and how you’re responding emotionally to your life-changing diagnosis, you can begin to manage your mental health.

Outside of medication, there are a few daily habits you can easily add to your routine to help you develop more consistent positivity:

  • Write everything down. Journaling is an excellent way to process all your thoughts and emotions. It’s easy for your emotions to get the better of you if you internalize them, but putting them on paper makes them more tangible. Keeping a journal can also help you keep track of your symptoms.
  • Take care of yourself. Unfortunately, when people are stressed out, the first thing to go is often their self care — this is a mistake. Self care is more important than ever after you receive a life-changing diagnosis. The stress of navigating a severe illness will be an enormous strain on your mental health, so set aside time to read a book, take a nap, go for a walk or even give yourself a special treat like a spa day.
  • Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety and improve cognitive function and self-esteem. Exercise is an important part of self care and doing even 20-30 minutes of exercise five days a week can work wonders for your physical and mental health.
  • Practice mindfulness. Taking time to slow down and reflect on your day or week is a good practice for mental health. There are several ways you can give yourself a sense of calmness and self-reflection, such as a yoga class or meditation. It doesn’t matter what activity you choose — what’s important is empowering yourself to peacefully process what you’re going through and escape the worries of your life-changing diagnosis.
  • Talk to someone. It is important to talk about what you are going through and how you are feeling, whether it be with a friend, family member, or a professional. Talking about things allows you to explore yourself further and can possibly give you a new perspective. Sometimes just getting things off your chest is all you need. Another great benefit is the chance to learn new coping skills and techniques to better manage symptoms and daily stressors. There are some great virtual programs that are a good place to start to see if speaking to a professional could be right for you, check out our blog that goes over some of these here

Receiving a life-changing diagnosis is one of the most difficult experiences you can have and it can take a toll on your mental health. While staying positive through such a difficult time will be challenging, it’s possible through an understanding of your responses to trauma and practicing daily habits that boost your mood. 


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