SELF-Care for Emotional Health


Your illness and its treatment can present a number of challenges to you and to your family. These challenges include medical care and its side effects, surgical care, financial aspects of care and transitory/ temporary disruption of your life and the impact on family members.

One of the important aspects of your health situation is its emotional impact on you and your family members. The most common reactions to the diagnosis of serious illness, are generally worry, tension, sleep disturbances, irritability and fear of future.

Emotional health plays an important part in your ability to handle the illness and its treatment. Our experience has shown that those individuals who adapt an active ‘problem solving approach’ have better quality of life, less side effects of treatment, less sleep disturbances and appetite problems.  In short, they show better response to treatment and greater compliance with medical care.

As part of holistic care, the following resources are available to you.

  1. This information sheet will help you to recognize your emotional needs.
  2. Following  set of tools will help  you to deal with your emotional needs.
  3. Support group for all ill persons and their caregivers.
  4. Volunteers, trained supporters and supervised by professionals.
  5. Specialists/professionals like psychiatrists and psychologists, social workers.

Some activities that can help you improve your emotional health (mental health) are described below.

The treating team can help you with more details of each of these approaches.

1.Reading and knowing about your illness and treatment. You can use the  patient library in the hospital. In addition, please ask your treating team for other educational resources.

Remember, knowledge is power and correct information decreases uncertainities and helps in decision taking.

2. Relaxation/ Meditation: Mental relaxation is positive towards your recovery. Your treatment team can teach you relaxation techniques. Make rest periods/ relaxation /meditation /prayer  daily part of your life to help gain mastery over your emotional life.

3.Sharing your feelings: Illness brings about multiple changes and challenges to your life. Many of these are distressing. Keeping these feelings to your self is not good. Sharing it with your family and friends or with your treating team decreases distress and helps you understand better about what you are experiencing.

4.Writing down your feelings: In situations when you cannot share your feelings with others, writing down for at least 20 minute daily is another way of decreasing distress and gaining  mastery  over your emotional life.

5.Social supports: Illness would have brought some changes in your life and that to your family. Your illness requires all the support you can get. One method is to share information about your illness so that others understand your needs and reach out to help you. More help you receive, less burden will be with the illness and treatment. Moreover, when you have a large network of family and friend to support you, your immediate family will also feel more supported and less distressed.

6.Spiritual support: With the pain of the illness and the uncertainties of the future, it might feel like there’s no hope in the future. But with the illness, many people also come to understand life and relationships much better. You can also do it through reading scriptures, praying  visiting place of worship,   meeting a religious teacher etc. You can use any method that you are comfortable.

 7.Communication within family: As part of the illness, open and free communication about the illness and the fears associated with it helps you and your family better support each other. Making time for each other and sharing of information and emotions is helpful.

8.Exercise and physical activity: In recent times physical activity /exercise has been recognized as the “miracle cure without taking a pill’. In your illness, making a sustained effort to be active, even when you have feelings of tiredness and fatigue is important. Develop  regular habit to exercise for whatever period of time you can, for example, you can start atleast with 10 minutes’ walk and building that up  This will help you to fight fatigue, improve your appetite, lead to a better sleep and help the treatment be more effective.

9.Finding “Happy moments”: It is important that you find ways of feeling happy by engaging in activities that help you rejuvenate yourself to take each day as it comes. This could be in the form of listening to music, finding time for hobbies, playing games, being with people who give you positive feelings, watching funny shows onTV and comedy movies.

10.Focus on the present: Disruptions brought on by the illness can make you feel helpless and lose confidence in yourself and the future. It is best to avoid thinking too far into future as it is not predictable and alternatively focus on the present. This can be done by prioritizing, planning and pacing of tasks that need to be done. Complete one task and   move on to the next task. This could be related to the illness or other aspects of your life (e.g., cooking, household chores). Do things by plan and pace the activities to  suit your health condition. Remember, every time you complete a task you will increase your confidence and that ill further increase your confidence.

Seek professional help :

 The above measures will you to master most of the changes and challenges of your illness.

However, do not hesitate to seek specialist help in the following situations:

  • You want more guidance to incorporate the above 10 psychological measures to    your emotional health – please ask the treating team to put you in contact with specialists.
  • Your emotional distress is associated with many life challenges that you  cannot handle.
  • Your emotional distress is interfering with daily routines (self care, eating, sleeping, work) or your treatment.
  • You have continuous feelings of tension, worry, irritability sadness, anger that is causing distress to you and your family.
  • Remember taking professional help for emotional distress is similar to taking help for physical complaints.

Help is available  for your emotional health and we urge you to use it fully for your wellbeing and recovery.

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