We often talk about the effects breast cancer can have on your physical health, but it’s also important to acknowledge how your mental health may be impacted.
Being more mindful
Our 2018 survey found that more than eight in 10 women in England were not told about the possibility of developing long-term mental health problems as a direct result of their breast cancer diagnosis.
If you’re experiencing difficulties with your mental health, we have a mental health toolkit with tips and support that may help you manage your emotions by practising mindfulness and reflection.
Why reflection is important
A diagnosis of breast cancer can have many different emotional effects. You might be anxious about your treatment or sad because your life is changing. It’s natural to feel hopeful on some days, and very low or worried on others.
By setting aside time to reflect on your life (not just on your health, but also on everything else), you can process your feelings in a strategic, measured way.
How to self-reflect in a healthy way
You can approach reflection in whichever way feels most natural to you, but here are a few methods you might want to use.
Journaling or blogging
The practice of putting pen to paper (or hands to a keyboard) will encourage you to consider your words carefully. You may spend more time thinking about your emotions, how to express them, and whether you're comfortable with the way you're feeling. Our writing guide can offer tips to help you get started.
Once you’ve got something written down, you have a record of your reactions and experiences. Whether they're positive or negative, both are useful. Think of writing down your negatives as relieving yourself of them, and your positives as celebrating them.
Here’s an example from Helen, who was diagnosed with de novo stage four breast cancer (diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at her first presentation) in 2016. At the start of 2020, she wrote a blog post to reflect on her previous year, saying, 'This feels the right time to assess all aspects of my life and how I can best live and enjoy the time I have left.'
She listed her 'highlights', which included a trip to Hawaii, a 'weekend of fun and frolics' with good friends and a new tattoo. However, Helen also notes 'the medical stuff' – 'a grand total of 41 [hospital] appointments', various different treatment options (with mixed success) and hair loss.
Despite her diagnosis, Helen writes, 'most of the time I am able to focus on the positives and try and remain (a little) optimistic.'
You can read the rest of her post here.
Meditating can be a difficult practice to get into at first, especially if you find yourself with persistent, ‘loud’ thoughts. However, once you adapt, you'll find that you're more easily able to take control.
There are several free apps you can download to help with meditation, or you can check out this online guide.
Acknowledging milestones and anniversaries
This may be difficult for some people, but taking note of the progress and changes you’ve made or experienced can be very useful.
If you’re better at managing your emotions than you were before, make sure to be mindful of that. If you’re still struggling to manage negative thoughts, pay attention to the feelings you have, accept them, and try your best to keep moving. You can always call our Helpline to speak to one of our breast care nurses about any concerns you might have.
If you're looking for some more support and tips on mindfulness, check out our Becca app.