Friday 22 January, 2021

4 Mental Health Tools That Helped Me Cope with Cancer

Amy had ovarian cancer and is based in the UK. Find Amy on the War On Cancer app.

Here are four mental health tools I find useful.  It’s all about practice. So experiment with these tools. What works for you?

Stoic Philosophy

Stoicism empowers you. Writing more than 2,000 years ago, the Stoics tell us there are some things within our control and some things outside our control. They tell us only our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, judgements and actions are within our control. They tell us it isn’t the event itself that causes suffering, but our interpretation of the event based on our beliefs and judgements. 

Some people experience Stoicism as a philosophy of restraint and austerity. I experience it quite differently. To me it is a philosophy of emotional responsibility and empowerment, that directs me to the unlimited and adaptable resource of Mind. 

The Stoics focus on changing their mind about the situation, rather than changing the situation. 

Here are a few of my favourite Stoic quotes:

  1. ‘Do not wish every situation goes your way but wish you can go with every situation’ – Epictetus. 
  2. ‘It isn’t death that is frightening but the FEAR of death that is frightening’ – Seneca
  3. ‘Difficulty strengthens the mind as labour does the body’ – Seneca
  1. ‘Do not wish every situation goes your way but wish you can go with every situation’ – Epictetus. 
  2. ‘It isn’t death that is frightening but the FEAR of death that is frightening’ – Seneca
  3. ‘Do not think what ‘bad fortune’, but to bear this worthily is ‘good fortune’ – Marcus Aurelias

If Stoic philosophy attracts you, search for Stoic quotes online.  There are also Sam Torode’s super simple translations.  Choose a favourite quote to work with. When fear or anxiety arise repeat the quote you chose. Does it make you feel better? The leading figures in Stoicism are Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelias. 

Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is a powerful antidote to anxiety. With self-compassion we have kind words and loving feelings for ourselves. In a moment of suffering, we stop trying to fix the problem and tend to our pain. 

With Self-compassion we do three things:

  1. We acknowledge how awful we are feeling.
  2. We acknowledge suffering as part of the human condition and join with others suffering. 
  3. We offer ourselves understanding through loving thoughts, words and actions.  

As I respond to myself with a self-compassionate dialogue again and again, a habit is formed. My mind is soothed and rumination decreases as I answer every worry with 

“Yes my darling, this is really hard.” And invite love to flow from my heart

In a moment of suffering self-compassion takes you from fear to love and can make every moment beautiful
If you think you would benefit from being kinder to yourself, check out Dr. Kristen Neff’s book Self-Compassion: How to Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. Neff is credited with conducting the first academic studies into self-compassion. She has a website. You can also learn how to create a tailored, self-compassion dialogue here. If you are interested in spiritual teachings,  compassion and non-judgement are central practices in Buddhism. And in Christianity the practice of forgiveness – for yourself, situations and others – invites love to flow from your heart in a similar way.

Self-discovery 

It can be helpful to know your love language. Are words of affirmation, gift giving, acts of service, physical touch or quality time more important to you? Take this quiz to find out.

Share your discovery with loved ones. You can also use this knowledge to give love to yourself. There’s no need to wait for a loved one to give you the love you desire when you can give that love to yourself.

Dr. David R. Hawkins and the Letting Go Technique

Emotional pain is real. It’s difficult to accept the healing you desire in your mind, body or relationships, if you are full of fear or other difficult emotions. The darkness cannot be avoided. What you need are effective tools to look at the darkness from a place of love and safety. The Letting Go technique by psychologist David R Hawkins offers just that.  

Through consistent practice, I feel less distress about situations that were causing immense suffering. If you think you would benefit from learning a technique to help on the bad days, check out Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender. You can also practice the technique with this free guided audio

You may experience some resistance to this practice. We all have our own coping strategies. You can share your feelings with loved ones, look on the bright side, count your blessings, go for a run, have a drink, lash out at someone, plan for future success. Our tried and tested strategies absolutely have their place and can bring relief, but rarely do they address our pain at the level of mind where healing and resolution take place. Go as fast, slow, deep or shallow as you like. You are in charge. And you have a trustworthy guide in Dr. David Hawkins. 

For more insight into these mental health techniques and how they relate to a cancer experience, check out my website.

The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health providers for questions regarding a medical condition, especially during the active period of Corona / Covid19. Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.  In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor, 112 or 911 immediately.

Amy had ovarian cancer and is based in the UK. Find Amy on the War On Cancer app.

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