It's common and completely understandable to feel isolated and hopeless when you have breast cancer. Hopelessness is also one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of depression, and can feel like it's never ending — until you eventually find a source of hope. It takes resilience and strength, but you can overcome a broken spirit. Here are a few ways to get that process started and find the strength to mend from within while still acknowledging your feelings as valid and important.
1. Stay Present
As frustratingly simple as it sounds, focusing on being in the moment can be a very challenging task, especially when the path you thought your life was supposed to take changes dramatically. You may get easily wrapped up in concern, worry and fear, which take you away from the life you're living.
Staying present means connecting with what's going on in the here and now — focusing on the conversations in front of you, the activities you have planned for the day, the food you're eating, the body you're living in.
Mindfulness exercises and meditation are great ways to help you focus on staying present, as the purpose of each is to ground you in the world around you. It's also an effective tool in reducing rumination, stress and emotional reactivity. Try taking a meditative walk, use an app like Stop, Breathe and Think or Simple Habit or start with just 60 seconds of quiet reflection and conscious breathing.
2. Focus on the Little Things
Life really is about the little things. From a long, warm shower in the morning to a cup of coffee shared with your partner and a funny conversation with a friend to feeling the sun on your face, each seemingly little part of every day can have a huge effect on your outlook.
These are the moments in life that ground you and help you focus on the good things, even when some of the bigger things in life aren't going the way you anticipated. One of the best ways to remind yourself of these good things is to actively practice gratitude, which also contributes to improved physical and psychological health, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.
So spend a few minutes in the morning writing down all the little things in life that you're grateful for. Use the things that bring you comfort and joy to call your attention away from negativity. This type of attention focusing is called thought tracking, which will help you replace negative thoughts by challenging their accuracy and presenting positive alternatives.
3. Outsource Your Strength
Support groups are a great way to connect with people who are going through (or have gone through) what you're going through. And they can vary from being informational, providing education and resources, or more therapeutic, allowing you a safe space to talk about your experience and how it's affecting you.
If you don't feel like support from others is what you need, check out a new hobby you've always wanted to try. Get yourself out in your community or volunteer for an organization that makes you excited about something new. Giving to others can often provide the most satisfying sense of well-being, which will help mend your spirit and get you going on the right track.
You may look to your local church or other religious organization for leads on groups that fit your needs, as well. Or check out resources from organizations dedicated to helping people, such as Mental Health America, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association or HealthFinder through the U.S. government (just to name a few!).
4. Talk About It
Fact of life: It's important to have people you can talk to. If you don't feel like you have someone or a group of people to be real with in the moment, ask your doctor for recommendations to psychologists who work specifically with people who have cancer. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, which is why a holistic approach to your care is important.
5. Set New Goals
You don't stop living your life when you receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Think about the goals you have for yourself: What are they? Do you have specific things you'd like to achieve or accomplish? Are there places or people you'd like to visit? Book a weekend trip, call the friend you've been meaning to visit, try a new type of cuisine. Set up your goals and follow through.