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Managing your emotions during cancer treatment

It's normal to have a broad and deep range of emotions during diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of a cancer diagnosis. Emotions such as anger, rage, despair, anxiety, helplessness and depression and all part of a normal healthy personal reaction. To help slow runaway anxiety and depression, it's important to find ways to allow yourself to feel and process your emotions, and to keep practicing self-love, no matter what.

Healthy management of your emotions involves a balance between feeling and identifying and labeling your emotions, and processing your underlying needs/wants. After sitting with your feeings, then maybe you can develop a small plan that helps you move forward. Effective plans/decisions are informed by both emotion and reason, your intution and your analytical thinking.

A useful model of emotional health to is WISE MIND, developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. Linehan says we have can envision three states of mind: “Emotional Mind,” “Logical Mind” and “Wise Mind.”

When a person is in “Emotional Mind” their emotions are very intense, and they may be using emotional reasoning, foregoing logic. When a person is in “Logical Mind,” they are using logic to inform their decisions, but is avoiding or denying their feelings. When a person is using “WISE MIND,” they are open to both their logic and emotion, living life with intuition and analysis.

Of course, we humans are not always operating in WISE MIND!!

All of us weave in and out of EMOTIONAL MIND, LOGICAL MIND and WISE MIND during the day, within a normal range of normal feeling and expression. For example, for all the talk about road rage, MOST of us responsibly drive our vehicles in WISE MIND most of the time, or there would be a lot more trouble on the road!

What are some things we can do to help us achieve WISE MIND during the challenging time of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management?

One way is to become aware of that background patter that continuously runs like a loop in our heads...those thought patterns that feed fear and anxiety! Eeplace these patterns with Positive Counterstatements and Affirmations! It's been clinically proven that our thoughts can positively affect our feelings, and our behaviors. It takes work to interrupt the anxiety loop. It tales at least 30 days to break a habit. Try using counterstatements and affirmations for 30 days, at least once a day.


This is unbearable.

Try: I am learning how to cope better with this.

What if this goes on without letting up?

Try: I’ll deal with this one day at a time. I live in the present.

Why do I have to deal with this?

Try: For whatever reasons, at least for now, I’ve been given a steeper path- a tougher curriculum. In fact, adversity develops my qualities of strength & compassion.

I shouldn’t be angry!!

Try: Anger is an appropriate response to a situation when a real threat exists; I acknowledge and work through the emotion and let the anger become a positive force to help me care for myself.

  • I love and accept my uniqueness.

  • I am willing to forgive.

  • It is safe to look within.

  • I am calm and capable.

  • I am strong and able to cope.

  • I get the help I need when I need it, from various sources.

  • My support system is strong and loving.

  • I trust my intuition. I am willing to listen to that still voice within.

  • I enjoy the foods that are best for my body.

  • I love every cell of my body.

  • All is well, all is well and all manner of thing is well.


Linehan, M. M., (1993). Cognitive behavioral therapy of borderline personality disorder. New York: The Guilford Press.

Marra, T. (2004). Depressed & anxious: The dialectical behavior therapy workbook for overcoming depression and anxiety. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications.

Peurifoy, R.Z. (2005). Anxiety, phobias, & panic. New York: Warner Books.

Rossman, M. L. (2001). Fighting cancer from within. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

Seligman, M.E.P., & Peterson, C. (2003). Positive clinical psychology. In L.G. Aspinwall & U.M.

Staudinger (Eds.). A psychology of human strengths: Fundamental questions and future directions for a positive psychology. (pp. 305-317) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association


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