Maintaining Emotional Well-Being While Facing Mesothelioma
February 12, 2020
People today seem to have a general understanding of the interconnectedness of the mind and body.
Sometimes, mesothelioma patients become familiar with the connected well-being idea through treatment.
A holistic cancer treatment approach considers the mind, body and spirit within cancer care.
Mesothelioma patients and their families may develop a sense of urgency for medical treatment following diagnosis, placing less focus on their emotional well-being. Multidisciplinary oncology teams often explore physical and emotional treatment options for families facing an aggressive cancer diagnosis such as mesothelioma.
Dealing with mesothelioma takes a toll on both the body and the mind.
Many patients are bombarded with tough emotions upon hearing the diagnosis. Intense feelings of fear and anxiety, along with sadness and helplessness, make it difficult to maintain a healthy emotional well-being.
It is helpful for families to address emotional wellness throughout their loved one’s cancer treatment.
When to Take Action
In my experience as a clinical mental health therapist, I usually encounter people for the first time amid an emotional crisis.
Similarly, I am guilty of only seeing my family doctor when I come down with an illness.
A neglectful approach to wellness — emotionally and physically — often has a negative impact on one’s health.
A 2016 study conducted at the National Cancer Institute in Mexico explored the efficacy of psychological interventions at various intervals in cancer treatment. The data collected suggests patients benefit most from emotional supports implemented throughout the treatment process, not just during end-stage palliative care.
Many mesothelioma cancer centers offer mental health care options as part of treatment.
It is important for patients and their families to understand that maintaining emotional well-being isn’t just crisis management.
Rather, mental health is an element of wellness that requires ongoing maintenance from diagnosis to completion of treatment, and beyond.
Common Emotional Responses
Hearing a doctor say the word “cancer” is an emotional experience.
Patients often feel overwhelmed with emotions such as fear and sadness. Many people experience fear related to pain and treatment, uncertainties regarding their prognosis, and sadness.
Left unchecked, these emotional experiences may negatively impact a patient’s quality of life.
Oncologists frequently normalize negative feelings associated with a cancer diagnosis. Facing cancer has a life-changing impact on physical and emotional health. It is common for people to feel emotional distress at this time.
Typical emotional reactions to facing cancer include:
- Anger and irritability
- Loneliness or feeling isolated
- Anxiousness and Fear
- Feeling overwhelmed
This list certainly isn’t an exhaustive exploration of feelings that may arise while enduring cancer treatment.
It is important to remember that every person experiences emotions differently. The feelings may be intense or mild. Patients should explore their feelings with their doctors.
Many professionals now utilize a more preemptive approach to maintaining good mental health.
Rather than waiting for a crisis to emerge, it may be helpful to explore emotional supports in the beginning to avoid unnecessary emotional distress and divert potential crises.
Finding the Right Supports
With the growing acceptance of the importance of mental health care comes an influx of potential support and wellness options.
Some cancer patients may feel comfortable maintaining emotional wellness by exploring self-administered supports such as meditation, prayer or confiding in loved ones.
Others may feel that pursuing emotional wellness with helping professionals is more appropriate.
The concept of helping professional is a sort of umbrella term that many interpret to mean things like a life coach, spiritual advisor, therapist, mental health clinician, counselor and many others.
Understanding a person’s individual needs will help guide the personal choice in selecting a helping provider.
However, it is important to include your oncology team in making the right determination.
When Is Professional Counseling the Right Choice?
Many cancer patients wonder if seeing a therapist or mental health clinician is necessary. There isn’t a universal answer to this question.
A simple measure of appropriateness for intervention might be evaluating the impact of negative emotions:
- Does the cancer-related emotional distress impact your daily life?
- Does it keep you from feeling emotionally well?
- Do others notice when you don’t seem like yourself?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is important to discuss your emotional well-being with your oncology team. They can help you identify the appropriate type of support and explore various options for pursuing treatment.
Being attentive to a loved one’s emotional state can help in maintaining the good emotional well-being necessary for the cancer-treatment process.
Evidence-Based Approaches to Counseling
The continually developing and evolving world of mental health treatment may be overwhelming to someone exploring emotional wellness options.
It seems therapy models exist on a constantly changing continuum which can complicate the mental health decision-making process.
This is where helpful oncology team members come into play. Your doctors can help decipher the long list of options to assist you in making the right choice.
Clinical mental health professionals working with cancer patients may adapt existing evidence-based approaches to best address the individual needs of those seeking help.
Among the numerous effective treatment models, cognitive behavioral therapy shows promise in treating many of the difficulties cancer patients face.
No matter the choice in therapeutic intervention, preserving emotional wellness is important for everyone, especially those dealing with an aggressive cancer diagnosis.
The first step in maintaining good mental health is having an open discussion about emotional experiences with a caring oncology team.
As a professional counselor associate, I think it is important for my clients to understand that I work with good people who are in some way overwhelmed by their life’s circumstances.
Sure, some of the people with whom I work meet criteria for the diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, but that is not the only reason for people to seek professional help.
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