By Rafia Nasir
Cancer is a complicated experience, and it can take a significant toll on your mental well-being. Managing your emotions throughout your cancer journey is key to staying positive and focused on your recovery. That’s where emotional intelligence comes in.
The concept of emotional intelligence entails recognizing how you feel, understanding why you feel that way, and learning how to deal with those emotions effectively. Additionally, it involves being attuned to the feelings of others and responding to them with compassion and understanding.
How exactly does emotional intelligence help you at various points of your cancer experience? And how can you develop your own emotional intelligence? Read on to find out.
How emotional intelligence can help you
Coping with Your Diagnosis:
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can stir up various emotions like shock, fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, uncertainty, and isolation. By cultivating emotional intelligence, you can enhance your emotional stability, eventually enabling you to make informed choices about your treatment options and expected outcomes.
Emotional intelligence helps you navigate treatment-related side effects and make informed healthcare choices. It enables you to recognize the emotional impact of side effects and also helps you take proactive steps to practice self-care effectively.
Emotional intelligence can help you navigate the emotional challenges of being a cancer survivor, such as fear of recurrence and uncertainty about the future. It enables you to recognize and acknowledge your emotions, explore the underlying causes, and develop healthy strategies to cope with them.
How to become emotionally intelligent throughout your cancer experience
Now that you’ve seen a few examples of how emotional intelligence can help you during your experience with cancer treatment and beyond, you may be wondering how to cultivate emotional intelligence yourself. Here are a few strategies that can help you build emotional intelligence to support you through cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.
Learn to recognize and acknowledge your emotions: Pay attention to your emotions, and learn to recognize and label them accurately. Practice mindfulness exercises, such as focused breathing or body scan meditation, to observe your emotions without judgment. For example, you can take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath, noticing each inhale and exhale. When difficult emotions arise, try deep breathing or engaging in positive self-talk to experience your emotions in a non-harmful way. SurvivingBreastCancer.org offers an on-demand meditation video library, as well as virtual meditation and mindfulness programs.
Educate yourself about cancer: By connecting with healthcare professionals, actively listening and asking relevant questions to enhance your understanding of your condition and treatment, you engage in a process that cultivates emotional intelligence. Being well-informed enables you to anticipate potential challenges, prepare yourself emotionally, and develop effective coping strategies.
Practice self-care: Take care of yourself physically and emotionally by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Consider incorporating meditation or yoga into your routine to manage stress and anxiety. Engaging in enjoyable hobbies and activities can boost your mood and help you feel more emotionally resilient.
Cultivate patience and empathy: Learn to truly listen and understand the perspectives of other people, as well as situations outside of your control. For instance, rather than getting frustrated over delays in test results or appointments, try to understand the reasons behind them, such as your case being complicated or your doctor having an increased patient load. By showing patience, you will be able to cultivate a productive relationship with your healthcare provider, enhance communication, and decrease feelings of isolation.
Build positive relationships: Surround yourself with people who encourage and support you and avoid negative or draining relationships. Consider attending support group meetings. SurvivingBreastCancer.org hosts weekly peer-to-peer meetups open to anyone diagnosed with breast cancer, in addition to meetups specifically for the metastatic (MBC) and inflammatory (IBC) breast cancer communities.
Set goals and find purpose in life: Having a purpose can give you a reason to keep going and stay motivated, even during difficult times such as cancer. For example, you may consider volunteering in your community, fundraising for a charity, participating in awareness programs, planting a tree or garden, or knitting blankets for a local shelter. Having a purpose can give you a sense of hope and help you focus on something positive. It can also be an effective way to meet new people and build meaningful relationships.
Identifying triggers of difficult emotions: As we discussed earlier, your cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship come with many emotional challenges. You can cope with them by identifying the people, situations, or thoughts that trigger your difficult emotions. You can help yourself by stopping believing myths and misconceptions about cancer, avoiding negative self-talk, and connecting with positive people.
Emotional intelligence is a powerful tool that you can use throughout your experience with cancer treatment and beyond. With emotional intelligence, you can practice managing your emotions, making informed treatment choices, navigating survivorship challenges, and fostering positive relationships. Ultimately, cultivating emotional intelligence and building these practices can help you improve your emotional well-being and resilience.
From the same author:
Rafia Nasir holds a Pharm-D degree and has extensive clinical and oncology experience. She worked for four years as a clinical pharmacist in medical oncology at an ISO-certified military hospital in Pakistan. Her experience as a clinical pharmacist helps her understand cancer treatment and the importance of individualized care.
She currently works as a medical writer covering cancer treatment and research. By leveraging her clinical experience, she is able to translate complex medical information into patient-friendly language to help patients better understand their disease and treatment options. Through her work, she aims to bridge the gap between medical expertise and patient understanding.
With a strong focus on patient education, she is committed to helping patients and their caregivers tackle cancer treatment complexities with confidence and hope.
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