Prior Successful Coping Strategies May Help Manage Cancer-Related Stress

People who have successfully navigated difficult times in the past may be able to use those previous coping strategies to help them weather new stress related to a cancer diagnosis, treatment or survivorship, according to an expert from the George Washington University Cancer Center.

Whether a patient has just received their cancer diagnosis, is currently undergoing treatment or is many years into their survivorship, their mental health may be negatively affected.

In an interview with CURE®, expert Sara Field provided some suggestions and helpful coping strategies that have been successful for patients in her experience.

“You may have never had a cancer diagnosis before, but no doubt most of us have been through some challenges,” said Field, a clinical social worker at George Washington University Cancer Center. “…what we know is that if people engage in those things that have been proven helpful in the past, that they can feel better supported, and can feel as much as like themselves as possible during a cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

Transcription:

One of the biggest things is for each person to think about, what are the are the things, what are the coping tools, or who are the people that have helped you to get through really hard times before? You may have never had a cancer diagnosis before, but no doubt most of us have been through some challenges. Now, maybe it was job loss, maybe it was a family member being sick, or stress of raising kids, just to name a few. And what are the things that helped you through that? And you know, maybe that was listening to music, maybe it was journaling, maybe it was distracting yourself, maybe it was relying on friends and family, or maybe it was seeking mental health support from a professional. Those are just some examples of things that patients will tell me when I ask them, “What helped you through (a) really hard time before?”

And what we know is that if people engage in those things that have been proven helpful in the past, that they can feel better supported, and can feel as much as like themselves as possible during a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

And then the other thing is that, you know, sometimes our coping tools and skills that worked for us previously, maybe aren't quite cutting it or maybe need to be adapted a bit. And so that's where relying on the folks who know you and love you, as well as your medical team and hopefully your social worker, can really help you to bolster some new skills or tools or talk about what's different this time and what we can do to help.

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