The Psychological Society of Ireland



The Psychological Society of Ireland,
Floor 2, Grantham House,
Grantham Street, Dublin 8, D08 W8HD.


Press release issued on 24/03/2015

Advice on how to best cope with a diagnosis of cancer – 10 tips from the Psychological Society of Ireland


The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) has devised 10 tips on how to best cope with a diagnosis of cancer. The PSI is offering these tips to coincide with the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day which takes place on Friday March 27th 2015. In offering the 10 tips the PSI is aiming to heighten the awareness of cancer and the importance of how best to help and support someone who has a cancer diagnosis.


PSI members Dr Natalie Hession and Dr Margaret O’ Rourke were instrumental in compiling the PSI tips. Dr Hession, a Senior Counselling Psychologist in the Psycho-Oncology Department at St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network, stated, “The cancer journey is a difficult time for individuals and their families who will often be faced with challenging emotions. Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong way to feel. It’s normal to wonder, “Why me?” or to feel sad, angry or afraid.”


These 10 tips are designed to help people cope emotionally and psychologically with the challenges of cancer.


1.       Be informed

Learn what you can do for your health now and about the services available to you and your loved ones. Asking your healthcare team what changes are anticipated or what to expect will help you prepare and give you a greater sense of control. This can be a balancing act - it is important to recognise how much information you can take in and to avoid feeling over whelmed by all of the information available.


2.       There is no ‘right’ way to cope

During the cancer journey, you will rely on coping strategies or mechanisms that you are familiar with. You have found ways to cope with different stressors and losses throughout life. You may decide to learn new ways to cope as opposed to relying on just one way. There is no ‘right’ way to cope with a possible life-threatening illness. You are the expert. Explore different ways and do what is right for you.


3.       Don’t expect emotions to progress along in neat stages

The experience will unfold as a process and there will be many ups and downs where your needs and emotions may change on a day to day, or sometimes hour-to-hour, basis.


4.       Talk to someone you trust

The diagnosis of cancer can be traumatic.  It is normal to feel stress, anxiety, sadness, anger or a sense of a loss of control.  Finding someone to talk to is important – someone you can trust and can help you sort through your thoughts and feelings. Being open when dealing with emotions helps many people feel less worried and enable them to enjoy each day even a little. Sometimes the disruption caused by cancer can be managed by calling upon available resources within yourself, your family, your circle of friends and support networks. However, sometimes you may feel you would benefit from professional help, such as a psychologist or counsellor, to deal with the disruptions in your personal and family life.


5.       Avail of a support group

Studies have shown that many people who take part in support groups have a better quality of life, including better sleep and appetite. Putting your thoughts and feelings into words gives you new ideas about how to deal with them. While speaking in a group is not for everyone, talking with others who are in situations like yours can help ease loneliness. You can also get ideas that might help you from others who have had the same experiences. It is important to note that some people may possibly get this same sense of connection from non cancer specific groups that they belong to such as a choir, a church community or an art class.


6.       Be aware of your fears, but practice letting them go

It’s normal for fearful thoughts to enter your mind, but you don’t have to keep them there. Some people picture them floating away, or being vaporised. Others turn them over to a higher power to handle. However you do it, letting go of your fears can free you from wasting time and energy worrying needlessly.


7.       Maintain a normal and healthy lifestyle

Take care of yourself. Look after your body through a balanced diet and exercise. Get advice from your health care team as to what may help. If your energy levels have reduced prioritise what is important and pace yourself.


8.       Being positive doesn’t always help

Trying too hard to be positive can sometimes make you feel worse. You may be afraid to say how you feel because you want to be ‘brave’ or ‘positive’ but it is not always helpful. Sharing with others that you are finding it difficult is not a weakness. Instead consider it a strength in allowing others to support you.


9.       Accept help from those in your life

Sometimes it’s difficult to accept help especially if you were always the one caring for others. When energy is low, let family and friends run errands, provide lifts, prepare meals and help with practical chores. Accepting help from those in your life allows them to have a role in helping you and reduces their experience of helplessness.


10.   Focus on the present moment

Focus on the present moment rather than thinking of an uncertain future or a difficult past. If you can find a way to be peaceful inside yourself, even for a few minutes a day, you can start to recall that peace when life becomes busy, scary or confusing.



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