Ten Ways to Better Cope with Disease


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When the devastating news of a chronic or terminal disease such as cancer is communicated by a doctor, a patient often experiences extreme shock, trauma, even denial.  Denial is a natural emotional response that patients display until they are ready to cope with, and eventually accept imminent life changes.

There is no “normal” amount of time a patient should spend in the state of disbelief. However, once a patient passes through this natural phase, the following tips on ways to cope with disease may assist in working through the process of disease acceptance.

  1. Understand that patients experience a plethora of overwhelming emotions during this time, so it is important to maintain involvement with supportive and loving family and friends.
  2. Seek the assistance of a qualified professional mental health counselor for individual and family therapy, in light of concern that the family is also feeling the pain of the diagnosis.
  3. Learn about the diagnosis and accepted treatment protocols through books, articles, journals or websites.
  4. Maintain a regular routine of appropriate diet and exercise.
  5. Practice meditation during time alone to assist in coping with anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, and confusion.
  6. Utilize stress management exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep abdominal breathing, and visualization.
  7. Continue to maintain involvement in activities that are pleasurable, and provide social interaction.
  8. Invite a close friend or relative to medical appointments to assist in expressing and retrieving important medical information related to the disease.
  9. Engage in spiritual or religious practices that will assist in working toward acceptance of the disease.
  10. Learn the “Radical Acceptance” technique, a mindful approach to healing emotional pain, through “clear seeing and compassion.”  Clinical psychologist Tara Brach is a renowned author on this topic.  Her book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of Buddha, is a great resource for the radical acceptance technique.

Laura Greenlee, PhD, NCC, LPC


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