Depending on the study and the severity of symptoms assessed, rates of depression in cancer patients can be as high as 60%. So, how do you deal with it if depression comes your way?
The Initial Self Assessment
First things first. It is important to distinguish between the expected down feelings that might accompany a cancer diagnosis and the diagnosis of clinical depression, also referred to as major depression. If you are experiencing the symptoms of clinical depression, you should get advice from your healthcare provider or mental health professional to figure out appropriate next steps.
What to Do About Depression
When you are depressed, it is really hard to think of any positives in the sea of negatives. (If you just thought to yourself, "What the heck do I have to be positive about?" then I am talking to you!) You may think that nothing you can do is going to give you any relief; you may not have the energy to try anyway.
If your depressed, sad or demoralized feelings are not at the level that require professional attention, some of the self-help tips below may be worth trying.
Communicate with people who love and support you. They just might understand what you are going through more than you know, and I am sure they would love to give you a helping hand. Sometimes it feels better just to "unload some baggage," and sometimes saying things out loud helps you come to a conclusion or realize that something that was troubling you wasn’t worth it after all.
Exercise your blues away. Studies have proven that exercise can be a great reliever of stress and symptoms of depression. Easier said than done, however. It can be hard to go and exercise when you can’t even imagine getting out of bed in the morning.
Try some new stress relief and relaxation techniques.
Listen to guided imagery recordings to take a mini-vacation from your worries. These help you relieve some tension and also help you focus on positive images. They might also get you some much-needed rest!
Keep yourself and your mind busy. Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read? A movie you’ve heard great things about? A fun and lively friend you haven’t seen in a while? Keeping your mind busy and focused on other things can help you get distracted from things that are weighing you down.
Push yourself to see the glass as half full, even if it seems ridiculous. Focusing on what is still ahead of you instead of what you have lost will eventually make its way into your daily thinking.
Give yourself a break. A blood cancer diagnosis is rough. Really, really rough. It’s okay to let yourself feel down and sad from time to time. The point is to find ways to get yourself out of your low spot once you are there. Reward yourself for the little steps you are taking to help you put depression behind you.
Join a group of people like yourself. Nobody on the planet understands what you are going through like someone else going through it, too! Check out local or online support groups. If you read back to the first paragraph of this article, you will see that you are NOT alone.
Summing It Up
When you are depressed it may seem like nothing will help you get out of your despair. While it might be true that none of these activities will cure you of your troubles, it may provide you with even just a short period of relief from sadness.
Remember: If you meet the criteria for a more significant clinical depression, you need to consult a doctor who can help you figure out additional steps to get the appropriate treatment.
Price, L. “Depression and anxiety associated with cancer” in Stern, T., Sekeres, M. (2004) Facing Cancer. McGraw- Hill: New York. (pp. 291- 298).
Snyderman, D., Wynn, D. “Depression in Cancer Patients” Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice 2009. 36:703-719.
Schwenk, T. “Cancer and Depression” Primary Care June, 1998. 25: 505-513.