Receiving a life-changing diagnosis can be scary. But once you’ve told your loved ones the news, made it through all the doctor’s appointments and finished your treatment, what happens next?
The trauma of disease alters your life dramatically. Normal routine is disrupted, your priorities shift and relationships with family and friends may change. Now that you’ve completed your treatment, you may also feel a sense of sadness at having lost contact with the team of people who helped you through your illness.
Suddenly, you’re on your own without the support of a medical team or care network. It can be a vulnerable, fearful and isolating time. You may feel like you’ve lost touch with yourself during your illness or that you now lack identity and purpose.
But although it may be hard to reintegrate into your old life, it is possible. Consider these 15 tips for post-treatment wellbeing.
- Be kind to yourself. You have been through a lot, but self-compassion is the key to emotional and psychological healing.
- Eat healthily. This means cutting down on the things that stress the body, like sugar, salt and fat, and adding a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet.
- Get enough sleep. We spend about a third of our lives asleep, and for good reason: our bodies repair themselves and replenish our energy stores while we sleep.
- Whether you practice mindfulness or unwind with a good book, getting enough rest will help you function at your best.
- People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of many chronic diseases and lower levels of stress, depression and low mood.
- Accept your feelings. It is normal to feel a range of emotions after finishing treatment – including anger. Try to find constructive ways to release these feelings and they should soon diminish.
- Spend time in nature. Many studies have investigated the link between nature and wellbeing and found countless benefits, including lowered blood pressure, better sleep, improved immune system function and lower rates of stress and depression.
- Ask for help. Just because you have completed your treatment doesn’t mean you are healed emotionally. Don’t be afraid to ask for support if you need it!
- See a counsellor. If you are struggling, reflecting on your journey with a specialist can help you find new perspectives and come to terms with everything that’s happened.
- Take one day at a time. The future is always uncertain, but coming to terms with that will help you focus your energy on the things you value most.
- Avoid unnecessary stress. Being aware of your fears and stressors will help you avoid the negativity that does nothing to help you on your journey.
- Make positive plans. Now is a great time to make plans for the future, creating new, happy memories.
- Your survival – and your life so far – is worth celebrating. Enjoy yourself!
- Practice gratitude. Research has shown that recognising everything you have to be grateful for improves resilience and mental strength, and plays a major role in overcoming trauma.
- Remember that your ‘old life’ isn’t the only option. You don’t have to become who you were before your diagnosis. A life-changing condition is just that: an opportunity to create the life you want, whether that involves a change of career, a better work–life balance or a new hobby.