Coping With A New Diagnosis
Last updated: April 2022
Receiving a new medical diagnosis can be shocking. Learning you have a chronic or terminal health condition can feel jarring and emotional. It is normal to feel a range of emotions, from anger to sadness.1-3
Exploring those emotions and finding ways to cope can empower you. Developing positive coping strategies can help you take back control and lead a fulfilling life. Here are some tips to help you move forward in the wake of a new diagnosis.1-3
Allow yourself time to process
An unexpected diagnosis can turn your world upside down. Digesting the news of your disease or condition can bring a flood of emotions. It is okay to feel angry, bitter, guilty, confused, or sad. Allow yourself some time to absorb the news and process what it means for you.1-3
Denial may be part of the process, but ignoring the diagnosis could delay treatment. Give yourself permission to sit with the diagnosis until you can accept the new reality. Some areas of life will return to normal once you get past the initial shock of a diagnosis.1-3
Face your emotions
People experience various stages of grief after a new diagnosis. These include denial, bargaining, anger, and sadness. Facing these emotions can be tough. Remember, intense and painful feelings will eventually pass. Avoiding feelings can increase stress and even slow recovery. Facing your emotions can help you ease your worry and find acceptance as you move toward the next phase of life.1-3
Build a support system
There are many benefits to building a support system. When you build a support network, you can rely on others to help manage your disease in a way that works for you. Surrounding yourself with people you trust can improve mental health. Here are some ways to build support:1-3
Ask for help. You are not a burden. It is okay to ask for help with chores, grocery shopping, rides, and other ordinary tasks. The people who care about you will be happy to help. They will not judge you. Allowing loved ones to help might strengthen the bond between you.
Confide in loved ones. A serious health diagnosis is personal. It can be scary to let others in. Confide in people you love and trust. Toughing it out alone will not benefit you or the people who love you. Chatting with a friend or loved one can ease stress and help boost your mood.
Join a support group. Support groups offer a safe space to talk about what you are going through. Often, you will meet people in a similar situation. People in support groups may be able to provide a different perspective or new coping strategies. Consider in-person and online support groups. Social media also offers a way to connect with peers.
Talk to a professional. Sometimes, loved ones cannot give the support you need. A professional can help you come to terms with your diagnosis and manage your emotions. Consider talking to a counselor, psychologist, or spiritual advisor.
There is truth to the old phrase “knowledge is power.” Becoming an expert on your condition can help you gain some control. When you know what to expect, facing treatments and disease progression can be less overwhelming. Talk to your doctor and ask questions. Ask for trusted medical resources to read.3
Manage your overall health
You may not be able to control aspects of your disease, but you can control other areas of your health. Managing and maintaining your overall health can improve your well-being. Consider:1-3
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Reducing sugar, alcohol, and nicotine consumption
- Trying relaxation and mindfulness techniques
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercise and getting active
Do things you enjoy
Your condition does not define you as a person. You are not your illness. Continue to do enjoyable activities and hobbies that bring you purpose. Doing things that you love can boost your mood and reaffirm your identity. Need some inspiration? Try:1
- Learning something new by taking a class or lessons
- Volunteering for a cause that is important to you
- Spending time in nature
- Exploring the arts
- Reading about things that interest you
- Spending time with friends and family
- Writing, journaling, or blogging
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