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Your Emotions and Feelings

Mother and daughter talking
Credit: iStock

Coping with a brain or spine tumor diagnosis can cause a variety of emotions that can affect the way you think and feel. Positive coping strategies may help you get through each day so you can continue to live fully. By checking in and managing your thoughts, stress and feelings, you can cope with your emotions in a healthy way.

Checking In

Checking in with yourself is asking yourself questions about what you need and want. By doing this throughout the day, you can manage how you feel in any moment. If you feel anger, anxiety, or stress, checking in with yourself may help you feel calmer.

Steps to Check In with Yourself

  • Find a quiet area where you can focus.
  • Be still. Tune into your thoughts.
  • Ask yourself the following questions:
    • How am I feeling?
    • What is causing these feelings?
    • What do I need in this moment to manage how I feel?
    • Is there tension anywhere in my body that I can release?
  • Have a list of coping techniques available to manage your feelings. This may include deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, taking a walk, being still, or listening to music.

Checking in with yourself is being mindful of what your body is telling you. The more you check in with yourself, the more aware you’ll be that you need a break. Sometimes, rest and quiet time is all you need to feel rejuvenated.  

Resources

Managing Thoughts

A brain or spine tumor can affect how you think about situations and your ability to cope. You may feel negative or angry because of your diagnosis. You may feel isolated or depressed because you’re unable to relate to the people around you. You may also feel anxious about taking part in social activities.

Strategies to help you manage your thoughts and feelings can help you stay positive and live your life. Positive thoughts can also help alleviate many symptoms you may experience.

Tips to Manage Thoughts

  • Seek out a local or online support group to connect with others.
  • Focus on the present moment and what you can control.
  • Try not to compare your current self to your past self.
  • See if you can replace negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, instead of saying, “I will never get better,”  say, “I will have ups and downs, but all I can do is take things day by day, doing my best to manage my symptoms as they come.”
  • Surround yourself with friends and family that can help you stay positive. If you feel lonely, call on them for support.
  • Try to challenge any unhelpful thoughts.
    • What evidence do you have for your thoughts?
    • Can you look at the situation from a different perspective?
    • What advice would you give a friend experiencing this thought? Take your own advice.
  • Express yourself creatively through writing, art therapy, or an adult coloring book.
  • Stop when you have overwhelming thoughts and take a deep breath. Make a list of things you’re grateful for.
  • Be aware of your thoughts and how they can make you feel. Tune into them and note how they can guide you to take control and feel better. If you need to, find a mental health professional (a therapist, counselor, or psychologist) to talk to about your concerns and worries.

For months after surgery, I shut down mentally. Simple tasks like getting out of bed to brush my teeth or to take a shower were challenging. Talking with other patients helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.

 Dunamis, PNET Survivor

Resources

Managing Feelings

Challenges with your feelings can arise with a diagnosis of a brain or spine tumor. It’s common to feel nervous about your treatments or worried about your outcome.

Managing your emotions can help you shift the way you think, behave, and react to situations in a healthy way. Use these tips to manage your feelings and take control of your life.

Tips to Manage Your Feelings

  • Try to change how you look at things to help your outlook. If you can, change negative thoughts to positive thoughts.
  • Create a coping skills box filled with things that make you feel like yourself again. For example, you can add a journal, pictures that make you smile, puzzles, adult coloring books, cards with positive or funny quotes, or a stuffed animal.
  • Pay attention to what triggers negative feelings. Think about ways you can avoid those triggers.
  • Learn to recognize extreme emotions or thoughts. For example, feeling that you are never going to have something good happen to you is extreme. Work to change your thoughts.

One of the most important things you can do for your mental health is being able to recognize when you’re not yourself. When you don’t find joy in the things you used to or you feel overwhelmed or burned out, it may help to take an active approach to manage your feelings. But if you need to, find a therapist to talk to about your thoughts and emotions. Doing so may help you understand and work through your feelings.

Face whatever challenge is in front of you mindfully. Find the positive. You will have moments of disappointment, depression, anger, and sadness. But accept them, let them go again and get support.

José, Midline Glioma Tumor Survivor

Resources

Managing Stress

A brain or spine tumor diagnosis can lead to many emotions, including stress, feeling uncertain about the future, role changes, and feeling vulnerable. Stress interferes with our ability to both think and act clearly. This can be harmful to your physical health and could also affect relationships with people close to you.  

Relaxation and stress-relieving techniques can help ease anxiety about your diagnosis or treatment. If you can, use these techniques daily.

Tips to Manage Stress

  • Do breathing exercises. One easy one to try is Square Breathing.
    • Imagine a square. For each breath, imagine yourself moving along each side of your square. Start on one “side” and inhale for four seconds, hold at the top for four seconds, exhale on the next “side” for four seconds, then hold at the bottom for four seconds.
Square breathing technique to help with stress
  • Write in a journal to express stressful emotions and feelings.
  • Make a list of goals, write a positive message to yourself at the end of each day, or list out steps you can take to resolve any concerns.
  • Meditate for five to ten minutes.
    • Use an app or practice sitting in a quiet room to free your thoughts.
  • Build your support network.
    • Cancer support groups can be helpful, but also explore church groups, exercise groups, and book clubs.
    • You can also spend time with friends or family members. Meet friends for coffee or games, visit with family, or use online resources.
  • Talk to a friend or loved one.
  • Assign tasks to those who offer help. For example, driving, cooking meals, cleaning your house, or providing child or elder care.
  • Set small goals and reward yourself for completing them. For example, doing physical therapy exercises for the day can be rewarded.

Remember that as different stressors arise, your levels of stress will vary. Find the ways to reduce stress that work for you and that you can stick with. Doing so may improve your health and wellness. But always talk with your doctor or therapist if you feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression.

I live my life everyday happy. I try to stay positive during bad situations. When negative things happen around me, I fight it with positive thinking. I don’t let negative situations ruin my day. I work around my problems and do things to occupy my mind to relieve the stress, like volunteering to speak to others..

Anonymous, PXA Survivor

Resources

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