If you have cancer, your life has been turned upside down. Not only do cancer and its treatments affect your body in serious physical ways, they also can challenge your self-image and self-esteem, your relationships and even your spiritual beliefs and values.
How you cope from day to day is a personal decision. Only you know best what you need to find balance, comfort and strength. You might, for example, meditate, pray, exercise, do yoga, take nature walks, play or listen to music and spend quality time alone, with pets or with loved ones.
To these wellness practices, consider adding another: journaling.
There are times when written words can heal. For example, you might find yourself unable to fully share your feelings with others out of a need to be strong for them. Or maybe you don’t think others would understand or sympathize with what you’re going through. Or you are continually haunted by such questions as “Why do I have cancer?” “How am I going to get through this?” and “Will I survive?”
Even if you don’t think of yourself a writer, journaling can help you tap into feelings of guilt, anger, fear, doubt and sadness, and help you get some perspective on them. In turn, that understanding can reduce your stress, which is a vital part of getting well.
“Writing is a way to make sense out of the chaos of emotions that accompanies a cancer diagnosis, “ says writer and educator Sharon Bray, Ed.D., who facilitates writing workshops for people with cancer. “When we begin to put our thoughts and feelings into words, on paper, they are less overwhelming…. In that way, it’s very similar to therapy, only we’re writing in the privacy of our journals.”
Bray personally knows about journaling’s healing effects. A self-described “avid journaler” throughout her adult years, she found that writing greatly helped her deal with the sudden accidental death of her husband 30 years ago. She knew journaling would similarly aid her when she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2000. “I was in shock and denial,” she says. “Writing opened the door for me to acknowledge, question and ultimately come to terms with what it meant for my life going forward.”
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