A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Channeling your thoughts for a healthy response

Multiple gears illustrationCancer’s affects can go far beyond the physical – often taking a toll on mental health, as well. It doesn’t have to.

Oncologists – doctors who treat cancer – have long been aware of cancer’s challenging emotional aspects, but this dimension of the patient’s experience often became secondary in the wake of treatment for the disease itself. This is changing.

A new focus for a healthy response

Partnering with health psychologists, oncologists now can give greater attention to your emotional and psychosocial needs and provide a new dimension to your care.

Attention to mental health and wellbeing has many positive benefits for your overall health and successful navigation through cancer treatment. Undergoing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can help you better manage the difficult emotions often experienced during cancer treatment.

Learn to respond rather than react

Cognitive therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which you learn to become more aware of your thoughts, particularly those that are negative or anxiety provoking thoughts. Treatment is focused on helping you notice and challenge such thoughts and in turn, learn to view difficult situations from a more neutral perspective.

Mindfulness practice focuses on increasing your awareness of the present and emphasizes acceptance or paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judging them as right or wrong, good or bad.

By decreasing your tendency toward thinking emotionally laden thoughts, mindfulness increases your ability to respond versus react to difficult thoughts, emotions and situations. Using this approach, you learn to develop a new relationship with devastating or negative thoughts and decrease the power such thoughts may have in your mind.

Many patients with cancer or other serious illness have found value in these and other psychological services.

If you’re interested in understanding more about health psychology services, talk to your oncologist, oncology social worker or local survivorship coordinator for referral information.

*This post submitted by Jennifer Michels, Ph.D.

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