When faced with a cancer diagnosis, it can seem sometimes that we don't have any control over what we think or how we feel. But there are a few simple things you can do to help.
One of the best websites we’ve found is provided by the UK charity Macmillan Cancer Support.
The website is called Teen Info on Cancer - check it out.
It’s set up especially for mātātahi (young people) with cancer and has a lot of really useful information and ways for you to connect with others who are going through cancer too. Even though it’s based in the UK, and some treatment plans may vary, the experience of going through cancer is one that we can all understand, no matter where we live.
Exercise is not only good for your physical health, but also your mental health.
What does this mean? Quite simply, exercise is as good as antidepressants in managing and treating mild depression. So if you are feeling well enough, it is good to get moving.
Good food is good for your mood. There is increasing evidence that what we eat affects our mood and is known as the ‘food – mood’ connection. When you are going through treatment for cancer yourself, it can be really hard to eat, so try and nourish yourself as best you can.
Carbohydrates: Glucose from carbohydrates provides the brain with its main source of fuel and without it we can’t think clearly. Though some are better than others. Sugar (including sugary drinks and foods), white pasta and biscuits only give you a short burst of energy, leaving you feeling tired and grumpy when the sugar high wears off. This can make you irritable, anxious, dizzy, experience a lack concentration and aggressiveness. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans and vegetables, are better as they give you sustained energy.
Proteins are vital for good mental health as the messengers in the brain are made from proteins that we eat. Proteins are found in meat, fish and soya products and the body breaks them down to be used as amino acids. If we don't get enough amino acids, we can often experience feelings of depression, apathy, lack of motivation or tension.
Essential fats, found mainly in oily fish, seeds and nuts, cannot be made within the body, so we have to get them from food. Sixty per cent of the brain is made of fat, and the fats we eat directly affect its structure. A lack of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to various mental health problems, including depression and lack of concentration.
Doing good feels good. Scientists have shown that helping other people makes us happy. Research suggests that people who volunteer for causes they care about tend to be happier and healthier.
Helping others does not have to take up much of your time. It can be as simple as sharing your tips and experiences with others who are having a hard time on our online community or volunteering for a cause close to your heart.
Self-esteem is how you think about yourself and the opinion you have of yourself.
Self-esteem can just be down to your own temperament, but sometimes life experiences can have an impact too.
Low self-esteem can be the cause of quite a few problems. You feel bad about yourself, so you get depressed, which makes you feel even worse about yourself, so you get more depressed and it can be difficult to break that cycle. It is important to tackle low self-esteem to boost positive thinking and positive mental wellbeing.
To change your beliefs, you have to understand your negative thoughts. Think about what your negative beliefs are and when you started to feel like this.
Gather evidence to challenge this and write them down so you have a list as evidence when you are feeling down. For example, if you feel you are unattractive, note it down when you receive a compliment from someone that says you look pretty or they like your new haircut.
Write down the things you like about yourself. Think about your best feature; things you have achieved; nice things you have done for other people; skills and talents that you or others have noticed and write all these positive things down. This is good to look back on when you are having a bad day or when you are nervous about something.
Look at the people you have around you and think about how they make you feel. If you are spending a lot of time with someone who makes you feel rubbish, then spend a bit less time with them and more time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
Set yourself a goal or challenge, such as a charity walk or run