Feeling low or depressed is an understandable response to difficult and distressing life circumstances.
You may experience fleeting low mood for example when something goes wrong at home or if you feel too unwell to go to something you had planned to do. In these situations, it is very normal to feel sad, down and/or disappointed. Most of the time, you are likely to have ways of dealing with these feelings so that you can get on with your life as usual – you might chat with a friend, or attempt to keep busy to distract yourself.
Sometimes, low mood can become a bigger problem – the feelings of low mood are there most of the time, nearly every day. You may start to notice that you feel down, depressed or hopeless and are not enjoying activities that you used to get pleasure from; you might feel like you want to hide away from the world, feel tired more frequently; have difficulties sleeping; feel irritable; notice changes in your appetite. With a diagnosis of cancer, you might not be able to do the things you used to do in the way you used to, and so you may stop altogether.
Some common negative thoughts:
While it is understandable that you may feel down at times, ongoing low mood is not an inevitable part of living with cancer. There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself and many places you can access support to tackle low mood.
It is useful to see low mood as our mind and body’s way of telling us that what we’ve been doing to try and make ourselves feel better isn’t enough – it’s a signal that it’s time to make some changes and can be an opportunity to get some extra support.
For example, when you feel low in mood, it is common to stop meeting with people you would usually have seen or to stop activities you would usually have enjoyed. This might be caused by worries about having to explain the situation with your diagnosis or concern about how other people might react. You might feel that avoiding others will be helpful, because you are worried about “dragging other people down”. However, in the long-run, avoiding people you used to meet will simply give you fewer opportunities for meaningful or pleasant experiences that could help you feel better. It will also reduce the amount of support you can access from other people. It becomes a vicious circle.
There are many types of vicious circles like this one, which can keep you feeling low. The first step towards change is to do something different to tackle the low mood/depression – research has shown that one of the best things to do is to set yourself some small goals to do things in spite of feeling low rather than waiting to feel better first. The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood you will feel more low.
Please read our patient information leaflets below to find out further information about how you could “start doing” more in your life to help overcome your low mood.
A key example that can improve mood for most people is exercise. Increasing exercise (even on a low level) has benefits for both our physical and mental health. It can help you to feel better and help you to get back in control of your life.
Some common positive thoughts: