For many (if not most) people, medical illness is very stressful. People usually think of the physical symptoms of illness like pain, fatigue, and nausea. However, medical problems can have a big impact on emotional well-being as well. These negative emotions can negatively impact your quality of life, make it difficult to pay attention to information from your doctor, and generally add to the burden of having an illness. Experiencing these emotions is normal and does not mean you are weak or unable to handle your illness. 

People experience the emotional impact of medical illness in different ways. Some people feel nervous or anxious and find that worrying thoughts run through their minds constantly. Other people feel sad, blue, or depressed. They may have difficulty enjoying positive moments, including the activities they used to enjoy. 

You should always tell your doctor about the negative emotions you are experiencing. Your doctor may recommend a medication. Many people also benefit from talking with a social worker or psychologist about ways to manage their difficult emotions.

There are also techniques you can try on your own to help manage difficult emotions. These techniques help reduce distress and can be used anywhere like at work, home, or during social activities. Here is a list of four techniques that you can use:

  1. Deep breathing

Deep breathing helps reduce rapid breathing and a racing heart. It also helps people feel calm and relaxed. Deep breathing is a simple strategy that can be used anywhere. Click here for more information on deep breathing exercises. The video above also provides a description of deep breathing.

  1. Muscle relaxation

Muscle relaxation helps reduce muscle tension caused by difficult emotions. Click here for more information on a muscle relaxation exercise. Click here for an audio recording of muscle relaxation exercises with background music and without background music.

  1. Guided imagery

Guided imagery exercises consist of imagining or focusing on a specific image or scene, such as a relaxing beach. These exercises help you focus your mind on a calm place or object to help you feel relaxed. The key to guided imagery is to make it as real as possible. Click here for more information on guided imagery. Click here for audio recordings of guided imagery exercises with background music and without background music.

  1. Mindfulness

Difficult emotions often emerge because we are worrying about the past or the future. Mindfulness helps address negative emotions by focusing your attention on the present moment. Click here for more information on mindfulness.