Building resilience with breast cancer - Latest news • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

Building resilience with breast cancer

Resilience is something you may have heard about in the last few years as we recognise the importance of looking after our mental health. It’s the ability to effectively deal with difficult situations, such as illness or grief, and where we draw on our skills and strengths to cope with life’s challenges. Resilient people are able to keep going in hard times, bounce back from challenges, and adapt to changing and difficult circumstances. Essentially, they are able to thrive when times are tough.

Those who have breast cancer, or who have been through it, know just how hard the journey can be. Being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment is a stressful experience and many people may be anxious about breast cancer returning once they’ve finished treatment. A diagnosis of breast cancer also brings sudden and dramatic life changes that people may feel are out of their control.

So it’s no surprise that building resilience brings many benefits for cancer patients. People who are more optimistic and hopeful for the future, and those who have strong support systems and positive coping styles, are better able to demonstrate resilience and experience personal growth after a cancer diagnosis. Resilience also has a big impact on quality of life for breast cancer patients, such as reporting less severe side effects from treatment, improved body image and a more optimistic outlook on life.

Building resilience is an on-going process that you can adapt to whatever life throws your way. To get you started, here are three techniques to add to your toolkit:

Boost positive emotions

Positive emotions, like contentment, hope and gratitude, have been found to reduce cortisol – the stress hormone – and gratitude is a major contributor to resilience. Recognising joyful moments each day can make people feel more satisfied with their life, boost their self-esteem, and help them build new friendships. Focusing on the good can be done through practicing mindfulness, keeping a gratitude journal and focusing on the parts of your life that you can control.

Avoid thinking traps

Thinking traps are patterns of thoughts – usually negative – that prevent us from seeing things as they actually are. Some examples of thinking traps are overgeneralising, catastrophizing, jumping to conclusions or predicting the worst case scenario.

Use the stoplight strategy

It can be difficult to make good decisions when we’re stressed. The stoplight strategy can help you to slow down and consider your options before deciding anything.

  1. Stop and name the emotion you’re experiencing
  2. Take perspective and consider your best options or course of action
  3. Proceed mindfully