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Coping with Cancer: The Power of Pen & Paper

Posted on June 6, 2014

writing

For many people dealing with a cancer diagnosis, it’s not only the management of your health but also coping with the roller coaster of emotions that can be difficult. Here’s a healthy idea: keep a journal.

Besides helping you navigate that roller coaster ride, research shows that privately expressing your deepest thoughts and feelings can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Boost your thinking ability
  • Increase memory
  • Reduce pain, tension and fatigue
  • Improve mood and quality of sleep
  • Strengthen immune cells (T-lymphocytes) 

Writing helps us deal with adversity, even for people who don’t like to write. Talking about concerns is helpful but by putting things down in black and white, those concerns become more real and that helps us to better discern how we feel about them. It helps us to accept what has happened, and to see what we’re dealing with in a clearer light. By being more in touch with our innermost feelings, we gain better control of problems, while helping to release the negative effects of stress generated from those problems. Writing about sadness and anger also helps lessen the intensity of those feelings.

Try this: Take 20 minutes a day to jot down your thoughts and emotions – no editing allowed. Forget about spelling and punctuation. Write about whatever has you feeling chaotic and cluttered. This will not only help clarify your thoughts, but also help you feel calmer and more in control. Date each entry. This gives you a chance to look back over your entries to see how things are improving and realize the inner strength you may not have even known you had.

To have the most positive impact on your mental and physical well-being, privacy is key. No one is going to censor this, so be honest and candid. Just vent.

Of course, there are many blogs and websites available to make your journal more public, if that’s your preference (Caring Bridge, Care Pages, etc.). These sites are especially good for keeping you connected with others you don’t routinely see, and also saves you from having to repeat your updates. The amount of emotion you share is up to you. But having an old-fashioned journal in play keeps our deeper personal thoughts and feelings private, and likely allows you to be more honest with yourself.

Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have questions or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help! 

One Response to “Coping with Cancer: The Power of Pen & Paper”

  1. I believe that our emotions are equally or more powerful than our physical symptoms. It’s important to acknowledge our feelings (especially powerful/negative ones), get them out by writing or talking or (insert the way you best express you), letting the light of day shine on them, process and move through them. If we get stuck, that when it’s time to call in a professional mental health practitioner. Hey, what wrong with a little Zoloft or Xanax once in a while anyway. We’re fighting cancer for goodness sake. This is the fight of our lives and no one has more at stake than us.

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