Let’s talk about....Feelings.
I know what you’re thinking.. How very predictable for a psychologist to want to talk about feelings….
Well, feelings are important. But this blog is more about you being able to get other people to understand where you are at. (I will take on coping with your feelings next time!)
Many young people who live with cancer in their worlds often talk about a whole bunch of feelings that come and go from time to time. Sometimes they find these manageable, and sometimes feel like they are big enough to swallow them whole.
These feelings can (and probably will) include; anger, sadness, happiness, fear, hatred, desperation, uncertainty, overwhelmed, anxiety, depression, hostility, confusion, worry, anger, shame, distress, and have I mentioned anger?
(Btw, this is by no means an exhaustive list….I am sure there are many more that might be going through your head right now!)
Part of the challenge of coping with these feelings is
a) being able to manage them in your world, and
b) making the other people in your world understand them.
When people are under emotional stress they are less likely to be rational and calm, so it might be that the people around you (family, friends, the dog…) are seeing a side of you that they haven’t seen before. For example, if you are normally really outgoing and talkative, and all of a sudden you are really quiet and introspective, they may not know how to handle this. Or, if you are snapping and loosing your temper without warning, they may just leave you alone!
As a general rule, if people don’t understand what’s happening for you, its very hard for them to give you what you need, and unfortunately you will find that some people in your world wont be nearly as supportive as you thought they would be.
So, here are some ideas and strategies to let people know where you are at, so that you can get what you need emotionally….
- Don’t wait until you are angry, upset, or distressed to talk to people. At these times, you are likely to say things that you don’t mean, and will probably be quite unproductive. Instead, if you know that you are feeling angry, let the person know that you are feeling angry and that you need some time to chill out before you talk about anything. Resist the urge to get into a big argument, it will probably be pretty unproductive and just cause you more stress.
- When talking to people, phrase things so that they are about you….For instance, “I am having trouble managing the worries about my mum’s cancer” instead of “You don’t understand what it’s like for me”. It just means that the person will see what you are saying from your perspective rather than automatically feeling attacked that they aren’t doing the right thing.
- Give them solutions. This allows people to feel like they are doing something. So, you could say to them, when “I feel scared, the thing that makes me feel better is for you to give me a hug” or “I am really stressed about having to go into school all the time to pick up my school work, are you able to collect it for me?” This allows your people to have a role in what is happening for you, and can reduce your stress levels.
- Let people know what the game rules are. You wouldn’t start playing monopoly without knowing the rules, and this is a similar idea. Things generally work better if everyone knows where they stand. So if you can say to people, “When I am angry, I will let you know and I would like you to leave me alone” then it is really clear for them, and they won’t take it personally!
- Everyone copes differently, and even on different days you will feel differently, so make sure you communicate well with everyone around you. If you feel like you aren’t doing it well, perhaps a good plan is to contact a counsellor to help you come up with some strategies.
So, next time…..we are tackling the big deal….coping with your feelings…. (I thought I would just ease you into it!)