When you go to the hospital, doctors and nurses are focused on treating your body. Though there are starting to be more support services, you still may have to be the one to take care of your emotions. How can you take control of your emotional health in the face of a stressful health challenge?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Communication

Patients, parents, friends and family dealing with chronic illness say that uncertainty is one of the most stressful aspects of their experience. What will happen? What will the future look like? What procedures, timeframes, limitations and life changes should everyone expect?

Good communication can help minimize the impact of this uncertainty.  How? When you have information, share it. When there truly is uncertainty, expressing how difficult this is ensures, at least, that no one feels alone in his or her uncertainty. If you need help communicating your needs, hopes, and fears, consider expressing your emotions in a journal as a way to practice sharing these feelings with people you trust.

  1. Commitment, Control and Challenge

Psychologists have identified the following Three C’s of emotional Strength: Commitment means staying with the process rather than walling yourself off from it, sticking with what you are feeling or experiencing and then working through it; Control means continuing to try to take charge of your experience, including the attitude you adopt while doing so; Challenge means viewing the situation as an opportunity for learning—training our attention to notice blessings in the midst of a storm can do wonders for our emotional health.

  1. Get Help

There may be parts of your emotional health that you can’t handle on your own. Just like you use a medical doctor to support your physical health, it may be worth looking into working with a psychologist, counselor or other mental health professional to support your or your loved one’s emotional health.  If you find yourself struggling or you’re watching your loved one struggle, understand that feeling overwhelmed is normal. There are people who can help you. Consider working with a professional who is trained to support your emotional health.

Kristi Pikiewicz
Dr. Pikiewicz earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. She completed pre-doctoral training at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center in Ojai, CA, and her post-doctoral internship at the Boulder Institute for Psychotherapy and Research. At both sites, Dr. Pikiewicz worked with a range of adult, adolescent and child clients in individual, couple, family and group settings. She also holds a B.S. in environmental science from Allegheny College and a teaching credential from Western Washington University.