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Navigating Anxiety and Depression as a CLL Patient
Posted: Apr 03, 2024
Navigating Anxiety and Depression as a CLL Patient  image

Psychotherapist Ana Sahagun shares insight into ways CLL patients can better identify and navigate signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Watch her presentation or read the summary of the event below. 

Disclaimer: This information is not intended for clinical depression or clinical anxiety and does not constitute mental health treatment. If you need mental health assistance, please contact your healthcare provider. 

Why We Feel Depression and Anxiety 

Both anxiety and depression often have a purpose. Healthy levels of anxiety, although uncomfortable, help us move forward, create a plan, and act. 

A healthy level of sadness helps us digest our feelings when we experience a loss. That is when we go back to the stages of grief, depression is just a part of the process. It helps us emotionally digest what we are going through. After processing the emotion, then we can move forward. 

Stages of Grief

As you work through difficult feelings, treat yourself with compassion, as you would treat a best friend or a loved one. 

Start with Grounding 

Begin with a grounding exercise. Start by noticing the physical sensations around you. If you are sitting, how does the chair feel against your body? How do your feet feel against the floor? Next, notice if you are feeling any emotions (happy, sad, angry, overwhelmed). Try and identify if the emotion is manifesting in a place in your body. Give the emotion a color, a texture, and a name. 

Often when someone feels anxious or depressed, they may feel like they are outside of their body. The grounding exercise helps bring you back to the present moment. 

The Importance of Acknowledging Your Emotions

Are you comfortable with your own emotions, or do you avoid them? If you are uncomfortable with your feelings, a good first step is to talk about them with a close friend, a family member, or another CLL patient (it may be helpful to speak with someone who is going through a similar situation).

Emotions need to be acknowledged and processed. If you do not stop, acknowledge, and work through feelings of anxiety and depression, they are going to keep happening at a higher level. If these emotions are disrupting your life too much, it is recommended to speak with a trained mental health professional to help you.  

“Don’t try to stop anxiety or depression. Rather, observe them using the grounding exercise, and be compassionate with yourself as you would treat a loved one. It is okay for this to be hard because what you are dealing with is not easy. You will feel much better after processing these emotions. If you don’t stop to process them, you will keep showing symptoms of the emotion” Ana Sahagun. 

6-Step Exercise for Navigating Anxiety and Depression 

The following exercise may help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. It does so by focusing on the events that are causing the symptoms, as well as providing you with a compassionate space to feel the emotions, helping you process them. 

  1. Sit somewhere you feel comfortable. 
  2. Write on a piece of paper things contributing to your depression or anxiety. Divide the items into two lists, the things that you can change (also including things you can change with help) and the things that you can’t change. 
  3. Next, in the section on things you can change, write down an action item of what you are going to do about it.  
  4. Assign a person to each of these action items. This may be yourself or a close friend or family member if you need help. 
  5. Place a date and time you are going to work on this action item or when you are going to ask the person to help you with it. When you ask your support system for help, be very clear about what you want.  
  6. For the things you cannot change, the emotions surrounding these events need to be processed. Processing a life event does not mean you need to solve it. You are allowing yourself to feel the emotion which can be hard, but it can help. 

The Benefits of Family Therapy 

If you feel you need help beyond what you are able to process emotionally on your own, Ana recommends family therapy. This is because when a patient is diagnosed, they are not the only ones impacted; family members may also be affected by the news. 

Family therapy provides a space for all those to share their concerns and work towards processing difficult emotions. 

Ask Your Healthcare Facility About Their Psycho-Oncology Program 

If you would like to meet with a mental health specialist for support, ask your healthcare facility if they have a psycho-oncology program. This is mental health care specifically designed for cancer patients. If your facility does not have one, you may be able to search online to find one near you.

Audience Q&A 

During the event, Ana answered several patient questions. Some of these included: 

  • How do you handle friends or family members putting pressure on you to live your life when they don’t understand the constraints of the disease? (Timestamp 29:08)
  • What is the turning point between experiencing healthy levels of anxiety or depression and clinical anxiety or depression? (Timestamp 32:00)
  • How can I find a good balance between sharing things at home with family members and things that should be discussed with a mental health therapist? (Timestamp 37:55) 

To listen to the answers to these questions, we invite you to watch the recording of the event. 

In conclusion, psychotherapist Ana shared ways CLL patients can identify and navigate symptoms of anxiety and depression. If patients need additional support, they are encouraged to seek professional help. 

Securely Connect Your Medical Records to HealthTree Cure Hub 

We invite you to securely connect your medical records to HealthTree Cure Hub by clicking on the button below. Doing so will allow you to start participating in research, and give you first access to upcoming free programs Track My Disease, a personalized clinical trial finder, and more. We look forward to providing all HealthTree Cure Hub features to the CLL Community, as we have over 12,000 multiple myeloma patients.

Securely Connect My Medical Records to HealthTree Cure Hub

The author Megan Heaps

about the author
Megan Heaps

Megan joined HealthTree in 2022. As a writer and the daughter of a blood cancer patient, she is dedicated to helping patients and their caregivers understand the various aspects of their disease. This understanding enables them to better advocate for themselves and improve their treatment outcomes. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family. 

Thanks to our HealthTree Community for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Sponsors:

Abbvie
Genentech

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