A sudden or unexpected health event – such as a heart attack, cancer diagnosis or serious injury – can change your life in many ways. Suddenly, you are thrust into a situation where you have to deal with what has happened physically as well as mentally.

It’s normal to have mixed emotions when your receive a diagnosis. Initially you will likely be feeling overwhelmed and distressed. You might also feel confused about why this has happened to you and a little betrayed by your body or the events that brought you here. And above all, you may be stressed – worried if and when you will recover, how you’ll manage your finances or if the event might happen again.

While most of these feelings pass with time, unfortunately the ongoing stress and trauma can put you at risk of anxiety and depression. If you already experience a mental health condition, symptoms might only become worse. 

To help you cope during this difficult time, here are some tips that you can try to keep yourself mentally healthy.

  • Talk. Bottling up emotions doesn’t end well. Don’t be afraid to express how you feel about the changes in your life. Whether you reach out to family, friends, your doctor or another health professional, sharing your worries and frustrations can help identify steps that might address your concerns.
  • Be social. Spend time with people who make you feel good and let them know how they can support you. There’s also nothing wrong with letting people know if you don’t need advice right now and just need someone to listen.
  • Give yourself time to adjust. It’s likely this event has been a big change in your life. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect any miracles. At first, it could feel like nothing will get better but over time, you will find ways to cope and things that work for you to feel like yourself again.
  • Learn from past experiences. Think about previous times in your life where you have had to deal with hardship or change. What helped you cope then (and what didn’t)? How can you apply those strategies now?
  • Join a support group. If you’re tired of trying to explain to people what you’re going through, joining a support group might be a way to connect with others. You could learn from people who are in a similar situation to yourself and share your experiences. Your health professional can help put you in touch with a group in your area or you can join an online forum.
  • Treat yourself. Do things you enjoy. Giving yourself time to relax can help reduce stress and relieve tension. Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to relax your mind and body.
  • Keep to the basics. Maintaining a balanced diet, sleeping well, and (if possible) getting regular exercise can make all the difference to a speedy recovery. Doing these things can also work to help keep your mind in check.

Serious health events are an unfortunate part of life. It's important to remember that nobody is expecting you to be superhuman through the ordeal - embrace and expect a range of emotions. It's also important to remember the Beyond Blue Support Service is here for you if you need immediate support.

Related reading: Finding a GP that can help with mental health issues

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