How Do You Cope With a Concerning Medical Diagnosis?

Maybe you have had the dreadful suspicion that something has been wrong for a while. Or, perhaps, you went in for a routine physical, and the doctor found a suspicious lump that you didn’t even know was there.

Regardless of the circumstances, receiving scary medical news isn’t easy. It’s reasonable to feel afraid, angry, or confused. It’s also normal to find yourself asking lots and lots of questions about what to expect- and what you need to do next.

Let’s get how to cope with a concerning medical diagnosis.

Give Yourself Some Time

The results are in, and the doctor dropped the news. So now, what are you supposed to do with this information?

At first, the best step may be to do nothing at all. Try to avoid making rash or large decisions right now. You might not be thinking rationally. Instead, take some time to work through some of your intense emotions.

Remember that accepting a concerning medical diagnosis doesn’t usually happen overnight. It’s common to deny or minimize the problem. On the other hand, it’s also common to catastrophize the worst-case scenario. Neither of these approaches will be helpful in balancing your emotions.

Accepting the news doesn’t meanĀ likingĀ the news. It simply means recognizing that it’s your current reality.

Try to Stick with Your Routine

Routines have many benefits, and sticking with one can help you feel more grounded during this frightening time. As much as you can (and with your doctor’s permission), aim to maintain a sense of consistency and structure in your daily life.

Of course, following this routine may feel easier on some days than on others. On hard days, you might want to lie in bed and give up trying altogether. It’s okay if this happens from time to time- but if it becomes a daily habit, it may take a significant toll on your well-being.

From a mental health standpoint, it’s much more beneficial to stay engaged with your everyday life, even if it entails cutting back or making modifications.

Integrate More Relaxation and Mindfulness

Stress is a normal reaction to a scary medical diagnosis, but excess tension can exacerbate unwanted symptoms. Subsequently, learning how to manage stress will likely be a crucial part of your treatment.

If you don’t already meditate, now might be a good time to start implementing this practice. As a beginner, you can start by simply taking deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed. If your mind drifts, gently shift your attention back to your breath.

You might also consider other coping skills rooted in relaxation and mindfulness, such as:

  • yoga.
  • tai chi.
  • journaling.
  • gardening.
  • single-task mindfulness (focusing on one task or chore at a time without any external distractions)
  • guided imagery or visualization.

Stay Connected with Your Treatment Team

Are you staying up until 3:00 am Googling your symptoms? Are you prone to doom-scrolling through horror stories of other people diagnosed with the same condition?

The Internet makes information instantaneously accessible, but this limitless information comes at a steep cost. A few wrong turns can spread misinformation and keep you feeling terrified.

Instead of turning to Google, reach out to your treatment team when you have questions or concerns. They are there to provide you with accurate, objective information.

If you don’t feel heard or respected, seek out a second opinion. You have every right to advocate for yourself during this process.

Ask Loved Ones for Support and Help

Your friends and family are here for you. But many times, people withdraw because they don’t know what to say or do. They worry about making things worse.

Unfortunately, this pattern can be frustrating for everyone. You need their support and love, but they aren’t sure how to “make things better.” To mitigate awkwardness or pulling away, consider how you can be more direct with loved ones.

For example, can you ask a friend if they can babysit once a week? Would your sister be willing to act as moral support at your doctor appointments? Is a neighbor able to grab your mail? Can another friend send you funny videos randomly to cheer you up?

People often thrive when they’re given specific tasks. This strategy removes the guesswork and allows them to focus on helping you get things done.

Consider Starting Therapy

It’s challenging to cope with a scary medical diagnosis. Navigating this uncharted territory can be frightening. Remember that you are allowed to feel whatever emotions arise, even if you don’t entirely understand them.

Therapy can help you untangle your feelings and provide you with a safe outlet to share your fears and struggles. Even if we can’t change the specific circumstances, we can work on improving your outlook and mental well-being.

I am here to support you during this vulnerable time. Contact me today to get started.


4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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