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For women with breast cancer, the mental battles brought on by their health condition are just as challenging to overcome as the physical obstacles. Unfortunately, the changes to their body image take a toll on their self-esteem and confidence. Here are 10 simple ways to boost the morale of women with breast cancer.

According to studies, the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer both have a negative psychological impact on patients. The physical changes that women experience, which may involve surgery scars, weight loss or gain, skin changes, hair loss or regrowth, can change the way they feel about their body, affecting their confidence or self-esteem.

In general, self-esteem refers to the value we place on ourselves as individuals and describes how we think and feel about ourselves. While satisfying experiences and accomplishments can raise self-esteem, stressful or unpleasant ones can lower confidence.

According to Breast Cancer Now (BCN), changes to body image, through surgery or other treatment side effects such as hair loss, lymphoedema, and weight changes, can have a huge impact on how you feel about yourself, leaving women "feeling less feminine or unattractive."

"A sense of uncertainty and loss of control can also affect your self-esteem. You might suddenly go from being an independent person, whether you’re working or being a full-time mother or carer, to being a vulnerable patient," said BCN.

“Low self-esteem has a significant impact on your daily activities and mood. When you have breast cancer, it's common to feel depressed and anxious. Many people also experience a loss of motivation and self-confidence,” it added, explaining that others “refrain from engaging in activities that they would usually do, such as seeing friends, going to social gatherings, or even engaging in hobbies or work.” 

Know that there are resources available to assist you in adapting and adjusting over time if you're experiencing discomfort in your body. It's critical to constantly remind yourself that making these changes will help you fight cancer and improve your chances of surviving. 

Self-esteem improvement can be difficult and frequently requires time and effort. However, there are some straightforward actions you can take each day to boost your self-esteem. Here are 10 simple ways to help women with breast cancer regain their confidence. 

1. CELEBRATE THE SMALL THINGS

Positive thinking can help us lift our spirits and break negative thought patterns. At the end of each day, try writing down a few encouraging things. Consider recent events, a possible action you took, or a compliment you were given. These things can alter your mood for the better. 

2. SET YOURSELF A CHALLENGE

Perhaps you want to pick up an old hobby again or learn a new skill. Establish a doable plan and a reasonable deadline for yourself. Once you've done it, give yourself a pat on the back and let others do the same.

3. BE MORE MINDFUL

When we are caught up in them, we are prone to believing our thoughts to be true, but in actuality, thoughts are just thoughts and are not always true. Try adding the words "I'm having the thought that" or saying, "There goes that inner critic again" before unhelpful thoughts like "I'm rubbish" or "I should be able to cope." These kinds of methods can assist us in taking our thoughts less seriously.

4. BE COMPASSIONATE TO YOURSELF

Self-compassion is more about recognizing when we're struggling and not punishing ourselves for it rather than self-indulgence. Be aware of your inner critic, and whenever you catch yourself doing so, ask yourself, "What would I say to a friend?"

5. SEEK OUT SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE

Surround yourself with supportive people who love and value you. You could also try Breast Cancer Care’s online Forum or Someone Like Me service.

6. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS (OR YOURSELF BEFORE CANCER)

We can all fall into the comparison trap with others, but we can also do it with our "old self." Trying to focus on how far you have come and how you can continue to progress will help motivate you and boost your self-esteem rather than feeling down and self-conscious after thinking about all the things you could have done before cancer.

7. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Most of the time, we don't devote enough time to the things we enjoy or that make us feel good about ourselves. Try to schedule some "me time" each day or each week, and don't feel bad about it because you deserve it.

8. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Be kind to yourself! We frequently criticize ourselves when we are unable to manage or accomplish certain goals because we believe we should be able to. Pace yourself and keep in mind everything you've been through. "Good enough" is an acceptable standard.

9. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF

Eat healthily and work out frequently. Enhancing your physical health can also enhance your emotional health. Exercise can boost your energy and mood, and eating healthfully serves as a reminder that you are valuable.

10. GET SUPPORT IF YOU NEED IT

If you've tried these suggestions and discovered that they didn't help you, talk to someone about getting some support. Though it can be difficult, your treatment team and GP will understand. Consider using the local counseling and psychology services that can support you in exploring these kinds of problems and make you feel better about yourself.

TAKEAWAY: Undoubtedly, your body will change after breast cancer surgery. Your relationship with your body may have been strained by the treatment, but it's still important to be kind to yourself. After all, the development of a positive body image takes time, tolerance, forgiveness, and effort. 

If you want to get more support during treatment and beyond, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. to find a safe space to share your experience as a patient or survivor. You may also like our previous blog: 7 Useful Self-Care Tips for Healthy Breasts
October 17, 2022 — Nathan Mariano

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