How to accept a diagnosis without drama

Mindfulness techniques and practices help people respond rather than react to a diagnosis. Learn how to “pause” the nervous system to develop better balance and resiliency to stress.

Diagnosis is a word that is used mostly in the medical field and can sometimes have a negative connotation. Humans naturally default to negative, so if you are waiting for a diagnosis or have received one, remember that there are several positive responsive approaches one can choose when responding to a diagnosis.

Understanding the grieving process is important in dealing with diagnosis, not only for the individual/patient, but for their family and friends too. The stages do not necessarily happen in order, and sometimes it takes people more than a couple years to move through them. The stages are:

  • Denial
  • Bargaining
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The grieving process can weigh a person down mentally and physically. The sooner one can accept the reality of the situation, the more productive and smoother the journey becomes. One approach that has proven to help people manage their psychological (emotional) and physiological (physical) illnesses, diseases or grief is to practice mindfulness techniques.

Mindfulness is a stress-management practice that involves conditioning the mind to accept things how they are non-judgmentally by slowing down the nervous system. Practicing mindfulness slows the nervous system by developing an awareness of the body’s psychological and physiological reactions to sensory stimulation. Think of mindfulness as a physical activity to strengthen your nervous system (the brain), just the way running develops and strengthens your cardiovascular system (the heart).

The foundation of mindfulness is to focus or notice what is happening in the present moment non-judgmentally. The core practice of mindfulness is practicing “mindful” breathing. Mindful breath is the practice of focusing solely on your breathing. Paying attention to the rhythm of your body breathing naturally slows down your nervous system and your cardiovascular system. In summary, it quiets the mind so it can problem solve and think clearer. Think of mindful breathing as the “pause button.” Mindful breathing can help anyone get through stressful moments through the practice of recognition, acceptance, shifting and practicing.

Mindfulness is the practice of recognizing and accepting the events that happen inside your body such as those emotions and thoughts we have including the environmental events going on outside of our bodies. Once you start recognizing and accepting the reality of the present moment, shifting to practicing mindful techniques will help develop more resiliency to stress and provide you with a more balanced state of mind to problem solve and be more balanced and confident.

Mindfulness will help you respond rather than react. We all will have a diagnosis to respond to at least once in our lives. Learn how to respond mindfully. Michigan State University Extension has programming that can help you to respond to life’s challenging diagnoses. Look for events in your county to find workshops on mindfulness, anger management and disease prevention and management programs. 

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