6 mins. read

Coping with frustration and anger after cancer

coping with anger after cancer Perci Health

Key takeaways

  • It’s normal to feel anger after cancer: Anger is one of many valid emotions you may feel after cancer treatment and it can be helpful to establish the root cause of why you feel this way.
  • Don’t hide your feelings: Instead, find healthy ways to express and process your anger, such as journalling, exercising, meditation or talking to someone you trust.
  • Seek specialist support: If you are feeling angry most of the time, or it is beginning to affect other aspects of your life, you might find it beneficial to speak to a counsellor or psychologist.

A cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment can cause massive upheaval in your life. Therefore, when cancer treatment ends, you might expect to feel relief and even happiness. However, for many, this isn’t the case. If you find yourself feeling angry after cancer treatment ends, you aren’t alone.

Anger is a natural and normal response after the end of cancer treatment. It’s important not to suppress how you feel, but it also isn’t healthy to hold onto anger and let it control you.

In this guide, we look at how to understand and cope with your anger, as well as what to do if you find that anger after cancer is impacting your life.  

Understanding your anger

People living beyond cancer can feel angry for many reasons. To be able to process your anger and move forward, it can be helpful to establish why you feel the way you do and identify your triggers.

Why might you feel anger after cancer?

Everyone’s experience of cancer is unique and, therefore, the reasons for anger will be different too. You may feel angry about:

  • The hardships you have faced
  • Unsupportive friends and family members
  • The side-effects of cancer treatment
  • A negative experience with a doctor
  • Changes to your life because of cancer, such a pause to your career
  • Not being able to do as much as before your diagnosis
  • Other people being in good health
  • The effect cancer has had on your faith
  • Events you may have missed out on due to treatment
  • The impact cancer has had on relationships

It’s also important to recognise that other emotions often present themselves as anger, too. For example, fear of cancer recurrence can trigger similar physical responses as anger, such as an increase in heart rate, tense muscles and a churning sensation in the stomach.  

Triggers for anger after cancer

A trigger is any action or situation that can lead to an adverse emotional reaction. After cancer treatment ends, you may find that certain circumstances cause your anger to come to the forefront or intensify. Examples of triggers include:

  • Special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries
  • Family and friends complaining about their lives
  • Medical settings, such as your local GP surgery or the hospital
  • Being in pain or being unwell
  • Being unable to do a particular task

Identify your trigger(s) can help you to cope with your anger more effectively. If you are aware of situations or events that are likely to affect your emotions, then you can plan ahead by putting boundaries in place or creating a bank of tools, such as breathing exercises or sensory resources.  

Coping with anger

Managing anger doesn’t mean never getting angry. Instead, it refers to finding strategies that work for you; that allow you to recognise your anger, process it and move past it each time the feeling arises.

Write it down

Some people find writing to be a helpful way to cope with anger and other emotions that can arise after cancer. The main benefit of journaling is that it is a personal, private practice that you can approach in whatever way you like. You might simply want to write about your day before you go to bed each night or opt for more of a gratitude journal, noting down the things you are grateful for each day.

Writing your feelings down can free up headspace and act as a physical means of letting your anger out. Reading previous diary entries is also an excellent way to see the progress you have made.

Use your voice

Vocalising your anger is another healthy way to process and move past this emotion. This doesn’t mean directing your anger at someone else, but rather, using the physical action of transferring sound as a method of letting go.

Examples of using your voice as an anger management strategy include:

  • Talking to a friend or family member about how your feel
  • Screaming into a pillow
  • Yelling in a private space
  • Singing as loud as you can to a high-intensity song

Try meditation

Meditation can help calm the body and mind to ease anger, anxiety and frustration. It can also benefit the nervous system, enhance sleep quality and improve self-awareness.

It is a particularly useful coping tool for anger as anyone can do it, it doesn’t have to cost anything, and you can use it in a variety of settings and situations. For example, perhaps you find yourself experiencing anger after returning to work because you feel your colleagues are complaining about trivial things. You can find a quiet area or even sit at your desk and carry out some simple breathing exercises to help release tension from your body.

If you aren’t sure how to start, you might find it helpful to attend in-person classes to learn the proper techniques. An alternative option for beginners is to follow one of the many tutorials available online.

Move your body

Exercising after cancer has many benefits in its own right but it can also be a useful way to release anger and calm the mind. You can incorporate movement into your daily routine as a way to keep anger at bay or pick an activity you enjoy that you can turn to when you feel anger rising.

Examples of exercises that are beneficial for coping with anger include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Boxing
  • Martial arts
  • Circuit training
  • Dancing
  • Yoga

Consider counselling

If you find your anger after cancer overwhelming, or you recognise that it is affecting your life and your relationships with others, it may be beneficial to find specialist support.

Make an appointment with your GP and tell them how you feel. They should be able to refer you for a form of talking therapy such as counselling, psychotherapy or CBT. Whilst each of these is slightly different, they are all methods that can help you learn to cope with your anger. They usually explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, enabling you to understand more about yourself and giving you the tools to process your emotions more effectively.

If you are looking for support from experienced cancer specialists, Perci Health is here to help. Our virtual support types include counsellors, mindfulness and meditation experts and psychotherapists and offer you a safe, confidential space to discuss your feelings and your own unique experience of cancer. Sign up for a Perci Health account to discover more about our leading experts and book on-demand appointments.