A Medical Problem! Now What?

How to Help Yourself Regain Control

by Robert H. Phillips, Ph.D.

You’ve recently become aware of, or have been diagnosed with, a new medical problem, or new development with regard to an existing medical problem. This likely has had a major impact on both you and your family.

You’re probably feeling very apprehensive, and any of these thoughts may be part of your present thinking:

  • What’s going to happen now?
  • How is this going to affect me?
  • What is the treatment going to be, how will the treatment affect me, and will it work?
  • How will the medical problem affect my family, and change my life?
  • Will I ever be the same?

These, and other similar thoughts, can be frightening. But there ARE things you can do to help yourself, right now, even while the treatment is focusing on your medical problem. Not only can this help you physically, but it can also help you feel better mentally. Simply knowing that you’re doing something positive to assist in your healing, and not being completely dependent on the efforts of others, can make a tremendous difference.

Techniques to help yourself

Techniques that can be helpful immediately include relaxation, cognitive restructuring, affirmations, and visualization. Let’s talk about them.


Techniques for relaxation can serve a number of important purposes:

  • Relaxation reduces tension and calms you.
  • Relaxation eases discomfort, pain, and other physical symptoms.
  • Relaxation counteracts worry.
  • Relaxation reduces anxiety and fear… emotions that can exacerbate your symptoms.
  • Relaxation leads to immediate results. You’ll know that there is something you can do… right now!

There are many helpful relaxation techniques you can try, and the internet can be a valuable resource for you. One that we developed is called the “Quick Release,” a brief, two-minute strategy that can help you immediately. For detailed instructions, go to: www.coping.com/quickrelease

Cognitive Restructuring

You’ve probably already realized how negative your thinking can be at a time like this. Negative thinking can be a big obstacle in your efforts to help yourself and feel better. Restructuring (changing) your cognitions (thoughts) is a technique that enables you to identify your negative thoughts and re-word them so that they’re more realistically positive. With practice, this can significantly improve the way you feel, both emotionally and physically.

Examples of Restructured Thoughts

From Negative– “I’m never going to feel any better.”

To Positive/Realistic– “Isn’t it possible that I can feel better? And, if so, why should I convince myself that I can’t?”

From Negative– “When is this ever going to end?”

To Positive/Realistic– “Although there is no way of predicting if and when this is going to end, it makes more sense to focus on the many parts of my life that I can still enjoy.”

From Negative– “No treatment is going to make a difference in my medical problem.”

To Positive/Realistic– “How do I know that? I have to give the treatment a chance. In the meanwhile, let me focus on the things I can do to help myself as well.”

Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are statements you say to yourself, repeatedly, to internalize them and make them more a part of your normal thinking. They are a very important part of healing and enhance all of the techniques you use.

Examples of Affirmations

  • My health is the most important thing right now.
  • Health is the priority; details and worries are less important.
  • I care about myself and am taking care of myself.
  • I am, and will be, getting better and stronger.
  • Medical treatment can help me.

Schedule affirmations that you choose, using the above as examples. Repeat them to yourself at least three times a day, every day.


Visualization, also called imagery, is the conscious act of creating pictures in the mind in a way that enhances positive characteristics, builds strength, and promotes healing. Guidelines for using visualization include:

  • Select an image for a visualization based on your creative picture of what is causing your medical problem. Then select images to represent a slow, constructive reversal of this problem. Many people find it helpful to record a description of this imagery so you can listen to it.
  • Plan on listening to your recording (or using your own mental images) at least three times each day (more frequently is even better).
  • Do your visualization in a dimly lit, comfortable environment, with distractions minimized.
  • Each time you do visualization, include images of your internal “symptom control system” becoming more and more effective and beneficial.
  • Use visualization to enhance any medical treatment you may undergo; see this medical treatment as being kind and helpful to you, and focus on how it is helping to strengthen your body.

Additional Components of Your Program

In addition to the above techniques, important components of any program to help yourself can include:


  • Stress management: Reduce and minimize any sources of stress. In addition, going for psychological counseling and coping skills training can be a great help.
  • Proper nutrition: Eat healthy to assist your body in healing. Read up on how nutrition can be helpful; there are many excellent books and articles on the subject.
  • Appropriate exercise: Activity can strengthen your body and promotes health, healing, and well-being. Make sure you have your doctor’s approval. If there are times that physical limitations reduce your ability to exercise, visualize your exercise!
  • Additional supportive mechanisms: Benefit from family, friends, spirituality, support groups and organizations (even online), books, audio CDs, etc.- whatever helps, comforts, and strengthens you– use it!

Do you have any questions? Feel free to contact us. (See below for contact information.)

Start using these techniques today! They will help you to achieve our motto: No matter what problem you may face, you can always improve the quality of your life!

How Can We Help?

Thousands of people from all around the world have benefited from the successful, strategy-packed counseling services offered by The Coping Counselors at the Center for Coping.

If you have questions about any of the issues you are dealing with, why not set up a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Coping Counselors? Simply call us at (516) 822-3131, with any questions or to set up your free appointment. Or e-mail us at: info@coping.com.


  • You may want to learn about my latest book, “Newly Diagnosed? Now What!: 153 Strategies to Help You Take Action and Cope After Your Medical Diagnosis.” It’s available at Amazon. com, or directly at: www.copingpress.com.
  • Or you may want to learn about my free Mini-Course, “Newly Diagnosed With A Medical Illness: What To Do Right Now!Click here to get information or sign up.

The Coping Counselors- Providing quality psychological services for more than 35 years!