This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (16th - 22nd May). The theme this year is relationships, which are important to maintaining our well being and mental health. It’s a great opportunity to take stock and celebrate the important relationships in our lives.

If you, or a friend or family member, are facing cancer, your relationships can be huge source of support during and after diagnosis and treatment.

Relationships matter
Good relationships are the supportive connections we share with friends, family and our community. Investing in these relationships is as important to our health and wellbeing as other lifestyle factors such as eating well, exercising more and stopping smoking.

Give your time
Try to put some time aside to nurture important relationships. When we are busy with day to day life we don’t always make enough time to connect with the important people in our lives. The Mental Health Foundation has a challenge for us all. They are asking everyone to go the extra mile in prioritising their relationships. They are calling on people to make a relationship resolution: to assess how much time we actively commit to building and maintaining good relationships, and to ask whether we can invest more in being present with and listening to friends, family and colleagues.

Cancer and relationships
When you are diagnosed with cancer, you, your partner (if you have one), family and friends may experience a variety of emotions that could affect your relationships. These may include feeling anxious, angry, guilty and being in denial.
There are a number of things you can do to help:

Share your feelings by talking. Thinking about talking to family and friends can make people feel uncomfortable. But talking often benefits both you and them. Talking with someone you trust about your feelings may help you both to cope with what is happening.

  • Plan activities with family and friends, such as going for a walk, meals out or holidays.
  • Tell your partner how they can best support you.
  • Talking to a counsellor may help you and your partner to cope with your cancer and its impact on your relationship.
  • There might be a local support group that you could join.
  • It may help you to talk to people in Macmillan’s online community who have had similar experiences to you.
  • Share your feelings through writing. Sometimes, you may feel that you don’t want to speak to someone face to face. Writing a diary or a blog can be a good way to express your feelings.
  • You could speak to one of our specialists on the Macmillan Support Line. Call 0808 808 00 00. It is available Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm.
  • Speak to your GP if you would like the help of a professional.

We have more information about relationships and cancer and talking about cancer with friends and family.

Physical activity
Physical activity is a good way to help you manage stress, anxiety and depression. It helps our bodies release chemicals (endorphins) that lift our mood and lower stress hormones.

  • It can often help to be active with other people, for example by joining an exercise group or going with family or friends. You could try walking or gardening.
  • Macmillan is working with health walk programmes across the UK that offer free, short and friendly walks for people affected by cancer.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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