Anthony Nolan Patients and Families 13.05.16, Photography by Danny J. Peace,

Coping with mental health issues

Your recovery from your stem cell transplant will be a unique and very personal experience that’s likely to have many ups and downs.


There will be challenging moments that you could find difficult to cope with. This is a perfectly normal part of your recovery that every patient goes through. Trying to accept this and finding the best way to manage these feelings will make things easier. It will make you more resilient and give you a better chance of coping with a set back next time. 

It’s impossible to say what will work best for you and some things may work better than others at different times. It might be a good idea to think about the things you did to help you get through other tough points in your life. You might find that they come in useful again during your recovery. 

Lift your mood

  • Treat yourself What you’re going through isn’t easy, so enjoy the little things in life. Buy that slice of cake when it tempts you, go out for a nice meal or do something you have always wanted to do, whatever takes your fancy.
  • Have a laugh Everybody has something that always makes them laugh, so get yourself your favourite DVD boxset or search the online streaming services. You could ask your friends for their comedy recommendations too.
  • Music Make a playlist of your favourite songs that always lift your spirits.
  • Travel – Is there somewhere in the world you have always wanted to visit? Now might be the perfect time to go on that trip. You should check with your medical team that it’s safe for you to travel before you go - especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take control

  • Find out more  Some people worry about the unknown, and finding out more information about the challengers of recovery can make it easier to come to terms with.

Stick to information sources you know you can trust and try to avoid simply relying on internet search engines such as Google. If you have any concerns, you can always ask your medical team for advice as well. Feel free to make notes about what they say or ask someone to come with you for support.  

  • Get organised  There are many things to remember during your recovery, so try to settle into a routine. You will have days when sticking to your plan is more difficult but if you feel like you are doing something positive and that you’re in control, it will help.
  • Talk to someone – As the old saying goes, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ Sometimes simply talking to someone close to you can make a huge difference. You can also talk to your medical team or a member of the Anthony Nolan Patient Services team. Some people also find comfort in talking to people within the community, such as religious leaders.

Physically I feel much stronger, however there are still days where I feel low and overwhelmed by everything. Luckily I am able to talk to my family and friends when I am low and sharing always makes me feel better. It's OK not to feel great all the time.

Anna, who had a transplant in 2016


  • Deep breath… – It might sound simple but taking a deep breath can really help calm your nerves. Practising controlled breathing will also help you to relax.
  • Meditation – You might already be familiar with the idea of mindfulness or other types of meditation as a relaxation technique. Meditation can help you become more aware of your feelings and accept them for what they are. This allows you to think more clearly and react in a calmer way when things start to get tough. 
  • Health-promoting exercise Techniques such as tai-chi and yoga nidra combine gentle movements, stretching and breathing exercises with elements of meditation. This helps you to focus your thoughts on the here and now and relax your mind.

Focus on something else

Friends – Spend time with people who make you laugh to help take your mind off your current situation. Sometimes it can be easier to be around people who aren’t quite as involved with your recovery as your immediate family. 

Learn a new skill – A wide range of courses can be taken through night schools or online including cookery, art and languages. You might even decide to re-train for a new profession. Distance learning courses, such as those run by the Open University, can be a good way of doing this without the need to move or commute.  

Social groups – If you have a particular interest, there could be a local group set up for people to share your hobby. Have a look on social media to find out what’s available in your area.

Express yourself

Blog Some people find it therapeutic to write about their experiences, both good and bad. Even if you don’t want to share your thoughts with others, writing them down can still help you to process them. You may also find comfort in reading the stories of other people who are going through a similar experience.

Art and hobbies – Some people find it hard to express their thoughts and feelings with words but find it easier to use other creative outlets. Drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry and creative writing can all help with this process.

Singing – Local choirs and other musical groups can be a great way of doing something you enjoy and meeting new people. 

Information published: 29/11/21

Next review due: 29/11/24