Avoiding information overload

Today we have another post from Bernie Kirwan, a breast cancer survivor and Cancer Support Nurse at the Hope Cancer Support Centre in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. Today she is sharing her advice on avoiding information overload.

As a cancer support nurse this is a conversation I often have with people who are newly diagnosed. Because it’s about information overload, I’ll keep it very short.

What is it?

Following a diagnosis of cancer or indeed any serious illness, often our first reaction is to get loads of information and that’s ok, because information is empowering and gives us a sense of being in control.

Family and friends will do the same, because of course they want to help. Your hospital team will possibly give you numerous booklets also, so before you know what’s happening, you are swamped with information.


You are already stressed, and have just received life changing news, so your head is already overloaded. It’s an actual fact that bad news shocks the mind so much that the brain suffers an electrical short so it’s good to be aware of this.The brain is like a computer, it can only take in so much information, overload it, and like a computer, it will crash.

How can I manage it?

1; Don’t feel you have to know everything straight away. There will be loads and loads of time to ask questions.

2; Buy yourself a diary or create one on your phone..This will become your guide, your friend, your journal and essential must have for the journey ahead.

Use it for:

Appointments, daily questions, thoughts, reminders, general info.

Keep it with you always for reference etc, especially at hospital visits.

Once written down, it’s no longer in your head.

3; While it’s tempting to go on to the internet, maybe avoid it for now. Choose the right people for any questions and concerns you may have, i.e, your local cancer support centre, GP, etc.

4; I know it’s a cliché, but taking things one day at a time really helps. Slow everything down and take things minute by minute if necessary.

6; Always bring a trusted friend or family member with you to consultations.

7; If you find that you are accumulating leaflets/books/self help/diet information from family and friends just say “thank you” but only look at them when you want to. Maybe for now just leave them on a shelf somewhere. You have your whole life to read them and for now you have enough to deal with.

“Don’t be shy about asking for help, it is not a sign of weakness, it means you are wise.”

Re-published from Bernie’s Lessons and Blessings with permission from Bernie Kirwan.

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