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Facing a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Your stress levels may skyrocket. You may worry about finances. And you may be asking yourself difficult questions, such as whether to write a living will. Education and supportive care can help you deal with the many issues and emotions you're facing.

What Causes Stress for Breast Cancer Patients?

Stress is common among breast cancer patients. Stressors related to the disease may include the uncertainty of one's future, the unpredictability of disease, disability, and financial difficulties.

Common stress signals can include disturbed sleep, fatigue, body aches, pain, anxiety, irritability, tension, and headaches.

How Can I Reduce Stress During Breast Cancer?

If you have breast cancer, stress can build and influence how you feel about life. Prolonged stress may lead to frustration, anger, hopelessness, and -- at times -- depression. The person with breast cancer is not the only one affected. Family members are also influenced by the health changes of a loved one. To reduce stress:

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when you are physically fit.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
  • Consider joining a support group.  

How Can I Learn to Relax While Fighting Breast Cancer?

There are a number of exercises that you can do to relax during your breast cancer fight. These exercises include breathing, muscle and mind relaxation, relaxation to music, and biofeedback. A few that you can try are listed below. First, be sure that you have a quiet location that is free of distractions, a comfortable body position (sit or recline on a chair or sofa) and a good state of mind. Try to block out worries and distracting thoughts.

What Are Some Effective Relaxation Exercises?

Here are some relaxation exercises to try:

  • Two-minute relaxation. Switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped. Quickly loosen up these areas. Let go of as much tension as you can. Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (Stop any movements that cause pain.) Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel relaxed.
  • Mind relaxation. Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose. As you exhale, silently say to yourself the word "one," a short word such as "peaceful" or a short phrase such as "I feel quiet." Continue for 10 minutes. If your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to think about your breathing and your chosen word or phrase. Let your breathing become slow and steady.
  • Deep breathing relaxation. Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot and fill your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow breath out, you should feel more relaxed.