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Cancer Health Center

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Stress Management When You Have Cancer - Topic Overview

The diagnosis of cancer presents many challenges, and you may feel a great deal of stress. Some people try to relieve stress by smoking, drinking, overeating, using drugs, or just "shutting down." Some people become violent or abusive in response to stress. These methods of coping have harmful side effects. By learning other ways to deal with symptoms of stress, you can avoid problems that may affect yourself or others and improve your overall quality of life.

  • Express yourself. Stress and tension affect our emotions. By expressing your feelings to others, you may be able to understand and cope with them.
    • Join a support group. Talking about a problem with your spouse, a good friend, or other people with similar problems is a valuable way to reduce tension and stress.
    • Cry. Crying also can relieve tension. It's part of the emotional healing process.
    • Artistic expression. Expressing yourself through writing, crafts, dance, or art also may be a good tension reliever. Some dance, writing, or art groups may be available especially for individuals diagnosed with cancer.
  • Get moving. Regular, moderate physical activity may be the single best approach to managing stress. Walking briskly will take advantage of the rapid pulse and tensed muscles caused by stress and release your pent-up energy. After a long walk, your stress level is lower and more manageable.
  • Be kind to your body and mind. Getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and taking time to do things you enjoy can contribute to an overall feeling of balance in your life and help reduce stress.
  • Get help if you need it. Discuss your concerns with your doctor, counselor, or other health professional.

Relaxation skills

Whatever you do to manage stress, you can benefit from the regular use of relaxation skills.

The following methods of relaxation and meditation are among the simplest and most effective. They should be done twice a day for about 20 minutes. Pick a time and place where you won't be disturbed or distracted. After you've trained your body and mind to relax (2 to 3 weeks), you'll be able to produce that same relaxed state whenever you want.

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