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Coping With Cancer

After receiving a diagnosis of cancer, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Feelings of uncertainty about your future and financial concerns can trigger a number of different reactions, including grief. You may find yourself having trouble sleeping at night, your body aches, your head hurts, and you just feel exhausted. 

There are many ways to cope with the stress and fear associated with cancer. With education and supportive care, you will be able to deal with the diagnosis and treatment of your cancer. If the following tips don't work and if you still feel you are having trouble coping, talk to your doctor. You may need more extensive counseling.

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How Can I Ease my Stress About Cancer?

When you are facing cancer, stress can build up and affect how you feel about life. Prolonged stress can lead to frustration, anger, hopelessness, and at times, depression. The person with cancer is not the only one affected. Family members also are influenced by the ongoing health changes of a loved one with cancer.

The most important step you can take is to seek help as soon as you feel less able to cope with cancer. Taking action early will enable you to understand and deal with the many effects of your illness. Learning to manage stress will help you maintain a positive physical, emotional, and spiritual outlook.

Tips for Reducing Stress

Here are some tips for reducing 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.

Learn to Relax

There are a number of exercises you can do to relax -- breathing, muscle and mind relaxation, and listening to music are just a few ideas.  First, be sure that you have a quiet, distraction-free location. Try to find a comfortable body position. Sit or recline on a chair or sofa. Also, have a good state of mind -- try to block out worries and troubling thoughts.

  • 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. Loosen up these areas, letting go of as much tension as you can. Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (If any movement causes pain, stop immediately.) 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.
  • 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 stomach with air. Let the air fill you from the stomach up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow breath out, you should feel more relaxed.

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