There are many different ways to manage stress. If you’re feeling stressed, keep trying until you find the ones that work for you. Because everyone feels and handles stress differently, everyone will also have their own way of managing it.
Be sure to talk to your healthcare team if you’re having trouble handling stress on your own. They may suggest taking a class that teaches different ways to manage stress or refer you to a self-help group, support program or professional.
You may feel as though you need to get rid of some tension or emotions quickly, before you explode. You can try different things to vent emotions like anger or frustration including:
Venting emotions in any of these ways usually doesn't hurt anyone else and may help you feel better.
Many people find that distraction techniques or creative pursuits help them safely release their feelings. Try something – and if it helps, try it again. Experiment with:
Although cancer isn’t a funny subject, some people find that laughter helps them deal with the disease. Using laughter to relieve tension doesn’t mean you aren’t taking the disease seriously. It’s okay to laugh. When a person laughs, their brain releases chemicals that relax muscles and make them feel good. So don’t hesitate to watch your favourite funny movie or read your favourite funny book again. Or call a friend to tell them about the silly thing your pet did. You just might feel better afterwards.
Learning to relax your body and mind – even for short periods each day – can help you feel better, calmer and more in control. Meditation and relaxation can help you cope with emotions, pain and other symptoms. Avoid using alcohol or other drugs (illegal, over-the-counter or herbal) to relax and cope with cancer. Talk to your doctor if you find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs.
Instructional books or DVDs can teach you about different ways of relaxing or you might find a class helpful.
Most relaxation techniques can be done sitting up or lying down. Some people like to listen to music through earphones or a headset. To begin:
Two examples of relaxation techniques are tension-relaxation and rhythmic breathing.
Do this for a few minutes several times a day.
Meditation quiets the mind. As the mind becomes quiet, muscles relax and heart rate and breathing slow down. There are many different types of meditation. Information on how to do meditation is available from a number of resources. Local groups or centres that offer classes are often listed in local phone books.
Meditation can be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice.
Guided imagery or visualization is a kind of daydreaming.
You may already use distraction to manage stress without realizing it. Any activity that holds your attention or takes your mind off worries or discomfort can be a useful distraction technique. Some examples are:
Massage can be very relaxing. It often relieves tension and can make you feel more comfortable. Talk with your healthcare team before you have a massage to make sure it’s okay. They may have some guidelines for the massage therapist to follow, such as restricting the massage to certain areas of the body, or only using gentle, stroking motions on some areas. Ask your healthcare team if they know of a registered massage therapist who has experience in working with people with cancer.
Many people find they feel better, have more energy and are less stressed when they take part in physical activities such as swimming, walking or biking. You can often continue to exercise during and after cancer treatment, as long as your healthcare team says it’s okay and as long as you feel up to it. Talk to your healthcare team before trying a new activity or if you have questions about exercise.
Yoga and tai chi are two gentle but effective forms of exercise that can help relieve tension. Yoga combines exercise for the body with breathing exercises and focus for the mind. Most types of yoga can be modified for people at various stages of health. Tai chi is slow and rhythmic movement. It is often called moving meditation. Tai chi improves balance of the body and the mind. Check with a community association or local phone book for instructors.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.