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Stress Management

The diagnosis of breast cancer can bring new stress into your life that has never been present before. Suddenly you begin to think about your health, the way you look, the way people look at you, finances, your family and even death. You may even feel like your life is spiraling out of control. You must realize that you are not alone.

Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

Your life is now drastically different. Everything seems to revolve around two words: breast cancer. Stress often accompanies change, especially when cancer is involved. If it is not managed appropriately, it can build and build until you feel like you are going to explode. This is when stress can become depression leading to hopelessness.[1]

The following are healthy ways to manage your stress:[2]

  • Accept that you are not to blame and do not need to be in control of the disease
  • Learn to relax
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Get an appropriate amount of sleep
  • Avoid alcohol or drugs as a method of dealing with stress

Learning to Relax

Many people do not know how to relax and live their lives at full throttle each day, so when they are faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer they do not know how to handle it. In addition to the above, some other relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, music, biofeedback, massage therapy.

Deep Breathing. Lay down, close your eyes and picture your belly-button in your mind. Take a deep breath, focusing on making that point rise to the ceiling, filling your belly with air. When you cannot breathe in any more, let the air leave your lungs slowly, letting that point go as low as possible.

The Two Minute Relaxation Break. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lay down and clear your mind of all thoughts and worries. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Take several deep breaths and exhale slowly. As you do, make note of the different areas of your body that feel tense and completely relax every muscle.

End the relaxation break by taking one last deep breath, exhale slowly and open your eyes.

Support Groups

Support groups are an excellent way to find others who are facing the same struggle and learn about other ways that people are coping. Evidence shows that group-based stress management can provide substantial and durable improvement in psychosocial adjustment to women who are being treated for breast cancer.[3]

There are several kinds of support groups. They may be led by other women with breast cancer, breast cancer survivors or health care professionals. You can visit several groups to find which one works best for you.

Integrative Medicine and Stress

Integrative medicine is defined by a combination of conventional and alternative medical techniques.[4] Doctors who practice integrative medicine often recommend therapeutic lifestyle changes to their patients. These may be simple or complicated.

Integrative medicine may be an option for you, and the following are examples of what may be recommended by integrated health professionals:

  • Herbal teas: Valerian and Chamomile are common, as they are calming. After brewing the tea, enjoy it in a comfortable and quite spot where you can reflect on your day.
  • Pets: Pets can be a powerful way to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Soft Music: Classical music can be a stress reliever. One study revealed that women who listened to classical music while undergoing a breast biopsy had lower levels of stress than women who took an anti-anxiety medication.
  • Meditate: If you have never mediated you may not believe that it can work. Experts recommend that you take a class in meditation to understand how to make it work for you and help relieve your stress.

It is important that you adopt healthy ways to manage your stress so you can continue to fight your breast cancer.

Resources

1  Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from MedlinePlus National Institutes of Health: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/stress.html

2  X-Plain Managing Stress . (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institutes Of Health: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/managingstress/hp069103.pdf

3  Michael Antoni, S. L. (2006). How Stress Management Improves Quality of Life After Treatment for Breast Cancer. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology , 1143-1152.

4  Bell,  Iris R, MD, MD(H), PhD; Opher Caspi, MD; Gary E. R. Schwartz, PhD; Kathryn L. Grant, PharmD; Tracy W. Gaudet, MD;David Rychener, PhD; Victoria Maizes, MD; Andrew Weil, MD. (2002) Integrative Medicine and Systemic Outcomes Research. Archives of Internal Medicine; 162:133-140.

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.