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Managing Stress

Having cancer usually adds a new level of stress. Learning new ways to cope with stress can help.
What is stress?
Anything that causes a change in your life causes stress. It doesn't matter if it is a "good" change, or a "bad" change. Even “imagined” change is stressful. For example, if you fear that your cancer will come back, that can create stress. Whenever you experience change, your body attempts to adjust or adapt. This takes energy. If the stress is severe, lasts for a long time or if there are many stressful things happening at once, your body starts to run out of energy and show signs of stress.

Stress can directly and indirectly contribute to general or specific problems with your body and your mind. It can have a major impact on the physical functioning of the human body. Stress can impact your heart rate, breathing and respiration, blood pressure and can create more physical stress symptoms. To learn more about symptoms, download the "Managing Stress" handout.

There are so many changes and challenges associated with cancer. The likelihood your stress will increase at various times throughout diagnosis and treatment is high. This increase could be connected to family adjustments, treatment symptoms or pushing yourself too hard if you are the caregiver.
Managing Stress Toolbox
How to use your tool box
  • Identify what things you already do to handle your stress. 
  • Learn and practice new ways to manage the stress. Use these methods more during treatment and times of high anxiety. If you practice often, then when stressful times increase, you can relax more easily and manage those times better.  
  • Check to see if they are working. Be aware of your stress and notice what is working and what isn’t.
  • Remember that you may need help from others to manage increasing stress. 
  • For more ideas go to our handout on managing stress


A variety of tools are available to assist with stress management, including the support groups, playlists and videos. Click the "+" sign(s) below for more information.

Engaging in creative activities such as writing, reading, playing a musical instrument or artwork may help reduce stress. Practice art forms that you find relaxing.


Colouring books for adults have recently become popular because colouring can relieve stress.  It can also ease anxiety and provide a sense of calm, as it provides a positive distraction. Colouring is something that is very accessible: all you need are colouring materials (ideally pencil crayons, but anything will work). Try printing and colouring our "Hope" adult colouring sheet or the "Always be Colouring" colouring book.

Mindfulness is about being more aware of what is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an 8 week program that was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre to support people with a wide variety of health and life challenges, including cancer. With sustained regular practice, mindfulness has been shown to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety, as well as significantly enhance the quality of our lives. You will find 2 versions of both the body scan and sitting meditations under our "Mindfulness & Meditation" audio streaming.

Please consult the Patient and Family Counselling department at your local cancer centre to talk to a counsellor and/or learn about Mindfulness programs.

‎Watch "Managing Stress While Living with Cancer"; a video series dedicated to cancer patients and their families who are learning to find their "breath" after a cancer diagnosis.

Download the SoundCloud app on you mobile device and search BC Cancer for tracks or go directly using the following links:

For more information on stress reduction exercises, see the handouts below: 

Support programs are offered at all cancer centres online and in the community.


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SOURCE: Managing Stress ( )
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