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Managing Stress

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How you react to change can be called stress. These changes can come from feelings, situations, and people. 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.

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. 

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. 
Keep your stress level lower by "exchanging stresses". If a new stress comes into your life, then make room for it by eliminating or postponing another stress. This way, your total stress level remains low.  Our natural tendency is to let our stresses pile up rather than exchanging them.  So, if you are going to be driving in every day for radiation treatments, you may need to have somebody else in the family get the kids to school.

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. 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.

Try a de-stressing exercise, such as coloring:

Coloring books for adults have recently become popular because coloring can relieve stress.  It can also ease anxiety and provide a sense of calm, as it provides a positive distraction.  Art therapy and engaging in creative activities have proven to have positive effects for people with cancer, but these resources may be a challenge to access.  Coloring is something that is very accessible: all you need are coloring materials (ideally pencil crayons, but anything will work.)  Try printing and coloring "Hope" an adult coloring sheet found under Helpful Handouts. From there, you may want to begin drawing, or accessing other creative outlets.  

For more strategies refer to our Helpful Handouts section

SOURCE: Managing Stress ( )
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