Stress can be caused by many things including work, money worries or health concerns. Coping with difficult times in your life, such as if you or a loved one has cancer, can be a worrying and stressful time. Everyone reacts differently to stress and there is no right or wrong way to deal with it.
There are several things you can do to help deal with stress better.
It’s natural to worry about the effect cancer may have on you or a loved one and what the future may hold. Anxiety is a feeling of unease and it’s common when faced with a stressful situation such as cancer. Mild anxiety can often be positive and useful, but ‘troublesome’ anxiety can start to interfere with everyday activities. You may feel tired, irritable, have trouble sleeping, get palpitations, shortness of breath or dizziness.
Lifestyle changes and talking through your problems with a counsellor can help to improve your anxiety. Simple relaxation exercises or complementary therapies, such as meditation or acupuncture, may also help.
If you’re affected by cancer, it’s not unusual to have times when you feel low. However, a continuous low mood that doesn’t go away quickly can be a sign of depression. It can be triggered by finding out that you or a loved one has cancer, or the treatment and impact cancer has on you.
As well as looking after yourself, talking therapies, such as counselling, and medicines including antidepressants can be useful ways of dealing with depression. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you think you may be depressed.
Having cancer, or knowing someone who has cancer, can make you feel angry. You may not be able to do things you used to do, find that people around you are acting differently or think it’s unfair that you or someone has been affected by cancer whereas others haven’t. Everyone gets angry about different things but most people are able to keep their anger under control. If you feel you’re unable to cope with your temper, try the following.
Keeping yourself in good physical health can have a positive effect on your mental health and set you up better to help cope with those not so good days. It will also help you manage the side-effects of treatment and the changes having cancer brings. There are a number of things you can do to help keep you in good physical health.
Taking time out for yourself and learning to relax can help you during difficult times of cancer as well manage any symptoms of stress or anxiety you may have. It’s also likely you will feel tired from your cancer treatment and taking time out to relax can help. A warm bath or listening to soothing music may be all it takes for you to unwind and relax. Others may want to try some of the following relaxation techniques.
If you feel you aren’t coping on your own, you shouldn’t feel guilty or embarrassed about asking others for support. Life-changing events, such as cancer, are often difficult to deal with, but it’s important to remember help is out there and taking advantage of it can make all the difference.
Cancer can be a worrying time, not only for you, but for your friends and family. It’s also important to understand the illness and its treatment to be able to talk about it with others.
Produced by Stephanie Hughes, Bupa Health Information Team, May 2012.