Coping with cancer, coping with stress

Coping with cancer, coping with stress

Staying positive isn't easy though – especially when you're feeling stressed about your cancer and everything else going on in your life. But, fortunately, there are many ways you can try to relieve your stress.

Breathing is a great place to start

Breathing may not be something you think about much, but it can have a powerful impact on you. In fact, studies show that deep breathing can help reduce your stress, and as consequence, relax you. What’s more, deep breathing is easy to do, and you can practice it anytime, whether you're at home or on the go. Here's how:*

  • First, inhale deeply, inflating your diaphragm (abdominal muscles) if you can.
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds.
  • Exhale fully, using your diaphragm to push the air out.

*If you’ve had surgery that affects your abdomen, make sure to talk to your doctor first before practicing deep breathing.


Meditation might also help you relieve stress. There are lots of different types of meditation. Some meditation is practiced by trying to remain still, clear the mind or focus on an object or scene. Here are some examples:

  • Guided imagery: An instructor or a recorded voice helps you visualise a relaxing scene, such as walking through a meadow or lying down in a peaceful park
  • Mindfulness meditation: This kind of meditation helps you remain focused on the present
  • Focused meditation: Similar to mindfulness meditation, this kind of meditation helps you refocus, using an object like a flower or candle flame to bring your attention back to the present

Other kinds of meditation involve movement, such as:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi or Qi Gong
  • Walking Meditation

Be sure to ask your healthcare team which kind of meditation might be right for you. No matter which kind you try, you'll likely need to:

  • Find a place that's quiet and free of distractions
  • Get comfortable, perhaps by sitting or finding postures or poses that allow you to relax
  • Focus deeply on something, such as a word, an object or your breath
  • Try to have an open attitude towards yourself and your surroundings


Yoga can help improve concentration, reduce stress and have a positive impact on mental health.

Some yoga classes, such as ‘hot yoga’, take place in extremely hot temperatures. Other classes may require you to balance or do twists, backbends, forward-bending stretches or inversions (getting into positions where your head is lower than your heart). Breathing exercises, including deep breathing, are key elements of yoga too.

Depending on your diagnosis and treatment, certain kinds of yoga may not be ideal for you. So be sure to talk with your healthcare team before trying yoga. They can help you decide which kind of yoga is best for you, and they may be able to teach you how to modify certain poses to make them appropriate for you.

Finding balance

If you're feeling stressed, you might feel like you don't have enough time or energy to do all the things you need to do. Staying organised may help you feel a little less overwhelmed. And here are some other ways you can try to find a better balance in your life:

  • Prioritise. Ask yourself what absolutely needs to get done today and what can wait for another day
  • Set boundaries. It’s okay to say ‘no’ when someone asks you to do something that would just add to your stress
  • Surround yourself with loved ones. Try to spend as much time as you can with the people in your life who are supportive. If you have pets, spend time with them too
  • Do what you love. Make time for hobbies such as music, art or watching sport
  • Take a walk. If you are able and if your doctor recommends it, try walking to the shops. Even 30 minutes of walking may improve your mood and relieve stress
  • Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. If you're not sure how, you might find "How to ask for help—and accept it" useful