Coping with Stress and Cancer

cancer fatigueCancer can create a great deal of stress as individuals try to understand their diagnosis, navigate treatment and manage follow-up care. Feelings of anger, sadness, worry, fear, as well as experiences of questioning personal values and beliefs, wondering about the meaning of life, and having challenges in relationships are all common. It is a lot for any one person to manage!

There are little things you can do to help manage your spiritual and emotional stress while you are living with a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment:

1. Accept a New Normal

It can be very frustrating when you’re no longer able to do the things you could do before cancer treatment. It may be helpful to acknowledge your current limitations and to work toward accepting a new normal.

  • Modify favorite activities so you can still enjoy the things you love
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Set small goals and celebrate small successes
  • Be honest about how you feel and what you can do with yourself and your loved ones
  • Find new activities you can enjoy

2. Seek Out People Who Support

When you are living with cancer, many people may be genuinely concerned and want to express their love and care. Sometimes, people may be unsure of how to act, or what to say or do to help. You may find, at times, that you need to manage other people’s feelings relating to your diagnosis. This can create an unnecessary burden for you!

Pay attention to the people you surround yourself with, and spend time with the people that can support you without adding additional burden. It is absolutely okay to decline offers to help, and you are not obligated to share details about your journey that you do not want to share. Perhaps you might not be up for visitors, but you could use help with practical tasks around home. Some ideas may be making a dinner, helping with minor house maintenance, or running an errand for your caregiver.

3. Connect to Your Spiritual Health

Engaging your spirituality is the action of connecting to what you value most. It can take many different forms, such as prayer, meditation, engagement in religious ritual or worship, or it could be sitting quietly on a porch, going fishing or taking a quiet walk around the block. Your spirituality, in whatever form it takes, is important. Engaging with your spirituality can help you reconnect, recharge, and better manage stressful situations. Engaging your spirituality can help you reflect on that which matters most to you.

Start small by dedicating 5-10 minutes every day to an activity that helps you reconnect with what you value and what gives you meaning. Be willing to try a few new things to find what brings you peace and comfort.

4. Remember You Are Not Alone – Lean on Someone

It’s impossible to manage everything on your own — especially during cancer. Find someone with whom you can openly and honestly share how you’re feeling, without the fear of being judged. That may be a close friend, family member, a spiritual health clinician, religious provider, or a licensed therapist.

Visit our website if you’d like to talk with someone from our spiritual health team.

For more information, call HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 or contact your primary care physician.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia, the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

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