Managing and reducing stress for patients with cancer and their caregivers

Managing and reducing stress for patients with cancer and their caregivers

Download the full infographic with tips for patients and caregivers.

For the patient with cancer
Getting a cancer diagnosis is a stressful experiences in a person’s life and that stress can increase just from the everyday stress of work and family responsibilities. While stress has not been shown to cause cancer, chronic stress may weaken the immune system, causing other health problems and decreasing feelings of well-being.

“Stressors” are any source of stress, good and bad like marriage and divorce; getting or losing your job; moving to a new home; traveling. Some stressors are predictable and, therefore, sometimes avoidable.

Although you can try to reduce the number of stressors in your life, you can’t completely avoid stress. However, you can often lower the amount of stress in your life by making even small lifestyle changes. Try these stress management strategies that can help you feel more relaxed and less anxious:
  • avoid scheduling conflicts
  • be aware of your limits
  • ask for help
  • prioritize your tasks
  • break down tasks into smaller steps
  • concentrate your efforts on things you can control
  • get help with financial problems
  • exercise regularly (talk with your doctor before starting an exercise schedule)
  • spend time outside
  • schedule social activities
  • eat well
  • get plenty of sleep
  • join a support group or talk with a trusted friend, a counselor or social worker
  • schedule daily relaxing time
  • do things you enjoy
  • laugh
  • write in a journal
  • learn a new hobby
In addition to your lifestyle changes, add relaxation techniques, which many people learn and practice to lower stress. You can learn most of them in a few sessions with a qualified counselor. Many hospitals and cancer centers have classes to teach patients relaxation techniques, which you can do daily or at specific stressful times such as during a medical procedure. Relaxation techniques include:

For the caregiver of a loved one with cancer
Cancer impacts not just the person diagnosed but their whole network of friends, family members and loved ones. This is especially true for the person acting as caregiver.

A person caring for a cancer patient spends an average of 8 hours per day providing care. The demands of caregiving depend on several variables including the stage of the disease, the types of symptoms experienced, functional ability, treatment side effects. A caregiver’s response to the cancer diagnosis, treatment and journey itself can be just as important as how the patient responds, which makes the need for physical, social and emotional support for caregivers extremely important. According to the Cancer Support Community, here are the top 10 tips for caregivers:
  1. Find your support system
  2. Gather information, recognize a “new normal”
  3. Relax your mind/recharge your body
  4. Take comfort in others
  5. Plan for the future
  6. Have necessary paperwork in place – ie healthcare agent/power of attorney/advanced directives/will
  7. Accept a helping hand
  8. Be mindful of your health
  9. Consider exploring stress-management techniques
  10. Do what you can, admit what you can’t

Your Managing Cancer at Work oncology nurse navigator is available to discuss these techniques and address any questions or concerns you may have. They can be reached at 844-446-6229, and at managecancer@jhmi.edu.

Cancer.Net Editorial Board (2017). Managing Stress.  Retrieved from:  http://www.cancer.net

Vammen, S. (2015). 10 Tip for Caregivers.  Retrieved from:  http://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/