Coping with Stress

Surveys show that many people feel anxious after active cancer treatment ends.

You hope to get back to normal, but wonder if you will ever feel the same as before cancer.  Do you wonder if the treatment really worked?  Perhaps you are left with changes in your body or your ability to enjoy daily life.  On the other hand, having caner can help you realize what is most important in life.  Some men and women make positive changes, such as spending more time with family or taking time to do something they had put off.  Many begin participating in activities that give them more joy and meaning.  

The way people deal with emotions are often referred to as coping mechanisms.  Every person uses different ways to manage stress, depression, worry, or other negative emotions.  The diagnosis and treatment of cancer may have strained your coping style - or you may have found that your original coping style has helped you manage quite well.  While some people actively work on a problem, others aim to avoid the problem.  In general, active coping works better and is healthier.  

Examples of active ways to cope are listed below.
Active Ways to Cope  Using Avoidance to Cope 
 Take action to get rid of the problem  Deny that the problem exists 
 Plan how to deal with the problem Withdraw from social experience 
 Look for advice and information to deal with
the problem
Avoid any thoughts about the problem 
 Look for sympathy and emotional support Wishful thinking 
 Accept that the problem exists and decide what
you can and cannot control
Use drugs or alcohol to forget the problem 
 Try to get a new perspective by making the
best of the situation
Blame and criticize yourself for the problem 
 Become aware of your feelings about the
problem and express them to others
Keep extra busy and ignore the problem 

Learning to be aware of painful feelings can help your from expressing them impulsively.  When people don't talk about their feelings, they may act on those feeling in ways they regret later.  Restraining hostile, impulsive, and irresponsible behavior is associated with lower stress and better social functioning.  However, it is important not to confuse restraining behavior with suppressing you feelings.  Awareness of your own feelings is important for better mental health.  

For example: If you fear that your partner will be turned off by your breast reconstruction, you may avoid getting into a sexual situation, or you may even pick a fight to make sure your partner will not come-on to you.  It would be much better if you could find a quiet time and ask to have a talk for a few minutes.  Tell him your worry and let him respond.  Maybe the first time you get sexual, you will just light the room with a candle or wear a lacy camisole.  Perhaps you would feel safer asking him not to touch that breast until you give him the OK.  

To find healthy ways to deal with the normal stressful feelings that accompany treatment, you must:
  • Learn about the common feelings that many cancer survivors expierence after treatment
  • Recognize when you need more support with emotional issues
  • Know where to get support and how to move forward

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