Dealing With Stress & Anxiety After Cancer | Journey of Survivorship

Following her mother's death and her own cancer diagnosis, one cancer survivor encountered much more stress and anxiety that she had experienced before. Read more for the techniques that she uses to help balance her life.

Two of the biggest things that I associate with post-cancer are a whole lot of stress and anxiety. I feel safest when I'm at home, my husband and pups accounted for...otherwise there are appliances, batteries, and light bulbs that could catch fire, doors and windows that could be accidentally left ajar, random items that my pups could choke on or get entangled by...the list goes on and on. After my mother's death and my own cancer diagnosis, the world quickly became a frightening place full of uncontrolled variables.

While my anxiety manifests in waves where sometimes I feel just like normal Mallory and other times I'm glad to be at home in pjs all day long, I am starting to learn how to cope with the stress that having a life threatening illness can bring. Learning self-care and coping mechanisms is a process that takes time and patience. While the techniques that I now have weren't developed overnight, they are remarkably simple and straight forward.

These are some of the techniques that work for me:

1. Taking a walk or run everyday with my dogs.

      Getting outside with my pups everyday keeps me feeling centered and capable of handling the world around me. I find it a lot more difficult to make the outside world seem traumatizing and foreboding when I face it head on; knowing that the dogs are enjoying themselves, that we are spending time together, and that the world outside can be a beautiful place. Maybe for you this is taking a bike ride or a walk with your spouse or roommate. Maybe you love playing with your cat for a little while each day. Whatever helps you to calm yourself and get some exercise will work!

2. Having a mantra to repeat to myself when my thoughts start spiraling somewhere dark.

      Sometimes my imagination can get the best of me. I experience one thing and all of a sudden I feel completely panicked about all the other possibilities that could have happened. Lately, when this happens, I repeat to myself: “Hold Us, Keep Us, Bless Us." While a phrase with religious connotation might not work for everyone, having a mantra that you find soothing and comforting can help you to step away from the stressor, if only for a moment, and collect yourself. I think of it as my reset button.

3. Sleeping 7-9 hours every night.

      I know, I know. Everyone always says that getting sleep helps with a million things from attention span to general healthy living. Well, guess what? It definitely helps with my stress level too! If I am already tired when my day starts, I leave myself even more vulnerable to everyday situations becoming stressful and anxiety-ridden. Everybody has to sleep!

4. Telling someone when I am having trouble coping with the world.

      Usually this is my husband but other times it is a close friend. I have found, and I bet my husband would agree, that when I try to keep my troubles, worries, stresses bottled up inside, they often end up exploding out anyway. Admitting that I am having a harder time that day (or that week) dealing with my day-to-day stress helps my loved ones know why I might seem on edge or why I might ask for a little extra love and care. Asking for help is the easiest way to find it.

What techniques do you use to deal with stress and anxiety?