Metastatic breast cancer and stress: Finding relief
Stress management is an important part of your treatment plan.
Facing metastatic breast cancer can involve a barrage of treatments, relentless fatigue and stress. With so much on your mind, it might be hard to think about adding one more task to your to-do list. But finding ways to manage your stress is an essential part of taking care of yourself.
Research shows that women with breast cancer who participated in mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques were better able to emotionally cope with their cancer, saw improvements in their physical abilities and had fewer depression symptoms. Doing something as simple as laughing also might improve your quality of life and help you manage anxiety and depression. Consider squeezing these stress busters into your daily schedule to help you cope with your cancer.
Multiple studies have shown that women who exercise regularly can reduce their stress. To make this work for you, choose activities that you look forward to doing each day. Maybe you enjoy gardening, walking around the neighborhood or swimming in your local pool. Try to find about 30 minutes per day to be as active as possible.
Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment — without interpretation or judgment. Research shows that women with breast cancer who practice mindful meditation and yoga are less stressed and anxious, and experience better emotional health and quality of life. Here's how to do it:
- Sit or lie down and relax by breathing deeply.
- Let your mind focus on each part of your body, from top to bottom or vice versa.
- Feel every sensation in each part of your body. Acknowledge every sensation without judgment.
- Move on to the next part of your body.
Ideally, take 20 to 30 minutes each day for your mindful meditation practice — though you can gain benefits from a five-minute session once or twice daily, as long as you practice every day.
Make time for sleep
Poor sleep increases stress hormones in your body. Make time for quality sleep, which can allow your mind and body to heal. Indulge your body's need for rest by:
July 14, 2017
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine for several hours before bedtime.
- Limiting screen time before bed. Read a book instead.
- Scheduling a rest or nap for midafternoon, around 2 or 3 p.m.
- Napping for only 10 to 30 minutes. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward.
See more In-depth
- Psychological stress and cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/feelings/stress-fact-sheet. Accessed April 13, 2017.
- Anxiety, fear and emotional distress. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/changes-in-mood-or-thinking/anxiety-and-fear.html. Accessed April 13, 2017.
- 6 tips for managing stress. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/6tipsformanagingstress.html. Accessed April 13, 2017.
- Physical activity and cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/cancer-control/en/booklets-flyers/physical-activity-and-cancer-fact-sheet.pdf. Accessed April 13, 2017.
- Carlson LE, et al. Randomized-controlled trial of mindfulness-based cancer recovery versus supportive expressive group therapy among distressed breast cancer survivors (MINDSET): Long-term follow-up results. Psycho-Oncology. 2016;25:750.
- Kim SH, et al. Laughter and stress relief in cancer patients: A pilot study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM. 2015;2015:1.
- Ferri FF. Relaxation techniques. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 17, 2017.
- Sleep disorders PDQ patient version. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/sleep-disorders-pdq#section/_1. Accessed April 17, 2017.
- Napping. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping. Accessed April 17, 2017.
- Managing stress. American Society of Clinical Oncology. http://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/managing-emotions/managing-stress. Accessed April 17, 2017.
- Bourne EJ. Meditation. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. 6th ed. Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Publications; 2015.
- Dethlefsen C, et al. Every exercise bout matters: Linking systemic exercise responses to breast cancer control. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. 2017;162:399.
- Rohren CH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 28, 2017.
- Sarenmalm EK, et al. Mindfulness and its efficacy for psychological and biological responses in women with breast cancer. Cancer Medicine. In press. Accessed May 3, 2017.