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.

Physical activity

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.

Be mindful

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:

  • 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.
July 14, 2017 See more In-depth