Having cancer yourself, or caring for someone who has a cancer diagnosis, may be one of the most stressful situations you are likely to face. Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure, and can be exhausting. It causes a powerful surge of hormones in your body. The stress hormones are released to help you deal with perceived pressures or threats – the so-called 'fight or flight' response. You may find you feel tearful, irritable, have headaches, not be able to eat, feel nauseous, get frequent colds, and have a feeling that you cannot cope. It can trigger migraines, irritable bowel symptoms, rashes and other physical symptoms.
People with cancer and their families report several factors which add to the stress. These include worrying about the uncertain future, tiring treatments, frequent hospital visits, physical changes, financial and employment worries, relationship pressures, and not feeling in control.
Stress can also happen once treatment has finished. Whilst you are undergoing treatment, most of your time and energy is focused on your treatment and getting healthy. It is only when the immediate crisis is over, and you are trying to adjust to life post cancer, that stress may occur. It is a common point at which many people may seek help, and think about stress management.
Stress management includes gaining control of your thoughts, emotions, worries and how you deal with problems. Maggie’s Centres run a free six week ‘Managing Stress’ course for anyone affected by cancer. A similar course is run online, at Maggie's Online Centre. (Click here for information on this, and our other online courses and workshops). You may also find our Relaxation and breathing exercises section useful.
We have added the following links to websites and other resources which offer further information on stress and stress management.