Stress Awareness Month - Dealing with stress

This is a banner for Stress Awareness Month.

We all deal with stress in our day-to-day routine. But stress can easily become too hard to manage, harming our physical and mental health. April is Stress Awareness Month and in this blog, editor Helena suggests some ways to cope with stress and manage some of its side effects.

1) Change up your location
Get some fresh air

Something as simple as breathing in fresh air can help when stress gets out of control. When you feel under pressure, staying in the same environment for too long may make things worse. Before you know it, words seem to lose meaning and it’s hard to concentrate. Sometimes, it feels like your brain has suddenly stopped working and this feeling can cause you to panic. Changing your scenery can help to refresh your thoughts and calm you down. Remove yourself from the stressful environment for a few minutes to remind yourself there is a bigger picture.

2) Out of the brain and onto paper
Make a list

This is one of the things I do all the time to deal with stressful situations. Sometimes, my brain feels like a filing cabinet that’s overflowing, with information spilling out everywhere. It can help to get the information out of your head and onto some paper. You could use a diary, post-it notes, even your phone. Find something that works for you and allows you to free up some space in your head. When things are written down in front of you, they can often seem more manageable and less intimidating.  

3) Get yourself moving

Exercise isn’t just for maintaining good physical health, it also helps your mental well-being. Even gentle exercise, like going for a walk, gives you time to focus on energising your body. Physical activity will also encourage your brain to release chemicals (called endorphins) that can lift your mood and help you handle stress. It can also make you feel more in control, because you’re doing something for yourself.  This is vital when managing expectations that you (or others) have of yourself.  

This is a quote bubble from Ronny. It says 'I find that some exercise or activity is extremely helpful for both body and mind. It can be fun too! It doesn't need to be a marathon or a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Speed, height and distance are not important - the direction is.'

4) Food for the body and soul
Eat well

Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, enjoying fresh food and drinking plenty of water will improve your mood and energy levels. For most people, a healthy diet includes lots of fruit and vegetables, some starchy foods, such as potatoes, some meat or fish, some dairy products, and a little fat, salt and sugar. It’s normal to not always feel like eating well, and sometimes we eat our favourite foods to treat ourselves. This is also important for socialising and enjoying our day-to-day lives. But in general, a healthy, balanced diet can help give us the energy we need to handle stressful situations. 

5) A problem shared...
Communicate with others

Sometimes, stress can make you feel like withdrawing from people. Of course, you may need this time to recover, physically and mentally, from a period of stress. But it’s important that you communicate with people around you, so your emotions don’t take over. Even if you don’t want to discuss the things making you stressed, talking generally can take your mind off things and help you relax. It’s often useful to remind yourself of what exists outside of the stressful situation you are currently experiencing.

6) Don't underestimate the power of sleep
Find a pattern that works for you

While we sleep, our brains release chemicals that stop our bodies making stress hormones. So, when we are having difficulty sleeping, our bodies never fully ‘calm down’.  Allowing yourself time to relax before bed and creating a routine can help signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Being more active during daytime, regulating the temperature in your bedroom or having a bedtime snack (avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugar) may also help.  You should do whatever creates a calm atmosphere that you feel comfortable in. If you continue to experience problems, talk to your GP. 

Coping with the emotional effects of cancer and trying to absorb all the information doctors give you can be stressful. We have a number of booklets that can help with this, as well as lots of information on our website. This includes information for friends and family. 

You can order the booklets by clicking the links above or by calling 0808 808 00 00. You can also share your experience and read about the experiences of others on our Online Community.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

Comments? Feel free to add them below (you need to be logged in).

Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo

  • <p>Hi &nbsp;,</p>

    <p>Thanks for commenting here. I&rsquo;m sorry to hear about your reoccurrence and further diagnosis. It&rsquo;s really common to feel anxious before your scans so don&rsquo;t feel you&rsquo;re alone in this. Different things help different people - some of the suggestions in our blog may help.</p>

    <p>But if you are finding it really hard to cope, talk to your hospital team. They may be able to refer you to someone who could help. You may also find it helpful to <a href="" title="This link will take you to the Macmillan page where you can find support groups near you." target="_blank"><strong>join a support group</strong> </a>where you can talk to others who may have similar feelings.</p>

    <p>It&rsquo;s great that you&rsquo;re already using the Online Community. You may be aware we also have a <strong><a href="/cancer_types/breast-cancer/" title="Click here to visit the Online Community group for breast cancer." target="_blank">breast cancer group</a></strong> and a s<strong><a href="/cancer_types/bone-secondary-cancer/" title="Click here to visit the Online Community group for secondary brain tumours." target="_blank">econdary brain tumours group</a></strong>. You may find support and suggestions from others there.</p>

    <p>And please remember you can always call the Macmillan Support Line on <b>0808 808 00 00</b> for a chat if you&rsquo;re feeling anxious before a scan. We&rsquo;re open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and someone will always be happy to take your call.</p>

    <p>I hope this is some help.&nbsp;<br />Liza</p>

  • <p>I am almost three years post diagnosis for bilateral bc which reoccurred a year later in my axilla.( not nodes ) then last year was diagnosed with metastasis in my brain. This was treated with the gamma knife successfully. I am now having 3 monthly brain and body scans. 



    My question is,   how can I get help to cope with the stress that I feel as the time draws near for the next scans.  It’s awful, causes so many headaches convincing me it’s come back again. Then the scan is clear, such relief, then the anxiety starts all over again.  



    Does anyone else feel this anxiety ?


  • <p>Hi ,&nbsp;</p>

    <p>Thanks for being in touch in response to our blog. It sounds like things have been very tough for you recently - particularly with the loss of three friends to cancer in such a short time. It&rsquo;s understandable that you&rsquo;d find yourself feeling down and fearful at such a difficult time.</p>

    <p>Many people do say they notice more aches and pains when a check-up or scan is due. It&rsquo;s probably because we feel a bit more aware and tuned into how our bodies are at such times. I hope your appointments and scans go well. And in the meantime - &nbsp;if you&rsquo;d like to chat things through with someone at here at Macmillan &ndash; our support line is contactable from outside the UK on <b>+44 207 091 2230</b>. <br /><br />It&#39;s great that you&#39;re using the Online Community. Are you part of the <strong><a href="/cancer_types/womb-cancer/" title="Click here to open a page for the Online Community group for womb (uterine) cancer." target="_blank">Womb cancer group</a></strong>? Perhaps you can find people to talk to there. There is also a <a href="/cancer_experiences/brits_abroad/" title="Click here to open a new page for the Living with cancer outside of the UK group." target="_blank"><strong>Living with cancer outside of the UK</strong> </a>group, but I don&#39;t know how active it is.&nbsp;<br /><br />I hope that&#39;s of some help. All the very best to you,<br />Liza</p>

  • <p>Hi all,&nbsp;</p>

    <p>Thank you all so much for commenting on this blog!&nbsp;We&#39;re pleased to read that so many of you found it helpful and encouraging. Thank you for your honesty in sharing your stories and what works for you. There are so many ways to cope with stress, and everyone is different. The Online Community is such a great place to read and share! We&#39;re really grateful to you all for commenting here.</p>

    <p>Remember, if you ever need a listening ear, you can call the free Macmillan support line on <strong>0808 808 00 00</strong> Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.&nbsp;<br /><br />All the very best,<br />Liza</p>

  • <p>Hi I am two years into uterine cancer stage 3a G2.sadly I have lost three friends to cancer since Christmas &nbsp;two very rapidly and it has really affected me mentally.suddenly I feel very down and as I have a scan tomorrow I am terrified what the result will be.I seem to full of aches and pains ,hoping it is all in the mind.Is this a normal reaction.</p>

    <p>Till now I have remained positive and stayed quite well although I do feel a very lazy git.reading some posts it&#39;s ok to sit and watch the sold go by without feeling guilty,thank you for those words..</p>

    <p>I live in Spain and have no family here,my few neighbours are busy people so at times I feel isolated, &nbsp;I have &nbsp;loved my 13 years here and have been happy with my treatment, Are there any other followers in Spain who use Macmillan for support,would be nice to exchange information.</p>

    <p>I read a lot of the information on Macmillan but don&#39;t usually blog.</p>

    <p>Much love to all you lovely people....Kathy</p>