Coping with Stress
People diagnosed with breast cancer have many unique sources of stress.
Here, we discuss some healthy ways to help deal with this stress.
Social support is the emotional support, practical help, advice and other benefits you get from interactions with people in your life, including:
- Family members
- Spiritual advisors
- Co-workers and supervisors
- Health care providers
- Other people who’ve had cancer
Many people diagnosed with breast cancer expand and strengthen their emotional support systems by joining a support group.
Learn more about support groups.
Benefits of social support
People who’ve had breast cancer can benefit from social support. Whether it’s informal support from family and friends, or more formal support from group or individual therapy, social support can improve your quality of life [15-16].
Breast cancer survivors who have more social support tend to cope better emotionally than those with little support [106-111].
Learn more about the benefits of social support.
Talking with a trained mental health provider (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or clinical social worker) can reduce distress and improve mental well-being and quality of life for people who’ve had breast cancer .
Some people prefer one-on-one counseling. Others prefer counseling in a group setting.
Mental health counseling may combine techniques such as coping skills training and relaxation exercises to help reduce stress.
Learn more about support groups.
Mindfulness meditation (mindfulness-based stress reduction)
With mindfulness meditation (including mindfulness-based stress reduction), you are aware of your thoughts and feelings, but do not interpret or judge them.
Some findings show mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, anxiety, fear of breast cancer recurrence and fatigue in people who’ve had breast cancer [96,113-115]. It may also improve quality of life .
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a special type of mental health counseling that may combine techniques such as relaxation therapy.
Some research findings show cognitive behavioral therapy may reduce fear of breast cancer recurrence, anxiety and distress for breast cancer survivors [5,112,116-118]. It may also help reduce fatigue and insomnia [78,119-125].
Few people are trained to give cognitive behavioral therapy.
Physical activity (exercise)
Being active is a healthy way for breast cancer survivors to deal with daily stress. Regular exercise (such as yoga) can help reduce stress and anxiety and give you a sense of control over your body [11,112,114,126-130].
You don’t have to do a lot of exercise to get a benefit. Even simple activities (such as walking several times a week or yoga) can improve quality of life [11-12,114,130].
Physical activity can also reduce fatigue [125,131-136].
The American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommend cancer survivors aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week .
Learn about physical activity and breast cancer survival.
Other ways to cope with stress
Other ways to lower stress and anxiety include [114,137]:
- Expressive writing
- Music therapy
- Stress management (in a group program)
Susan G. Komen® Support Resources