After a diagnosis of breast cancer, you may feel anxious or stressed. There are techniques and support to help you reduce stress and cope with anxiety better.

Stress and anxiety can make you feel nervous, worried and tense. These feelings can range from being a bit uneasy to a continuing sense of dread. You may sometimes feel panicky and frightened.

Physical signs of stress and anxiety include:

  • a change in appetite
  • sleep disruption
  • muscle tension
  • tightness in the chest
  • a racing heart rate
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling more irritable than usual

In some cases anxiety can become so overwhelming that it leads to panic attacks, causing further fear and worry.

Some people with stress or anxiety also have low moods or depression.

How can I reduce stress and anxiety?

There are lots of ways to reduce stress and anxiety. We've listed some of them below.

Distraction

This involves learning to focus on the things around you, or a hobby or interest, so that you can shut out negative thoughts.

Relaxation, visualisation, mindfulness and meditation

These can be used separately or together to reduce stress and tension, relax the mind and body and help improve wellbeing. Find out more about relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and meditation.

One-to-one counselling

Counselling takes place in a private and confidential setting. You will be able to explore feelings such as anger, anxiety and grief, which can be related to your cancer diagnosis, making them easier to understand and cope with.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT can help you to change patterns of thinking and behaviour that may be stopping you from moving forward. Unlike some techniques, it focuses on problems and difficulties you’re having in the ‘here and now’. Instead of exploring causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind in the present.

If you think you might benefit from these techniques, your breast care nurse or GP may be able to advise you on how to access them. You can also visit the Anxiety UK website call their helpline on 03444 775 774.

Physical activity and healthy living

  • regular physical activity, whether it’s a brisk walk or yoga, can help clear your mind and reduce your stress levels
  • healthy living – drinking alcohol or smoking will not reduce stress or anxiety in the long term and can lead to other health problems

Complementary therapies

Some people find complementary therapies and activities such as yoga, tai chi and chi gong reduce stress and improves their mood.

Talk to someone

If you’re finding it difficult to cope emotionally, you might want to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. This could be someone in your specialist team or your GP, who can advise you if more specialist help would be beneficial.

Talking to someone who has had a similar experience may also help. You can do this through a local support group, our Forum or our Someone Like Me service.

You may find it useful to read our blog 10 ways to overcome anxiety.

» Find tips on coping with anxiety after breast cancer in BECCA, our free app

Last reviewed: September 2018
Next planned review begins 2020

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