Breast Cancer Partner Logo
breast Cancer Recovery Though Health and Wellness

Restore Emotional Well-Being Stress Management

By Nicole Ennis Whitehead, Ph.D.

is the most common form of cancer among American women. This means that American women are diagnosed with each year more than with any other type of .  Fortunately, there have been significant improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, which means that many women are able to successfully overcome .

However, unlike the treatment for heart disease and other illnesses, the treatment for is more toxic and intensive.  This results in increased demands physically, psychologically and socially on women who are coping with treatment.  Women’s physical resources are taxed by , , and other follow-up treatments that may last for years.  Psychologically, medical factors around diagnosis and treatment, including stage, clinical course and response to treatment, place increased demands on women’s resources.

And finally, women find themselves managing their support networks, team, work and other life demands. All of these demands in the context of making treatment decisions often leave women stressed at a time when they cannot afford the negative effects of on their health. Understanding the relationship between our bodies and our minds is an ongoing process. Scientists have researched how the two interact for decades, and while they have made some progress there is still a lot to learn.   

One area that has received a lot of attention is how affects our health. We know that can negatively affect the body’s defense against infection and disease.  We now are working to better understand how can make us susceptible to disease.

Let’s begin by having a working definition of what is.  We define as the physical, mental or emotional tension experienced by an individual in reaction to an event. is a normal part of our everyday lives and has positive, as well as negative, effects on our functioning. In the right amount, can be motivating and give us the inspiration we need to reach for the best from ourselves every day. However, in excess can have negative effects on our and .

Too much can become a problem because every time we feel tension in response to an event the body has what is known as a response.  The body responds to by releasing hormones commonly known as and . The body produces these hormones to help give people the strength they need to deal with the stressful situation. These hormones increase the body’s heart rate, blood pressure and blood-sugar levels. However, if an individual is under constant , researchers believe that these hormones begin to have a negative effect the person’s health. Therefore, one of the best ways for us to care for ourselves is to make sure that our daily does not overwhelm us. 

So, how can you manage your stress?

Finding effective ways to “de-stress” and relax is important in enhancing your immunity and restoring your mind and body back to health.  In his book, , , a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in behavioral medicine or mind/body medicine, describes more than 200 studies on the treatment of cancer by "mind/body" methods. Among the methods most often used by patients are those that reduce anxiety, such as meditation relaxation techniques. A reduction in the , and helplessness that often accompany the disease can make it easier to make decisions about treatment.
Sharing one's fears and frustrations with a psychotherapist or members of a cancer support group can provide invaluable emotional stability and relief. Being around healthy and positive people is also important.

One of the best ways to deal with is to try to counter the negative effects of in the moment of the stressful event.  One of the best ways to deal with a stressful event of any kind is to do any type of deep breathing.  Taking in big deep inhales and releasing powerful cleansing exhales goes a long way to calming the body. Other methods for dealing with are to consider walking away for a few moments of quiet time to collect your thoughts, getting plenty of rest and exercising to improve the body’s defenses. is an integral part of all of our lives, so we should find the best ways we can to manage it.

Meditation is also an effective way of relaxing the body (and mind) and strengthening its anti-cancer and healing defenses. Meditation reduces and improves the and of survivors.

Practicing meditation for 15 to 20 minutes at a time (usually twice a day) results in a kind of dynamic awareness in which your mind is alert and attentive, but tranquil at the same time.  Being in a meditative state tends to carry over into your daily experience, affording you more clarity and flexibility in your daily decisions and actions. Consequently, your mind becomes better able to concentrate amid distractions and more inclined to relax spontaneously in high-pressure situations. In many cases, you can begin to enjoy the simpler pleasures in life, and your mood can improve dramatically.

The following resources provide answers to frequently asked questions about causes of , how women react to and ways to manage :


’s fact sheet

For more information on management, go to . You can also share your knowledge and success with other survivors in our or at .

Breast Cancer Partner Events

September 29, 2012
'Pamper Me Pink' Breast Cancer Event, Floyd County, IN

September 22 – October 28, 2012
Shine Your Light Bright for the Cancer Fight, San Marcos, TX

September 29, 2012
Pink October Velvet Sessions with Bret Michaels, Hard Rock Hotel, Universal Orlando, Orlando, FL

September 30, October 3, 2012
American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference – “Treating the Cause”, Orlando, FL

September 30, 2012
Prevent Cancer Foundation 5K Race, Washington, D.C.

October 3, 2012
The Beauty of Caring Event, San Francisco, CA

October 11, 2012
Cancer and Careers Online Event Legal & Insurance Issues to Consider

October 13 – 14, 2012
Lance Armstrong Foundation Live Long Run, Walk, Ride Event, Hallandale Beach, FL

October20, 2012
SASS Foundation 18th Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day, Uniondale, NY

October 27 – 30
AACR Cancer Health Disparities Conference, San Diego, CA

November 15, 2012
Cancer and Careers Online Event Re-Entering the Workforce After Short & Long Absences


More Events