5 Tips for Staying Sane With Cancer

By Marie Suszynski
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

Cancer Survival and Your Mental Health

  • Seek out listening ears. Acknowledging your feelings and expressing them can go a long way when you’re depressed, afraid, or anxious about your health. Birdsall recommends seeking out understanding friends, family members, clergy members, or health care providers such as counselors or therapists who will allow you to openly talk about your feelings.

    “We live in a society that encourages us to stuff our emotions and not talk about things that are bothering us,” Birdsall says. “The more we hold it in, the more we internalize that anxiety.”

    Talking to someone who’s supportive and will listen and acknowledge your emotions is a huge part of staying emotionally healthy, he says.

  • Get creative. Writing, painting, or creating music are all great stress relievers and outlets for the stress and anxiety you may be feeling as a cancer survivor. Birdsall encourages his patients to do whatever helps them relax and relieve anxiety on a regular basis.
  • Lace up your sneakers. Exercise is a great stress reliever, Birdsall says. Experts say that people who exercise are less likely to have anxiety and depression. Do it almost every day of the week to get optimal benefits.
  • Keep moving forward. A key aspect of processing your emotions is to then use that energy to move forward, whether you’re still in treatment or you’re in remission. Use the energy to learn about the type of cancer you have and your treatment options, to seek out cancer support groups, or to help raise money that will benefit people who have the type of cancer you had.
  • Keep it up over the long-term. Don’t just follow these steps while you’re in cancer treatment or in remission. Tackle the stress of being a cancer survivor on a regular basis, even if it’s been years since your cancer went into remission, Birdsall says.

Stress is cumulative, he says. A little bit is fine but building it up can do more damage to your mental health.

Taking steps to relieve stress and anxiety can help clear your mind and maintain good emotional health when you’re being treated for cancer — and after you’ve beat it.

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