Stress and Cancer

Stress and Cancer

Stress and Ovarian Cancer

Everyday life is full of stressors.  Paying bills, relationships and going to work all carry some degree of frustration.  Even positive life events like moving to a new home, a birth or a wedding, trigger stress.  When something exceptional happens, the stressors begin to compound exponentially.

Your diagnosis of ovarian cancer seems to amplify the stress, anxiety and fear in your life.  More than other medical conditions, ovarian cancer targets your identity in a way that limits your ability to manage stress.  If your stress busters become reduced, your anxiety grows and the balance is further tipped in the wrong direction.

Bust Stressors

Ovarian cancer is restricting but the degree of your confinement is dictated by you.  Having a plan to reduce stress and improve overall well-being will help your process.  Here’s how:

  • Set up success. Stress makes it harder to take care of you and not taking care of yourself increases stress.  Even if it seems that your body is against you, make yourself the priority by making appropriate diet choices, allowing enough time to get eight hours of sleep each night and exercising more often.  These three will improve your physical health and boost your energy throughout the day.  More importantly, the influence on your mental health is incredible. Your moods will be less depressed while your concentration and problem-solving skills improve.
  • Maintain your identity. People respond to cancer in unique ways.  Fear and misunderstandings lead many to make rash or hasty decisions.  Acknowledge and accept your situation.  Find times to be vulnerable as well as selfish.  Your life is changing but that does not mean that you need to change.
  • Explore your options for relaxation.  You know you need to relax and so do the people around you.  Finding productive relaxations does not have to be challenging or expensive.  Perhaps a pedicure or a tropical vacation would offer relaxation but the expense may be unaffordable.  Don’t give up on relaxation too quickly.  Free relaxation techniques begin with deep breathing and end at complex meditations.  Completing multiple trials throughout the day for weeks at a time is the only way to know if the relaxation is a good fit for you.  The vast majority of people achieve some benefit from relaxation.  You should be no different.
  • Subtract negatives. Surely, the stress would be less if the cancer vanished.  This is unlikely, though.  Instead, focus your efforts by taking a practical inventory of your stressors and identifying ones that create the largest unwanted impact.  Work to eliminate or modify these to reduce stress.  Be cautious, though.  Spending too many resources trying to change something that is unchangeable only leads to increased stress.  Choose your battles wisely and seek out supports to find success.
  • Add positives. You can never eliminate all negatives.  Adding positives helps find balance and then tip the scales in your favor.  If your positives can outweigh the negatives, you will feel more empowered and optimistic about the future.  Both behavioral and cognitive positives have benefit.  Rather than being glued to the couch, go for a walk outside or meet a friend for dinner.  Discover new ways to compliment yourself and see life as hopeful.  The sense of accomplishment you receive will shrink your stress.


Doctors give you many recommendations to care for your body but nurturing your mind and well-being is your job.  Take on the challenge with hope and optimism.  A healthy body is useless without a healthy mind to match.


Eric PattersonEric Patterson

Eric Patterson, LPC is a professional counselor in western Pennsylvania working for the last 10 years to help children, teens and adults achieve their goals and live happier lives. Read more about Eric and his writing at

Nov 11, 2014
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