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Stress

A diagnosis of cancer can come as a huge shock, and the subsequent appointments and treatments can be a stressor to both the patient and their loved ones.

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What is Stress?

First things first, lets define it- stress is probably a familiar emotion for most, and describes mental strain in response to situations that put us under pressure. Examples of such situations are financial problems, examinations and relationship breakdowns, as well as physical illness- including cancer.

Stress varies from person to person, and whether or not a situation will cause stress depends on two things…

    • The event- does it have potential to harm your wellbeing?
    • Your ability to cope- do you have the skills and social network?

What is the science of stress?

When subjected to a stressor, two systems in our body are activated as part of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response which prepares us to deal with potential threats. These systems are the ‘Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis’ and the ‘Autonomic Nervous System’- put simply, our hormones and our nerves!

Our hormonal system increases the level of cortisol in our blood, this hormone helps us mobilise our energy resources, and our nervous system increases our heart rate, dilates our airways and causes adrenaline release. All of this gives the feeling of ‘stress’.

What is the impact of stress?

Stress isn’t all bad. A little bit can help us change our thoughts and behaviours and pull on required resources to develop ways of coping with adverse situations.

However, prolonged high stress levels can exhaust our resources and have consequences on our wellbeing- this is known as ‘allostatic load’. Research has demonstrated that it may cause insomnia and thus fatigue, blockage of our arteries, increased inflammation, immune function suppression, insulin resistance and a decline in memory.

Lets Talk About Stress Blog Image

Cancer and Stress

A diagnosis of cancer can come as a huge shock, and the subsequent appointments and treatments can be a stressor to both the patient and their loved ones. Of course, worry and heightened emotions around this time are entirely normal, however, to avoid added physical and mental difficulties, it is important to take steps to manage the symptoms of stress.

So, some simple but effective tips…

    • Seek help and information!
      Don’t leave burning questions unanswered. As well as knowledgeable members of your healthcare team, there are many reliable resources available to help you make sense of what’s going on- your diagnosis, your treatment, how you may be feeling- NHS and Macmillan websites offer thorough, easy to understand information.
    • Set aside time for relaxation and mindfulness!
      Self-care is vital. Take time to yourself to do things that you enjoy. Mindfulness is a form of meditation which encourages awareness of your present self and surroundings- engaging in such practices can help you cope with stress and anxiety, and there are many resources available to introduce you to it.
    • Recruit social support!
      Gather your troops. Family and friends will be invaluable for offering advice, a listening ear and help when needed. There are also many opportunities to build new support networks, for example through cancer support groups or volunteering roles- such activities are fantastic for relaxation and engaging your mind elsewhere.
    • Try some gentle exercise!
      We all know that exercise reaps benefits for our physical health, but it works wonders for our mental health too. Gentle exercise such as a stroll through local green spaces, or a swim at your local pool will release positive endorphins and give your brain time out.
    • Ensure restful sleep!
      An important one. As we mentioned, stress can disturb your sleep, but things like reducing caffeine consumption, limiting nap time and avoiding screen use in the late evenings can help ensure you get the rest you need.

So, remember- feelings of anxiety are to be expected, but by employing some simple strategies you can keep these under control and prevent any troublesome consequences!

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References:

Mind. How to manage stress. [internet]. 2017. Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/#.XTM8BS_MxQI

Lazarus R, Folkman S. Transactional theory and research on emotions and coping. European Journal of Personality. 1984. 1(3): 141-169

Selyye H. Stress and the general adaption syndrome. British Medical Journal. 1950. 1(1383). 

McEwen B. Physiology and neurobiology of stress and adaptation: central role of the brain. Physiological Reviews. 2007.

McEwen B. Stressed or stressed out: What is the difference? Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. 2005. 30(5): 315-318.

NHS. How to deal with stress. [internet]. 2017. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/

NHS. Mindfulness. [internet]. 2018. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/

Macmillan Cancer Support. [internet]. Available at https://www.macmillan.org.uk 

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Tel: 020 3488 0182‬

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Onko programmes work alongside your cancer treatment.
Onko does not provide clinical treatment for cancer.

Newsletter

Coming to you soon

Get in Touch

102, Sydney Street,
Chelsea, London, SW3 6NJ

Tel: 020 3488 0182‬

Email: team@onkohealth.co.uk

  • ONKO FOUNDERS
Onko programmes work alongside your cancer treatment.
Onko does not provide clinical treatment for cancer.

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