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Changing ways to manage negative work stress


One way to help survivors is to either teach them relaxation techniques (such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation), or refer them to appropriate resources such as relaxation training classes or to helpful relaxation CDs or apps. Some relaxation classes may be available at the local cancer centre, or at local community centres. Relaxation CDs are easily available through local libraries and at cancer centre libraries. There are also free on-line apps. Encourage practice, as practice improves effectiveness.


Remind patients that slow, deep breathing can help refocus energy away from stress. While helping relax physically, deep breathing brings oxygen into the body and brain.


Mindfulness-based stress reduction, developed by Jon Kabet-Zinn uses meditation, body awareness and yoga to help people become mindful by helping them to focus on the present moment. Mindfulness has been found helpful to cancer survivors in coping with illness, stress and pain12. Many cancer centres and cancer support programs across Canada offer free Mindfulness Based programs for those currently receiving treatment for cancer as well as those who have completed treatment. Cancer centre libraries have books and CDs on mindfulness, as do public libraries.

Other helpful mindfulness resources:

  • Free online mindfulness course
  • Mindfulness and Mastery in the Workplace (PDF): 21 ways to reduce stress during the workday
  • Free Apps: Stop, Breathe & Think; Headspace; Mindfulness Daily; Mindfulness Bell – download from
  • Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery: A Step-by-Step MBSR Approach to Help You Cope with Treatment and Reclaim Your Life, 2011, by Linda Carlson, Michael Speca, and Zindel Segal. ISBN: 9781572248878. This book was written specifically for people with cancer and is widely available in cancer centre libraries across Canada.

Better Time Management

Encourage survivors to improve their time management skills, and set priorities. See the Time Management section from the MindTools website.


Much distress is caused by poor communication and many issues can be resolved using good communication skills.

Some survivors would benefit in learning how to set healthy boundaries at work, and communicating their needs effectively. This includes learning about assertiveness and negotiation skills.

For more information, see the BC Cancer Agency‘s Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients, page 45.