The strain of coping with your diagnosis and treatment may be compounded by other life stressors such as family dynamics, financial issues, and professional challenges. Unmanaged stress can have a negative effect on your health, including:
- increased blood pressure
- a more rapid heart rate
- decreased digestion
- increased muscle tension
- higher levels of stress hormones like adrenaline that can lead to impaired immune function
- difficulty sleeping
For cancer survivors, returning to work may bring mixed emotions – Going back to work may be experienced as a relief that life is back to “normal,” or experience as fear and anxiety about how your colleagues will relate to you. There can be uncertainties about how you will manage your responsibilities or your feelings at work.
What you can do
Speak to your healthcare team for a discussion about your readiness to return to work and some advice about how to make decisions that are right for you.
- Speak to your healthcare team if you are noticing changes in your mood.
- Consider medications for depression or anxiety.
- Learn stress management strategies.
- Learn to say no.
- Use breathing and relaxation techniques.
- Use Visualization and Guided Imagery techniques.
- Seek diversion.
- Use a sense of humour when possible.
- Connect with nature.
See also other resources created under workplace wellbeing.
- Antidepressant Skills Workbook
- If you struggle with a fear of cancer recurrence, view this video – Living with uncertainty: Discussing the fear of cancer recurrence (30 mins)
- Book: The Feel Good Handbook – Using the New Mood Therapy Everyday (1989) by David Burns published by William Morrow
Modify your work tasks and how you work:
- Identify non-essential job tasks and situations that may cause strong emotional or stress reactions.
- Can these tasks be re-assigned or shared with a co-worker?
- Explore ways of using stress management techniques before and while approaching tasks that cannot be modified.
- Identify supports that decrease your stress and discuss ways of incorporating these supports with your manager (for example, receiving written vs. verbal instruction, deadline extensions, more frequent breaks, work from home).
Modify your work environment:
- Create a soothing environment:
- Request a quiet work environment when possible.
- Declutter your workspace.
- Wear headphones to listen to soothing music.
- Work facing a wall instead of a busy hallway.
- Optimize the lighting in your environment.
- Identify a quiet, private location at work where you can retreat to if feeling overwhelmed.