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Survivors Workplace wellbeing Change your reactions to negative work stress

Change your reactions to negative work stress

Coping more effectively with stress at work means changing your responses to be more constructive so that negative stress does not hurt you as much. Here are some ways to change your reactions1:

Learn relaxation techniques by attending relaxation classes or listening to apps or CDs that guide you through relaxation. Relaxation classes may be available at your local cancer center or community centre. Relaxation CDs are easily available through local libraries and cancer centre libraries. There are also free online apps.

Try practicing relaxation techniques when you are not stressed. Learning relaxation is like mental aerobics. The more you do it, the better you get.

Slow, deep breathing can help you refocus your energy away from stress. While helping you to relax physically, at the same time, deep breathing will bring oxygen into your body and brain.

Managing your time better
Learning time management helps you work smarter. This, in turn, helps you know where to focus your energies and to identify activities – and maybe people – that waste your time. To learn how to manage your time, please see the Time Management section from the MindTools website.

Rounding out your life
There are many other parts of your life besides work. Developing these other parts can help you become more resilient. Rounding out your life might include:

  • Reaching out to family, friends, and co-workers
  • Eating well
  • Exercising regularly
  • Participating in fun leisure activities
  • Reading for learning and pleasure
  • Getting a pet
  • Taking a course
  • Developing a hobby
  • Joining an interest group
  • Volunteering

Communicating better

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

Two things influence having your needs met by communicating with others. The first is how comfortable you feel about stating your needs. This, in turn, can depend on your thoughts on personal boundaries and your confidence in speaking up for yourself. The second is how you communicate with others. You can enhance your ability to communicate by learning skills such as assertiveness and negotiation.

Thinking about your personal boundaries and learning positive ways to discuss things at work may help make what you ask for more realistic and achievable.

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


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 pain. Many cancer centres and cancer support programs across Canada offer free mindfulness-based programs for those currently receiving treatment and those who have completed treatment. Cancer centre libraries have books and CDs on mindfulness, as do public libraries.

Other helpful 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.