Women's Health Matters

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Coping with anxiety and breast cancer

Two women talking

Emma Rinaldo, social worker at The Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at Women’s College Hospital, shares 10 tips to cope with anxiety and breast cancer.

  1.  You may be experiencing a wide range of emotions. Take the time to identify them and take a moment to tune into your body and notice how you are feeling. Often accepting the distress is the quickest way to feel calmer.
  2. Focus on what is within your control, such as exercising, eating well, seeking and offering support. It may be helpful to create a list.
  3. Practice tolerating the uncertainty. When we experience anxiety, it is usually related to a lack of control. Remind yourself that uncertainty is a part of life, but it will pass.
  4. Challenge any negative automatic thoughts. Distinguish fact from fear.
  5. Create a philosophy for how you are going to approach your breast cancer trajectory. For example, creating a mantra can help with frame of mind.
  6. Build structure into your everyday routine. Include a combination of tasks and pleasures as both can provide a sense of purpose and a feeling of mastery.
  7. Develop a Self-Care Plan. For example, document all of the activities that give you joy such as listening to music, journalling, taking a bath, etc.
  8. If you are feeling low and do not feel like doing anything, try the opposite approach. Don’t think - just do. Go outside for a walk.
  9. Start a daily gratitude practice that focuses on what went well in the day. What are you grateful for? At the same time, start a daily breathing practice to help you relax.
  10. Get all of the information you can about your breast cancer. This might mean reaching out to your healthcare team and reading information from reputable and credible sites like the Canadian Cancer Society.
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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital