Dear Friend

There is no single way to manage stress with cancer. But there are many ways that people find work for them. Finding what works for you is profoundly important.

Keep reading

Dear Friend

Cancer is stressful. Cancer is often piled on top of other stresses in your life. Cancer makes some life stresses worse. It helps you let go of others.

Reducing stress is vital to healing. So is finding skillful ways to cope with stresses you can’t remove.

There are many ways to reduce stress with cancer. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, exercise, time in nature, time with people you love, and time doing what you love to do are examples.

So is getting good sleep, taking medicine for anxiety or depression, using herbs if they work for you, visualization and imagery, art and music.

Almost anything that you enjoy and that lightens your burden reduces stress.

All the 7 Healing Practices reduce stress.

One of the greatest sources of stress is fear and loss. I’ve worked with fear and loss for many years—for myself and with others. I haven’t found a single path. Learning to stay present with fear and loss is a deep teaching.

Having something to believe in can make a profound difference in coping with stress. It doesn’t matter if your belief is religious, spiritual, family focused, nature focused, or some kind of purely personal belief.

So there is no single way to manage stress with cancer. But there are many ways that people find work for them. Finding what works for you is profoundly important.

Love is the greatest healer of all.

Wishing you well,


Michael Lerner Co-Founder
Michael Lerner Co-Founder

Managing Stress at a glance

Stress comes from both the challenging situations you’re facing—stressors—and your response to the stressors. Some stress is unavoidable. Any change can be a stressor, even changes that you may consider positive, such as marriage, a new job, or a new family member. Unpleasant circumstances from minor disappointments to major losses can be huge stressors. A cancer diagnosis is a source of stress for most people. 

Your stress response can impact your quality of life, including the severity of side effects and symptoms. It may also influence your body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more and your treatment outcome, even impacting your survival.

You are not entirely at the mercy of all the stressors in your life. You can influence your response to stressors. In this handbook, we explore tools to help you manage your stress response. 

Top practices and therapies for managing stress

These practices and therapies have at least modest evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of benefit for managing stress.

Therapies and practices we have reviewed

Also see how integrative medicine experts recommend managing stress ›

Seek professional help if needed. Diagnoses such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or anxiety can require therapy from trained practitioners for effective management. We encourage you to explore the options available to you through your cancer team and others. Taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health.

We emphasize that Managing Stress by itself will not likely prevent, cure, or control cancer. Like every other therapy or approach included on this website, Managing Stress is one component of an individualized integrative plan rather than a stand-alone therapy.

Helpful links

Keep reading


Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
View profile

Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
View profile

Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Last update: May 26, 2023

Last full literature review: November 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.