Managing breast cancer stress: Write it down!

Managing breast cancer stress: Write it down!

Friday, July 24, 2015 by: Dr. Veronique Desaulniers

A breast cancer diagnosis naturally brings up a million thoughts about what will happen, how the diagnosis will affect family and friends and what the best course of action will be. The anxiety and fear caused by these thoughts can make decision making almost impossible.

There are many ways to manage the stress of a health crisis, though. One simple and easy way is to write it all down.

Stress affects the body

Essential #4 of The “7 Essentials System™” for healing the body naturally has to do with healing emotional wounds. This is vital for the overall breast cancer journey. When a person is going through a health crisis like breast cancer and they do not address emotional wounds, stress levels can heighten. Modern science has shown a direct link between unmanaged stress and how well the body functions on a cellular level.

The first system that is compromised when stress runs amok in the body is the immune system. When a person is “stressed out,” the body releases cortisol and adrenaline. Too much stress equals too much cortisol in the body and a draining of the adrenal glands. This, in turn, greatly weakens the immune system overall. Stress also elevates glucose (sugar) cells in the body. Cancer cells love sugar and too much sugar leaves less room for oxygen. In this environment, opportunistic bacteria and fungi invade the cells and cell mutation increases.

Manage stress…write it down!

Unmanaged stress is the starting point of a vicious cycle that can lead to diseases like breast cancer. Activities such as yoga, painting, dancing, walking in nature, listening to soft music and expressive journaling are simple to do. What’s even better is that these practices are usually either free or very low cost. And the benefits to overall health are enormous.

A recent study published in Psychotherapy Research found that people who let their emotions out through writing experienced a greater reduction of anxiety and depression when compared to the control group. Another study, published in the psychology journal Behavior Modification, showed similar findings when looking specifically at individuals with post traumatic stress disorders and substance abuse issues.

Journaling can have a cathartic effect because the process of writing allows a person to sort out and clarify thoughts and emotions. It also provides a structured time in which to reflect (this is a great exercise for anyone going through the breast cancer journey). Journaling not only provides an outlet for expressing negative emotions such as anger and frustration, it is also a great tool for releasing them as well.

To journal, one can simply start with a pen and a spiral notebook or few sheets of paper. Computer-savvy types can consider starting a blog or using an online journaling resource such as LiveJournal.

The best way to prepare for a journaling session is to set an amount of uninterrupted time to write beforehand – usually twenty minutes is good in the beginning. Individuals who wish to journal will have the greatest success when cell phones are turned off and others around know that they do not want to be interrupted.

Stuck on what to write? Writing about feelings in the moment or the immediate environment will usually cut past any writer’s block. There are no rules to journal writing except one: Keep the pen (or the typing fingers) moving!


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