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Managing Stress and Anxiety: A few concepts and tips to consider

Thanks to Guest Blogger Jody Tompkins, MA, LMFT for providing these tips!

As you move through the cancer journey, or support a friend or loved one in the process, it is natural and expected that you will experience stress and anxiety, as well as many other emotions. Identifying some key strategies can help you feel like you have a choice in how to proceed.

Most of us have to be a bit “out of balance” during a transition or stressful time, as we often are adding the time and emotional focus needed onto an already full schedule, and pre-existing plans or commitments. With this as a given, how do we accomplish some sense of purpose and control, and manage our time as well?

Here are a few key concepts that are quite beneficial and powerful to address.

  1. listsImportant vs. urgent: Make sure you are looking at the tasks you want to complete, and identifying the priority of importance, as well as which are urgent. The distinction between the two can make a huge difference in a successful plan.
  2. Schedule: WRITE down what you want to achieve, each day, and each week. And make sure to schedule not only your work time, but also time for exercise, good nutrition, and some form of rejuvenation or rest. These are all part of the recipe, and require a plan so that your time and energy can be balanced.
  3. Needs and wants: What are some of your bottom line needs and wants during this time? Give yourself some time to consider financial, family, intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs, to name a few. The more you honor these different parts of you, and integrate your time, the more successful you will be.
  4. Awareness: Stay connected to yourself. Pay attention to and accept how your body and your mind are responding to your plan, and adjust accordingly.

When Anxiety Shows Up…

sun rising meditationAnxiety will often surface during this process. It is stated in many studies that a certain degree of anxiety is good: it will sharpen your senses and make you more alert.

Focus on identifying the negative thoughts and messages that people so often give themselves, and replace them with strategies to manage anxiety when it surfaces. Practicing strategies regularly can make the difference when the anxiety shows up.

Here are some ideas/tips to assist you:

  1. Notice your thoughts, feelings and behavior, without judgment
  2. Honor them as real and valid, and yourself as important
  3. Breathe – focus on the exhale, then the inhale
  4. Focus on the present – what is happening NOW, what can I act on NOW
  5. Choose a new thought, feeling or behavior, for this moment
  6. One more deep breath


jodytompkinsJody Tompkins, MA, LMFT is the Vice President of Programs at Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/ Santa Barbara (CSCVVSB). Jody has more than 20 years of experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her specialties include Family Systems, Anger Management, Anxiety and Depression, Couples Therapy, Grief Work, Art and Play Therapy for Children. Jody received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University, Northridge, and a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

As VP of Programs for CSCVVSB, Jody oversees a comprehensive slate of programs to address the psychosocial needs of cancer survivors and their families. This year, more than 3,000 adults, children, and teens will benefit from CSCVVSB’s free programs, which include professionally-facilitated support groups, expert-led seminars, mind/body courses, expressive arts groups, and an award-winning Latino outreach program. Jody supervises a clinical staff of 15 licensed psychotherapists with over 300 years combined experience working in the field of psychosocial support and cancer related issues. CSCVVSB has been a vital cancer support resource in the community for 22 years so that no one faces cancer alone.

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