- Cancer Information
- When you are first diagnosed
- Emotions and cancer
- Your coping toolbox
- Tools for coping
Tools for coping
A coping toolbox is a set of strategies or “tools” you can use to help you cope with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Each person’s toolbox will look different, but it’s useful to consider a range of strategies. Some of these are ways to solve particular problems; others aim to enhance your general wellbeing during this stressful time.
Find out what to expect
Information about the diagnosis and treatments can help you make decisions and plan ahead, and may make you feel more secure.
Share your concerns with a family member or friend, or with your general practitioner (GP), nurse, social worker or psychologist. Other options include calling Cancer Council 13 11 20, visiting the Online Community, or joining a support group. Accepting help with practical tasks such as shopping or housework may also make it easier to cope. Find more sources of support.
Eat and drink well
Eating healthy food and drinking plenty of water will help your body cope with physical and emotional stress, but this can be challenging when you are feeling unwell. Talk to a dietitian and see Nutrition and cancer for tips.
Research has shown that regular physical activity can help with feelings of anger, stress, anxiety and depression. It can also help manage fatigue and improve sleep. Even a short daily walk offers benefits. See Exercise for people living with cancer.
Take a break
Make time each day just for relaxation and enjoyment. Think about things that help you to relax and feel good, such as listening to music, reading, taking a bath or having a massage. Keeping in touch with the world through work, hobbies, or time with family and friends may help you see a life outside of cancer and provide a break from your worries.
Sort out issues
A cancer diagnosis can cause or add to financial problems, work-related issues, accommodation difficulties, relationship concerns and family stresses. There is support available – talk to the hospital social worker or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Clear your mind
Complementary therapies, such as relaxation, yoga and counselling, may increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve mood.
Draw on spirituality
Some people find meaning and comfort from their faith and spiritual beliefs. Others may experience spirituality more generally. A cancer diagnosis can challenge the beliefs of some people. It may help to talk about your feelings with a spiritual care practitioner or religious leader.
Dr Anna Hughes, Liaison Psychiatrist and Psycho-oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anita Bamert, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Sally Carveth, Assistant Coordinator, Cancer Support Leader Program, Cancer Council NSW; Matt Featherstone, Consumer; Dr Charlotte Tottman, Clinical Psychologist, Allied Consultant Psychologists and Flinders University, SA; Shirley Witko, Senior Social Worker, Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Exercise during cancer
Exercise helps most people during cancer treatment. Find out which exercises are best for you, and watch our series of exercise videos
Relaxation and meditation
Learn how relaxation and mediation can help you both during and after cancer treatment, or listen to our relaxation and mediation