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Managing Anxiety

Learn about managing anxiety for people with cancer in this guide from The ONE Group (Oncology – Nutrition – Exercise) at Penn State College of Medicine.

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What you should know

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is having feelings of fear, sadness and uneasiness that can happen because of stress. A person with anxiety may sweat, have a hard time relaxing and have a fast heartbeat.

Patients may have anxiety when:

  • Being tested for cancer
  • Waiting for test results
  • Hearing a cancer diagnosis
  • Being treated for cancer
  • Worrying that the cancer will come back

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

  • Looking and feeling worried
  • Trouble solving problems and focusing
  • Tension or tightness in muscles
  • Shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Grouchiness
  • Short-temperedness
  • Panic attacks

What you can do: Strategies for managing anxiety

Ways to manage anxiety

  • Exercise
  • Meditation, yoga or prayer
  • Group therapy
  • Counseling
  • Having support from family members
  • Sharing your feelings
  • Remembering that it is OK to feel sad and frustrated

Tips for exercising

  • Ask your doctor which exercises are safe for you.
  • Take it slow. Increase the amount of exercise you do little by little.
  • Do exercises that you enjoy.
  • Exercising with others can make it more fun.
  • Some exercise is better than none.

Possible exercises you can try

  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Any aerobic exercise

Note: Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, three times weekly, has been specifically documented to improve anxiety among people living with and beyond cancer .

Where can I find more information about aerobic and strength-training exercises?

If you are interested in starting aerobic and/or strength-training exercises, The ONE Group (Oncology – Nutrition – Exercise) provides videos demonstrating proper form for more than 50 exercises.

See the videos here


Contact your physician if:

  • You have thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself.
  • You have thoughts of wanting to hurt others.
  • You experience loss of control.