For many of us, work gives our lives purpose — it contributes to our sense of identity and provides an escape from external pressures. But while it can be an important source of personal achievement and fulfillment, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety. This juxtaposition can be even more profound for cancer patients and survivors, whose ability to work, as well as the degree of interest in what they do day to day, may change following a diagnosis. In short, the relationship between employment and cancer is complicated.
A recent article from our friends at the Job Network highlights practical ways to address anxiety and stress on the job, since the workplace has such a significant impact on our mental well-being and health. We’ve chosen to highlight a few of their approaches that can be particularly helpful for cancer patients and survivors who are trying to manage work-related stress in addition to stress related to their diagnosis/treatment.
- Diagnose the problem. Similar to other forms of stress, it’s important to have an understanding about the causes of work-related pressure and anxiety. Try to take a step back to fully understand the sources of the stress, so that you are better equipped to find appropriate solutions for each.
- Get help. Oftentimes individuals with cancer are hesitant to ask for help because of the concern that they will be seen as a less effective employee than their peers. However, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone needs help from time to time, and while assistance is often available, one must be willing to ask for it. It is becoming increasingly common for employers to offer workplace support in the form of counseling and therapy for this exact reason. Don’t be afraid to use the resources that are available.
- Find outlets. Despite our hardest efforts, there are times when some aspects of a job simply cannot be changed. This doesn’t mean there’s no hope and that you must live with the increased stress. Rather, you can make an effort to find something outside of the workplace that will relieve some of the work pressure. This is also a nod to the importance of maintaining a work-life balance.
For those who want to continue to work during treatment or return to work following treatment, one key to doing so successfully is being able to reduce stress on the job. Also critically important is finding ways to manage side-effects at work and to maintain positive relationships with both managers and coworkers.
For those who ultimately determine that they want to embark on a new career path, that decision can present its own form of anxiety. One way to counteract the feeling of being overwhelmed is to establish a game plan and to approach your job search methodically.
When it comes to managing the challenges of working after a diagnosis, Cancer and Careers offers a host of free resources to help you reduce stress and feel empowered. Here are just a few: