Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Coping day to day

Coping day to day image

If you are being treated for cancer, it is natural to have many different emotions and they may be difficult to deal with. You may be struggling with anxiety or a loss of independence.1 Here are some tips for coping day to day with the physical and emotional demands of cancer.

Look after yourself physically

  • Try to eat at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day and to limit sugary foods to the occasional treat2,3
  • Limit alcohol intake. Men under 65 years of age are recommended up to 2 drinks per day, women under 65 years of age are recommended up to 1 drink per day. One drink is defined as 148 mL glass of wine or 355 mL of beer, or a 44 mL measure of spirits per day4
  • If you smoke, try to give it up5
  • Exercise can boost your mental health:6
  • The world health organization recommends to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week7
  • Try a yoga class or going for walks6
  • If you are trying something new, check with your doctor to make sure it is safe during your cancer treatment
  • For advice on coping with the side effects of your treatment, also read What side effects can I expect and Managing side effects of chemotherapy with exercise

Do something you enjoy

  • Looking for ways to laugh, have fun, and enjoy life can make you feel better8
  • Aim to continue with your favourite activities as close to your normal routine as possible, while taking care not to tire yourself out:8
  • Return to a hobby you like8
  • Participate in creative activities8
  • Go out with friends to a funny film9
  • Pay attention to your nutritional needs9
  • Consider trying a complementary therapy to help you relax such as hypnotherapy6

Ask for help and support

  • Although you may sometimes feel lonely, you do not have to cope with cancer alone1 
  • Talking to other people about how you are feeling and what you are going through may help1 
  • The members of your care team are aware of the levels of distress people can have to cancer and can suggest services available10,11


You might want to talk to a counsellor or psychologist, who can help you work out your feelings and to cope with difficult ones by helping you think more positively.10,11



  1. Macmillan. Cancer And Your Feelings: Loneliness and Isolation. Accessed May 2016.
  2. Macmillan. How To Eat Healthily Accessed February 2016.
  3. Macmillan. Healthy eating and cancer. Accessed May 2016.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and healthy eating. Accessed February 2016.
  5. American Cancer Society. Why quit smoking now?. Accessed February 2016.
  6. Cancer Research UK. Managing your emotions. Accessed February 2016.
  7. World Health Organization. Physical Activity and Adults. Accessed February 2016.
  8. National Cancer Institute. Feelings and Cancer. Accessed February 2016.
  9. American Cancer Society. Coping With Cancer in Everyday Life. Accessed May 2016.
  10. National Cancer Institute. Psychological Stress and Cancer. Accessed February 2016.
  11. Macmillan. Psychological And Self-Help Therapies: What are psychological therapies? Accessed May 2016.