Try a news or technology fast You might not only find that you’re calmer, you might also note a stronger connection to others, thereby decreasing isolation, an unfortunate side effect of treatment. Choose media wisely. Happy and positive movies, books, and television will have you fueling your mind with uplifting information. Just as watching negative shows about negative people will probably drag your thoughts downward.

Eat well! Think of food as medicine. Eating well may allow you to tolerate treatment more effectively as well as lift your mood. Cancer treatment and caregiving can impact the appetite so do your best to eat sensibly. Websites such as Cook for Your Life can offer easy and nutritious meals to help tolerate treatment when there is often limited time to create a healthful meal.

Get moving! Cancer and its treatment can lead to a sedentary existence for patients and their caregivers. What can help? Not feeling well is hardly conducive to exercise, yet pushing yourself to get out and engage in physical movement can lift endorphins and mood. It does not have to be a trip to the gym. Simply carving out 5 to 10 minute snippets throughout the course of the day will add up to a viable workout, and chances are you will begin to notice the difference in your mood. The American Cancer Society has information on how exercise can impact the quality of life for patients with cancer.5

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Surround yourself with beauty Admire the flowers along the way. Sniff scented soaps, which is an inexpensive mood elevator. Remember that color impacts mood, too. You may not be able to paint your rooms to something peaceful or joyous today, but you can buy an inexpensive pillow to brighten your décor and lift your mood.

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Being happy in these chaotic times can be a challenge. Although genetics play the majority role in our mood, we still have a 40% say in what our mood can be. These tools apply to nurses as well, who can succumb to burn out and exhaustion from the emotional and physical challenges of oncology. Maybe most of us cannot change all of our moods during the crisis of a cancer diagnosis, but small shifts in perspective can help make gray skies a little more blue with a hint of sunshine.

Claire Grainger-Valvano is clinical supervisor and coordinator of Healing Hearts Bereavement Program at CancerCare.


1. Lyubomirsky S. The How of Happiness. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA); 2007.

2. Seligman MEP. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York, NY: Vintage Books; 1990.

3. Snowdon D. Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study teaches Us about Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives. New York, NY: Bantam Books; 2002.

4. The top 7 benefits of learning a new skill. Central Connecticut State University Office of Continuing Education website Published January 23, 2017. Accessed March 15, 2019.

5. Physical activity and the cancer patient. American Cancer Society website. Last revised March 24, 2014. Accessed March 15, 2019.