Stress Management When You Have Cancer
The diagnosis of cancer presents many challenges and you may feel a great deal of stress. Some people try to relieve stress by smoking, drinking, overeating, using drugs, or just "shutting down." Some people become violent or abusive in response to stress. These methods of coping have harmful side effects. By learning other ways to deal with symptoms of stress, you can avoid problems that may affect yourself or others and improve your overall quality of life.
Whatever you do to manage stress, you can benefit from the regular use of relaxation skills.
The following methods of relaxation and meditation are among the simplest and most effective. They should be done twice a day for about 20 minutes. Pick a time and place where you won't be disturbed or distracted. Once you've trained your body and mind to relax (2 to 3 weeks), you'll be able to produce that same relaxed state whenever you want.
I. Roll breathing
The way you breathe affects your whole body. Full, deep breathing is a good way to reduce tension and feel relaxed. The object of roll breathing is to develop full use of your lungs and get in touch with the rhythm of your breathing. It can be practiced in any position, but it is best to learn it lying on your back, with your knees bent.
Practice roll breathing daily for several weeks until you can do it almost anywhere, providing an instant relaxation tool any time you need one.
Caution: Some people get dizzy the first few times they try roll breathing. If you begin to hyperventilate or become lightheaded, slow your breathing. Get up slowly.
II. Progressive muscle relaxation
The body responds to stressful thoughts or situations with muscle tension, which can cause pain or discomfort. Deep muscle relaxation reduces muscle tension and general mental anxiety, too. Progressive muscle relaxation is effective in combating stress-related health problems and often helps people get to sleep.
Muscle group and procedure
You can use a prerecorded audiotape to help you go through all the muscle groups, or you can do it by just tensing and relaxing each muscle group. Choose a place where you can lie down on your back and stretch out comfortably, such as a carpeted floor. Tense each muscle group for 4 to 10 seconds (hard but not to the point of cramping), then give yourself 10 to 20 seconds to release it and relax. At various points, review the various muscle groups and relax each one a little more each time.
How to tense muscle groups
When you are finished, return to alertness by counting backwards from 5 to 1.
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