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Home > Wellness > Health Library > 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
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. After
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Now and then take the time to review all the muscle groups. Then relax each one a little more each time you use this method.
When you are finished, return to alertness by counting backwards
from 5 to 1.
August 1, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Ross Berkowitz, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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