After a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to give yourself the space you need to relax, rejuvenate and heal. Preparing for everything that follows – from deciding on a treatment plan to adjusting schedules at home and at work – can feel overwhelming. And while relaxing may be the last thing on your mind, finding time to unwind and alleviate stress benefits both your mind and body throughout your fight against cancer.
Good for the mind and body
“During cancer treatment, relaxation is a tool that can reduce the side effects of treatment-related symptoms and pain,” says Diane Schaab, MS, LPC, a Mind-Body Therapist with Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Newnan, GA. “Feeling relaxed can reduce the heart rate, lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety, providing a positively enhanced experience for both patients and caregivers.”
For some, engaging in calming techniques can reduce recovery time and enhance the ability to heal. It can also give you more energy, help you sleep better and increase immune functions. In addition to all these benefits, don’t forget that relaxing can also just feel great!
There are many ways to relax on your own, but working with professionals in a structured environment may help you delve into a deeper state of relaxation to fully release tension from your body.
Caregivers and other loved ones need support too, so encourage those around you to participate in these relaxation techniques as well. You can spend some quality time together, while rejuvenating both of you.
Here are some relaxation therapies for you – and your loved ones – to try as you embark on your treatment journey.
- Guided imagery – Also known as visualization, guided imagery engages your mind to visualize healing and relaxation. For example, a therapist can help you use your senses to imagine being in a place where you feel comfortable, happy and safe.
- Laughter therapy – Laughter therapy uses the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses.
- Qigong – A form of energy therapy, Qigong is based on Chinese philosophy and is comprised of physical and mental training. Qigong can help with relaxation, as well as improve balance and increase energy.
- Reiki therapy – Another form of energy therapy, Reiki involves gently placing hands on or near the body. The practice aims to help balance the body’s energy, strengthen its ability to heal, reduce stress, reduce physical discomfort and increase feelings of well-being.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine in which fine, sterile needles are applied to specific areas of the body, or acupoints, to stimulate energy flow (or “chi”).
- Massage therapy – There are many different types of massages, and each usually involves a massage therapist pressing, rubbing and manipulating your muscles in an effort to allow your body to relax, as well as your mind.
- Creative arts intervention – Art, music and dance therapy are all forms of creative arts intervention, which are therapeutic activities that can help to release tension and stress.
- Meditation – Meditation is a way of using concentration to calm your body and mind. Try working with an expert first to get the most out of meditation techniques, and then you can meditate on your own at any time.
- Hypnotherapy – This therapy uses hypnosis to allow the body and mind to reach a relaxed place. Hypnotherapy requires help from a licensed mind-body therapist in order to achieve the proper state of mind.
- Individual or group counseling – In a counseling session, you can speak to a therapist about anything that is occupying your mind. Group sessions allow you to share with others and hear their struggles, or you can have a private, one-on-one session. Bringing a caregiver to a session can open the lines of communication and insure that the relationship is not causing more tension.
- Medication – For some people, relaxation is more easily achieved with the help of prescription medicines. Additionally, some supplements can help to alleviate stress, such as panax ginseng and passion flower. Be sure to consult your oncologist or a certified naturopathic oncology provider before trying any new supplements.