I tried to research why stress was so bad for us during breast cancer treatment, but it stressed me out because there is so much information out there. I do have some tips though, so pop the kettle on, make a nice cup of (green) tea, find a quiet spot and b r e a t h e…..
1. Meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation is the practice of calming and focusing your mind, using breathing with the aim of creating inner peace. It brings relaxation and reduces stress. Mindfulness is a way of just being in the present moment. You aim to focus on your breathing, body sensations, feelings and what you are doing at the present moment. By cutting out all peripheral thoughts, worries and feelings you can reduce stress and relax. There is also a practice called Mindfulness Meditation which is a combination of the two. You can practice both meditation and mindfulness yourself at home on your own or go to classes. There are a lot of websites and apps which basically talk you through a meditation. Some are free and some have a cost. Some have a free introductory session after which you can pay for more sessions. The best way to get going with meditation and/or mindfulness is to take a look at some of the free online courses and apps. There are loads of good ones, but the ones that I have had a go at are;
According to Mindful Magazine mindfulness is the “basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Sounds good? Sounds like it might help your mental health and emotional struggles during/after cancer? Well, actually, yes it probably will. According to Cancer Research, for example, mindfulness (as a form of mediation) can “help to relieve particular symptoms and improve quality of life for people with cancer. It might:
* improve mood
* improve concentration
* reduce depression and anxiety
* reduce symptoms and side effects, such as feeling sick (nausea)
* boost the immune system.”
FREE MINDFULNESS RESOURCES:
1. Breast Cancer Haven have free mindfulness audio recordings on their website that you can use at home. Penny Brohn also have a good selection of audio recordings on their website. Both of these websites really are the most wonderful resources that I’ve found.
2. Go on YouTube and search “mindfulness”. This brings up loads of guided mindfulness recordings that you can choose from to listen to at home.
3. Maggies Centres often put on an eight week mindfulness course at their national centres.
This is a form of therapy that uses the power of positive suggestion to bring about subconscious change to our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. And it can be used successfully to reduce stress and encourage relaxation. You really need to find a local hypnotherapist to try out hypnotherapy. You can also ask a hypnotherapist to make personalised recordings for you to listen to in times of stress. These are particularly helpful if you are suffering pretty badly from any side effects, or feeling completely stressed out and in need of lots of help.
3. Guided relaxation.
This is sooooooo relaxing and all you need to do it download a free app and listen to a soothing voice telling to imagine yourself on a lovely beach, relaxing every part of your body and before you know it, ZZzzzzz you are fast asleep. I listened to the Glenn Harrold apps but there are loads more to choose from. I listened to them to help me sleep, whilst chemo was being given to me and during my rough days. I love them.
“Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.” (The international Centre for Reiki Healing).
Look for a local reiki practitioner online. They usually give you reiki in a treatment room over the course of an hour. Lots of local cancer charities, hospices and cancer centres have free reiki treatments for ladies with breast cancer. It is gorgeous and relaxing. Very calming. I love it.
Reflexology is given by by a reflexology therapist who puts pressure on, and massages, your feet. Different points on the feet represent different parts of the body, and by massaging these points it is thought that reflexology can help alleviate symptoms. I had reflexology for the first time during my radiotherapy treatment. I wasn’t suffering from any of the chemo side effects at this point, and I wasn’t feeling too stressed. But I found the experience incredibly relaxing, and the air of relaxation followed me around for the rest of the day. Ahhhhhhh. Again, look for a local practitioner online or ask around – many local cancer charities, hospices and cancer centres have free reflexology treatments for ladies with breast cancer.
6. EFT tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique).
EFT is quite hard to explain in a short summary. You tap various parts of your hand, face and shoulder whilst saying a personal mantra to alleviate a particular anxiety, phobia or general feelings of stress. You need to work with an EFT therapist, but it is possible to self treat once you have been given guidance by a professional. I have had EFT treatment by a wonderful friend and she helped set me up with what to do when I was anxious, scared, angry or stressed. And it worked for me. You can find a local EFT therapist online.
7. Music and noise.
Sometimes when everything is just a bit too much and you can’t bring yourself to even listen to a soothing voice telling you to relax, you might like to try listening to relaxation music or relaxing white noise. You can download apps or get these on YouTube. They just play constant beautiful soft noise of tropical rain dropping onto forest leaves, waves lapping at the shore, spring birds singing in the trees and other lovely sounds. It might sound a bit weird but if you can’t relax and everything is just going crazy in your head, this is seriously soothing.
Some people find it really helpful to repeat personal affirmations during particularly stressful moments, such as having chemo, having radiotherapy, during scans or trying to sleep in the middle of the night. The idea is to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations and you just keep repeating the affirmation until you feel better. An affirmation is just a short sentence or statement like “I accept the chemotherapy drugs into my body so that they can help my body fight the cancer cells”. You can make up your own affirmations to suit the situation, or look online for some suggestions.
9. Can I have a spa treatment during cancer treatment?
Good question and one for which I have not received a definitive answer. Be sensible. Ask your oncologist and/or chemo nurses for advice. Reasons against having a spa treatment are:
- The essential oils used in the treatments may irritate your sensitised skin or interact with chemo drugs.
- If you are at risk of lymphodema then you don’t want a massage on your at-risk area unless it is done by a trained lymphatic drainage practitioner.
HELPFUL RESOURCES AND MORE INFORMATION
If you are on Twitter then there are a whole host of lovely mindfulness, meditation, affirmation making people to follow for daily tips and affirmations.