Mesothelioma Center – Vital Services for Cancer Patients & Families

Relaxation Techniques for Cancer Patients | Online Support Group

For obvious reasons, mesothelioma is stressful. Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, it is important to have a variety of ways to manage stress. One of the most versatile and effective ways to reduce our experience of stress is by practicing relaxation techniques.

In order to better appreciate how relaxation techniques work, it is useful to understand the “stress response” that we all have. All animals are equipped with the fight or flight response, which is activated when we feel threatened. Running from a charging bear or the sensing the possibility of your job are examples that could trigger the response.

The fight/flight response is an adaptive biological reaction that enables us to run away or fight for our life in a crisis. Our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for giving us this strength and speed when we need it most.

Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Systems

When we feel threatened, our sympathetic nervous system:

So what happens when we no longer feel threatened? Our parasympathetic nervous system is activated and helps calm us down. The sympathetic nervous system is the accelerator in the stress response, and the parasympathetic nervous system is the brake.

The parasympathetic nervous system works by:

Because a diagnosis of mesothelioma is a serious threat to our well-being (or our loved one’s well-being), we feel stressed. There are usually measurable increases in stress hormones among cancer patients.

Relaxation techniques are designed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. There are many physical and emotional benefits of relaxation:

Types of Relaxation

There are many different types of relaxation. Some of the most common types are diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, muscle relaxation and guided imagery.

Some people need to try a couple of different types of relaxation techniques to find the one that works for them. You can sample different types of relaxation music and exercises online or on iTunes (under New Age/Relaxation Music). Some cancer treatment centers offer their patients, caregivers and the community relaxation classes.

Learning new methods of relaxation and stress relief are valuable tools that help us manage stress in our lives.

This material was shared in the April 9, 2014, mesothelioma online support group.

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