10 Ways to Relax That Help Mesothelioma Patients’ Overall Health 

Health & Wellness

National Relaxation Day falls on August 15 each year. It’s an opportunity to focus on the importance of engaging in relaxing activities. 

Most people would agree that it feels good mentally and emotionally when we’re relaxed and calm. The physiological benefits of relaxation are important as well, particularly when coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis

Understanding how stress and relaxation affect our overall health can help us appreciate the importance of making space for relaxation. Some relaxation activities have particular benefits for the immune system that can benefit people diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Relaxing Activities That May Neutralize Stress

When people engage in relaxing activities they’re activating the parasympathetic nervous system (releasing that acetylcholine). This neutralizes stress hormones and improves immune function.  Inflammation is decreased and uncomfortable digestive issues settle. 

What are some activities that have been shown to help our parasympathic nervous system to engage the relaxation response? 

10 Relaxing Activities That May Benefit Mesothelioma Patients
  1. Art therapy
  2. Deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing 
  3. Enjoying nature
  4. Guided imagery
  5. Listening to ambient music
  6. Meditation
  7. Progressive muscle relaxation
  8. Reading
  9. Tai chi 
  10. Yoga

Having mesothelioma is understandably stressful. Engaging in relaxing activities can not only help you feel better physically and psychologically but can help us improve our immune function and reduce inflammation and digestive problems. 

The key to finding relaxation activities to benefit you and help boost your overall health while coping with mesothelioma is tapping into what you enjoy. Reading, spending quite time with family or pets or even giving yourself space to do nothing can have health benefits.

Why Is Relaxation Important for Mesothelioma Patients?

Mesothelioma treatment is very physically challenging. Treatment side effects and recovering from surgery can be uncomfortable and exhausting, which increases stress levels.  

Mesothelioma patients and their loved ones are coping with the psychological and emotional stresses of living with a serious diagnosis and an uncertain future. Being diagnosed with any type of cancer feels threatening to our well-being as we fear that we won’t live as long as we hope to.  

Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma report feeling more stressed than they ever have before and seek ways to reduce their stress levels. Sustained stress levels can have a significantly negative impact on overall health and mesothelioma patients particularly need to keep their strength up while undergoing treatment.

How Does Stress Negatively Impact Health?

It can be helpful to understand how the body reacts to stressors or threats to our wellbeing. Luckily, our body is designed to respond adaptively to stressors and to calm ourselves down as well.

Our autonomic nervous system directs both the stress response and the relaxation response through the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Our sympathetic nervous system is activated when we feel overstressed or if our safety is threatened. 

If we’re driving in a car and someone suddenly pulls out in front of us, our sympathetic nervous system registers that threat and activates the “flight or fight” response. Our body is then flooded with stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. 

These hormones increase our heart and breathing rates and direct blood to our muscles to give us the strength to run or fight. In the case of the car pulling out in front of us, those stress hormones equip us to immediately respond to the threat of that oncoming car and take evasive action like slamming on the brakes or swerving out of the way. 

When our body is flooded with stress hormones, our heart rate is elevated, our muscles are tense and our breathing is short and shallow. Our flight or fight response allows us to protect ourselves or others when we perceive a threat. 

Usually, our stress response is self-limiting. This means that after the perceived threat is gone, our body returns to its normal state via activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. 

When our brain recognizes that we’re safe and that the threat is gone, our parasympathetic nervous system releases another hormone called acetylcholine. This hormone reduces our heart and breathing rates, increases digestion of food and lowers our blood pressure. 

This more relaxed state of being is sometimes called “rest and digest.” It’s here that we feel calmer and more at peace. 

Our bodies are not meant to be in the flight or fight stress response state for long periods of time. Chronically elevated levels of stress hormones have been correlated with increased inflammation in the body, impaired immune function, digestive problems, muscle tension and more.   

Don’t wait until August 15 each year to enjoy the benefits of relaxation! When you or a loved one has mesothelioma, taking the time to engage in relaxation is helpful physically and emotionally.

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