- You can use a number of methods to cope
with the stresses of cancer and its treatment. Experiment to find the
ones that work best for you. You may want to check with your doctor
before using these techniques, especially if you have lung problems.
- Muscle tension and release.
Lie down in a quiet room. Take a slow, deep breath. As you breathe in,
tense a particular muscle or group of muscles. For example, you can
squeeze your eyes shut, frown, clench your teeth, make a fist, or
stiffen your arms or legs. Hold your breath and keep your muscles
tense for a second or two. Then breathe out, release the tension, and
let your body relax completely. Repeat the process with another muscle
or muscle group.
You also can try a variation of this method, called "progressive
relaxation." Start with the toes of one foot and, working upward,
progressively tense and relax all the muscles of one leg. Next, do the
same with the other leg. Then tense and relax the rest of the muscle
groups in your body, including those in your scalp. Remember to hold
your breath while tensing your muscles and to breathe out when
releasing the tension.
- Rhythmic breathing.
Get into a comfortable position and relax all your muscles. If you
keep your eyes open, focus on a distant object. If you close your
eyes, imagine a peaceful scene or simply clear your mind and focus on
- Breathe in and out slowly and
comfortably through your nose. If you like, you can keep the rhythm
steady by saying to yourself, "In, one two; Out, one two."
Feel yourself relax and go limp each time you breathe out.
You can do this technique for just a few seconds or for up to 10
minutes. End your rhythmic breathing by counting slowly and silently
With training in biofeedback, you can control body functions such as
heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. A machine will sense
when your body shows signs of tension and will let you know in some
way such as making a sound or flashing a light. The machine will also
give you feedback when you relax your body. Eventually, you will be
able to control your relaxation responses without having to depend on
feedback from the machine. Your doctor or nurse can refer you to some
one trained in teaching biofeedback.
Imagery is a way of daydreaming that uses all your senses. It usually
is done with your eyes closed. To begin, breathe slowly and feel
yourself relax. Imagine a ball of healing energy- perhaps a white
light-forming somewhere in your body. When you can "see" the
ball of energy, imagine that as you breathe in you can blow the ball
to any part of the body where you feel pain, tension, or discomfort
such as nausea. When you breathe out, picture the air moving the ball
away from your body, taking with it any painful or uncomfortable
feelings. (Be sure to breathe naturally; don't blow.) Continue to
picture the ball moving toward you and away from you each time you
breathe in and out. You may see the ball getting bigger and bigger as
it takes away more and more tension and discomfort.
- To end the imagery, count slowly to
three, breathe in deeply, open your eyes, and say to yourself, "I
feel alert and relaxed."
Visualization is a method that is similar to imagery. With
visualization, you create an inner picture that represents your fight
against cancer. Some people getting chemotherapy use images of rockets
blasting away their cancer cells or of knights in armor battling their
cancer cells. Others create an image of their white blood cells or
their drugs attacking the cancer cells.
- Hypnosis. Hypnosis
puts you in a trance-like state that can help reduce discomfort and
anxiety. You can be hypnotized by a qualified person, or you can learn
how to hypnotize yourself. If you are interested in learning more, ask
your doctor or nurse to refer you to someone trained in the technique.
You use distraction any time an activity takes your mind off your
worries or discomforts. Try watching TV, listening to the radio,
reading, going to the movies, or working with your hands by doing
needlework or puzzles, building models, or painting. You may be
surprised how comfortably the time passes.