simple breathing and relaxation
can be very useful for a variety
of conditions, from migraine and
high blood pressure to cancer. Almost
everyone can learn the technique
and it can offer immediate and,
at times, quite dramatic reduction
in the effects of anxiety and muscle
tension, and on the nervous system
that controls blood pressure and
the digestive tract. Many people
with cancer, and indeed many of
their relatives, can be helped to
relax and experience a sense of
calmness if taught these simple
methods. One can learn the techniques
at home using an audio, or join
a group. Self-help exercises require
motivation and constant practice
if the person is going to benefit,
and this may best be achieved by
attending group classes.
Lying flat may be uncomfortable
for people who are breathless or
in pain. That, however, shouldn't
discourage you since many relaxation
exercises can be done sitting up
or using pillows for support.
are many methods of relaxation.
Some of them are:
Visual Concentration and Rhythmic
Open your eyes and stare at an object,
or close your eyes and think of
a peaceful, calm scene. With the
palm of your hand, massage near
the area of pain in a circular,
firm manner. Avoid red, raw, swollen,
or tender areas. You may wish to
ask a family member or friend to
do this for you.
1. Breathe in (inhale) deeply. At
the same time, tense your muscles
or a group of muscles. For example,
you can squeeze your eyes shut,
frown, clench your teeth, make a
fist, stiffen your arms and legs,
or draw up your arms and legs as
tightly as you can.
2. Hold your breath and keep your
muscles tense for a second or two
3. Let go! Breathe out (exhale)
and let your body go limp.
1. Stare at an object or close your
eyes and concentrate on your breathing
or on a scene.
2. Take a slow, deep breath and,
as you breathe in, tense your muscles
(such as your arms).
3. As you breathe out, relax your
muscles and feel the tension draining.
4. Now remain relaxed and begin
breathing slowly and comfortably,
concentrating on your breathing,
taking about 9 to 12 breaths a minute.
Do not breathe too deeply.
5. To maintain a slow, even rhythm
as you breathe out, you can say
silently to yourself, "In,
one, two; out, one, two." It
may be helpful at first if someone
loud for you. If you ever feel out
of breath, take a deep breath and
then continue the slow breathing
exercise. Each time you breathe
out, feel yourself relaxing and
going limp. If some muscles are
not relaxed such as your shoulders,
tense them as you breathe in and
relax them as you breathe out. You
need to do this only once or twice
for each specific muscle group.
6. Continue slow, rhythmic breathing
for a few seconds up to 10 minutes,
depeacefulpending on your need.
7. To end your slow rhythmic breathing,
count silently and slowly from one
to three. Open your eyes. Say silently
to yourself: "I feel alert
and relaxed." Begin moving
Methods You Can Add To Slow Rhythmic
• Listen to slow, familiar
music through an earphone or headset.
• Progressive relaxation of
body parts. Once you are breathing
slowly and comfortably, you may
relax different body parts, starting
with your feet and working up to
your head. Think of words such as
limp, heavy, light, warm, or floating.
Each time you breathe out, you can
focus on a particular area of the
body and feel it relaxing. Try to
imagine that the tension is draining
from that area. For example, as
you breathe out, feel your feet
and ankles relaxing; the next time
you breathe out feel your calves
and knees relaxing, and so on up
means turning your attention to
something other than the pain. Many
people use this method without realizing
it when they watch television or
listen to the radio to "take
their minds off" the pain.
Distraction may work better than
medicine if pain is sudden and intense
or if it is brief, lasting only
5 to 45 minutes. Distraction is
useful when one is waiting for the
pain killer to start working. It
can be a temporary relief for even
the most intense pain.
Any activity that occupies one's
attention can be used for distraction.
If you enjoy working with your hands,
crafts such as needlework, model
building, or painting may be useful.
Losing yourself in a good book might
divert your mind from the pain.
Going to a movie or watching television
are also good distraction methods.
Slow, rhythmic breathing can be
used for distraction as well as
These groups can be a source
of information and support and can
provide an opportunity for people
to talk about their feelings. Health
professionals, doctors and nurses,
counselors or psychotherapists in
a hospital run some groups. More
commonly, people with cancer run
groups. They often offer different
techniques to teach coping strategies
together with relaxation or visualization,
as well as practical information
and emotional support.o
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