How can I ease stress after my diagnosis?
Learning that you have breast cancer or the gene mutation may leave you feeling frustrated, angry and depressed. And your emotional well-being is a crucial part of your treatment. Negative feelings like stress, pessimism, anxiety and anger can lower your immunity and actually stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Plus, stress creates hormonal imbalances, says Alschuler, so it’s important to support yourself emotionally. The perfect antidote to these feelings is joy and laughter, and prioritizing these emotions—even during the challenges of treatment—is important. Using effective mind-body techniques, such as qi gong, reiki and meditation, can help trigger the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural pain relievers, to boost energy, ease any physical pain and help you sleep soundly. Here are two you can do at home, at work or even during your treatments.
Deep breathing: “A proper deep breath is your body’s own built-in relaxation mechanism,” explains Carol Krucoff, E-RYT, a yoga teacher at Duke Integrative Medicine and author of Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain (New Harbinger Publications). “When you bring air down deeply into the lungs, it triggers a cascade of calming physiologic changes: The heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, muscles relax, anxiety eases and the mind quiets down.”
To do it: Lie down and place your palms on your lower belly. Relax your abdomen. Take an easy breath in and notice how your belly rounds and your hands gently rise. As you breathe out, notice how your belly relaxes back and your hands fall. Don’t strain or force; your body knows how to do this. Count the length of your inhalation and exhalation (for example, 1-2-3-4 inhale and 1-2-3-4 exhale). See if you can make your inhale and exhale the same length. For extra relaxation effect, make your exhale longer—for example, inhale to a count of 4, exhale to a count of 6.
Body-scan medItatIon: When we’re under stress, we’re often worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. A body-scan meditation helps bring you into the present moment, which helps calm and center your body and mind, says Krucoff.
To do it: Lie down or sit comfortably, with your body supported. Bring your attention to your breath, and notice the sensations of the breath as it comes into and leaves your body. When you’re ready, send your awareness throughout your entire interior landscape, just noticing what’s present. Have an attitude of curiosity, self-compassion and non-judgment. Try not to let your mind spin off into stories about the meanings of any sensation—just notice the sensations that are present and welcome whatever you find.