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What does Research Say? The Impact of Meditation on Cancer-Treatment Side Effects.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you know that it can have a large impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. Not only do you have the stress of the cancer symptoms and diagnosis, but the cancer treatment may also cause some distressing side-effects such as fatigue, nausea, lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, pain, brain fog and general malaise. If you relate to any of the mentioned side-effects, there are treatments for you, including meditation.
Research shows that meditation can be one effective way to manage cancer treatment side effects, and the emotional impact that follows a cancer diagnosis. Meditation has been studied through clinical trials that observed how meditation can help both short-term and long-term. The findings stated that mediation may:
• Improve sleep.
• Increase immune function.
• Reduce pain.
• Reduce fatigue.
• Increase ability to concentrate and think clearly.
• Improve mood.
What is meditation?
Meditation brings your mind back to the present moment. You can do this by becoming aware of the thoughts, body sensations, and emotions that come up in this moment and being able to label them. An important part of meditation is ensuring that you are not judging the thoughts, body sensations, and emotions that come up. Instead, we acknowledge them as they arise and let them pass by. This might look like thinking or saying to yourself, “I notice that I am feeling nervous about my upcoming appointment and that it is causing my arms to feel weak in this moment” and then sitting with these sensations for a moment and letting them pass by as if they were a leaf floating down a river. As you might imagine, this takes practice and is quite difficult at first. The more you practice it, especially during times when you are not feeling distressed, the better you will be able to practice it during stressful moments. After a while, you will find that you are more compassionate toward yourself and others during conflict and stressful moments.
Ways to Practice Mindfulness Meditation:
There are endless lists of mindfulness meditation exercises, and everyone likes different ones. Be sure to find the one that works best for you; however, here are a few popular exercises:
1. Breathing techniques: You may sit or lay in a quiet space with your eyes closed (if your comfortable closing your eyes) and focus on your breath. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth or nose. Notice your breath as you breath in and out. If thoughts arise, simply notice them, and return your attention to your breath. Remember: Do not judge any thoughts or sensations that may come up.
2. Body scan: You may sit or lay down (depending on where you are), and your eyes may be closed or open (whichever you are comfortable with). Now, you will notice the sensations in your body, starting with your toes and working your way through each body part until you reach your head. Notice whether you feel tightness, pain, coldness, tingling, or any other sensation in your body. You may have thoughts that come up, simply notice them, and return to the body scan. Remember to give yourself compassion and grace, do not judge your thoughts or sensations.
3. Mindful Drinking: Pour yourself a glass of water or coffee. Notice the sound of the pouring, the smell of the beverage, the taste of the beverage, and the sensations as it runs through your body. How does it feel on your throat, teeth, tongue, stomach, and other parts it may touch? Continue this exercise until you finish the beverage or feel that you have had enough.
4. 5-Senses in Nature: While you are walking or sitting on your deck, pay close attention to the nature around you. What do you see? It may be the beautiful trees or an object that catches your eye. What do you hear? Is the wind blowing or are there cars in the distance? What do you smell? Maybe it is a nice, scented flower, a BBQ cooking, a campfire, or nature after it rained. What do you taste? Are you drinking a coffee or a refreshing lemonade? Maybe you can taste the meal you just had. What do you feel? You may choose to rub your hands together, or you may be wearing a piece of clothing that feels nice – how does it feel?
It is important to remember that meditation is to be used with your cancer treatment, it should never replace it. It is often part of your integrative treatment plan that is made with your medical provider. If meditation or psychosocial components have not been added to your care plan, please contact me and we can brainstorm what works best for you and your lifestyle. You can contact me at email@example.com.