Here is an overview of some of the things that might help you deal with the emotional side of cancer treatment. Not everything will suit (or help) everyone, but there are lots of things to choose from. We’ve written this article from our own experience as patients. We encourage you to use this as a starting point from which you can carry out your own research and try a few of the strategies to see what works for you.
Meditation is the practice of calming and focusing your mind, using breathing with the aim of creating inner peace. It brings relaxation and reduces stress. Mindfulness is a way of being in the present moment. You aim to focus on your breathing, body sensations, feelings and what you are doing at the present moment. By cutting out all peripheral thoughts, worries and feelings you can reduce stress and relax. There is also a practice called Mindfulness Meditation which is a combination of the two. You can practice both meditation and mindfulness yourself at home on your own or go to classes (in person or online). There are a lot of websites and apps which basically talk you through a meditation. Some are free and some have a cost. Some have a free introductory session after which you can pay for more sessions. The best way to get going with meditation and/or mindfulness is to take a look at some of the free online courses and apps, for example, Calm, Headspace and Balance.
At Future Dreams we host mindfulness classes. Some of these are online and others are in person at the Future Dreams House in London. Check out this page for more information.
According to Mindful Magazine mindfulness is the “basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Sounds good? Sounds like it might help your mental health and emotional struggles during/after cancer? Well, actually, yes it probably will. According to Cancer Research, for example, mindfulness (as a form of mediation) can “help to relieve particular symptoms and improve quality of life for people with cancer. It might:
* improve mood
* improve concentration
* reduce depression and anxiety
* reduce symptoms and side effects, such as feeling sick (nausea)
* boost the immune system.”
Free mindfulness resources:
This is a form of therapy that uses the power of positive suggestion to bring about subconscious change to our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. And it can be used successfully to reduce stress and encourage relaxation. You really need to find a local hypnotherapist to try out hypnotherapy. You can also ask a hypnotherapist to make personalised recordings for you to listen to in times of stress. These are particularly helpful if you are suffering pretty badly from any side effects, or feeling completely stressed out and in need of lots of help.
This is sooooooo relaxing and all you need to do is download a free app and listen to a soothing voice telling to imagine yourself on a lovely beach, relaxing every part of your body and before you know it, ZZzzzzz you are fast asleep.
“Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.” The international Centre for Reiki Healing
Look for a local reiki practitioner online. They usually give you reiki in a treatment room over the course of an hour. Lots of local cancer charities, hospices and cancer centres have free reiki treatments for ladies with breast cancer. It is gorgeous and relaxing. Very calming.
Reflexology is given by by a reflexology therapist who puts pressure on, and massages, your feet. Different points on the feet represent different parts of the body, and by massaging these points it is thought that reflexology can help alleviate symptoms. Again, look for a local practitioner online or ask around – many local cancer charities, hospices and cancer centres have free reflexology treatments for people with breast cancer.
EFT is quite hard to explain in a short summary. You tap various parts of your hand, face and shoulder whilst saying a personal mantra to alleviate a particular anxiety, phobia or general feelings of stress. You need to work with an EFT therapist, but it is possible to self treat once you have been given guidance by a professional.
Sometimes when everything is just a bit too much and you can’t bring yourself to even listen to a soothing voice telling you to relax, you might like to try listening to relaxation music or relaxing white noise. You can download apps or get these on YouTube. They just play constant beautiful soft noise of tropical rain dropping onto forest leaves, waves lapping at the shore, spring birds singing in the trees and other lovely sounds. Also consider things like sound baths. It might sound a bit weird but if you can’t relax and everything is just going crazy in your head, this is seriously soothing.
Some people find it really helpful to repeat personal affirmations during particularly stressful moments, such as having chemo, having radiotherapy, during scans or trying to sleep in the middle of the night. The idea is to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations and you just keep repeating the affirmation until you feel better. An affirmation is just a short sentence or statement like “I accept the chemotherapy drugs into my body so that they can help my body fight the cancer cells”. You can make up your own affirmations to suit the situation, or look online for some suggestions.
Good question and one for which we have not received a definitive answer. Be sensible. Ask your oncologist and/or chemo nurses for advice. Reasons against having a spa treatment are:
The Breast Cancer Now booklet on complementary therapies can be downloaded or ordered here.
Article on how to deal with stress from Innerbody Research
If you are on Twitter or Instagram then there are a whole host of lovely mindfulness, meditation, affirmation-making people to follow for daily tips and affirmations.
Check out the Future Dreams menu of workshops and one-to-one therapies which might be of interest to you – see here for more information.
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Reviewed February 2023
The information and content provided on this page has been written from a patient’s perspective then reviewed by a breast care nurse and it is intended for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your medical team for advice on anything covered in this article.
The links and/or recommendations in this article to third-party resources are for your information and we take no responsibility for the content contained in those third-party resources.
Sylvie and Danielle began Future Dreams with just £100 in 2008. They believed nobody should face breast cancer alone. Their legacy lives on in Future Dreams House. We couldn’t continue to fund support services for those touched by breast cancer, raise awareness of breast cancer and promote early diagnosis and advance research into secondary breast cancer without your help. Please consider partnering with us or making a donation.