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Relaxation and Stress Management
There a many ways to lower the stress and reduce the anxiety associated with an event such as cancer. Some of the methods for promoting relaxation are easy to learn while others take a little more practice. According to About.com, the top 10 stress relievers are:
1. Breathing exercises
3. Guided imagery
7. Progressive muscle relaxation
Click here for more information on the Top 10 Stress Relievers.
Breathing is something that we take for granted and all believe we do correctly. However, most people tend to breath by expanding their chest and restrict movement of their abdomen. This way of breathing actually limits the amount of air you can inhale and therefore, is not stress relieving.
Deep breathing—also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing—allows your stomach to expand thereby enabling your diaphragm to move freely. This enables your lungs to fully expand to take in more air. When done in a slow and rhythmic manner, deep breathing promotes relaxation and reduces stress.
Click here for more information on how to practice deep breathing.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique for reducing overall body tension and promoting relaxation. Developed more than 50 years ago, PMR works on the principle that a muscle can be relaxed by first tensing it for a few seconds and then releasing it. This repeated tensing and releasing of the body’s muscle groups produces a deep state of relaxation.
Progressive muscle relaxation is especially helpful for people whose anxiety is strongly associated with muscle tension that is commonly experienced as chronic tightness in the shoulders and neck, muscle spasms, backaches, tension headaches, tightness in the jaw, or tightness around the eyes. PMR has been proven to relieve the physical symptoms of stress and tension which leads to a relaxed body and mind.
Progressive muscle relaxation is easy to do. And the good news is, if you can find a comfortable place to lie down, you can use it anytime you feel stress and want to relax.
Click here for more information on how to practice progressive muscle relaxation.
The term “stress” is defined as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” In today’s busy world, stress is experienced by everyone at one time or another. Certainly, an event such as the diagnosis of cancer causes a stress response. However, many other events much less significant can lead a person to experience stress.
The response to stress requires the body to make physical and chemical adjustments in order to maintain the necessary physiological balance for survival. A racing heart, a burst of energy, and muscle tension are the body's physical responses to stress. When faced with danger, some of the first stress reactions are a rise in blood pressure, quicker breathing and heart beat, and dilated pupils. Sight and hearing become more alert.
This reaction is an instinctive response that protects us from threats to our survival. Physiological changes are part of the "fight or flight" response, which prepares and energizes a person to confront or flee from danger. After the threat has passed or a change takes place, the "alarm" signs disappear. The body is still aroused but is adapting to the change. When you "gear up" under stress, your body begins to do more of some things and less of others. For example, blood circulation increases, but digestion slows down or even stops.
Once the stress ends, your body goes to work to restore the balance. However, if stress returns too soon, your body will never have time to get back on an even keel. Eventually, this can lead to major health problems. Exhaustion occurs, causing damage to the person's physical and emotional well-being. If the stress is short-term, chances are good that it can be dealt with. It is long-term, or chronic, stress that causes the body to break down and has many real physical effects.
Some of the conditions associated with stress are:
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Migraine headaches
- Loss of appetite
- Increased appetite
If stress is not handled properly, then more serious illnesses will result. There is no escape from stress. Therefore, it is important to learn how to handle it.
Click here for Questions and Answers about Stress.
Click here for more information on stress from the American Institute of Stress.