Mindfulness and Meditation: Self-Care and Wellness for Cancer Patients

Oncologists today stress the importance of attitude and optimism in achieving successful treatment outcomes among cancer patients.  Helping patients maintain a positive outlook can be difficult for physicians; they are trained to emphasize physiological factors and deal with the more unpleasant aspects of cancer treatment.  But there’s no denying that psychology plays a definite role.  After all, cancer patients face existential issues that can complicate the treatment process.  Studies have shown that a patient’s mindset and emotional state have a direct bearing on their ability to cope with the rigors of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.  Spirituality gives patients a powerful means of coping with cancer and its psychological stresses and helps individuals find deeper meaning in their suffering and the changes that cancer works on their lives.

Today, spirituality as a factor in self-care is recognized for its ability to help establish truly patient-centric treatment plans.  Regardless of the patient’s outcome, spirituality and a mindful approach to self-care play a role in helping them maintain quality of life.  A 2010 study of palliative care options found that spirituality featured prominently among quality of life “tools” employed by and for cancer patients.  Further research has shown that patients with strong spiritual beliefs typically suffer from less severe symptoms and are more successful at alleviating depression and feelings of anxiety.

Self-Care

Self-care for cancer patients has grown in recent decades, particularly among doctors and nurses.  In some hospitals, self-care teams have been formed to help patients take advantage of every opportunity to heal and improve their quality of life.  Many forms of self-care are effective at helping prevent opioid addiction in patients with chronic diseases, including cancer.  Chiropractic care has also been shown to provide pain relief and improve a patient’s outcome.

Self-care is also good for alleviating the mental stress and strain that cancer and cancer treatments can have on a patient.  In fact, according to one study, one in three patients developed a mental disorder after receiving a cancer diagnosis.  As such, it’s important to treat these issues as they arise.  In addition to therapy and counseling, doctors often prescribe medication to help with exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.  Discussing this issue with your care team is important to help combat these problems before they become major issues.

Yoga & Meditation

Yoga has been shown to reduce fatigue in patients with cancer; meditation is one of the tools that yoga utilizes.  Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, fatigue, improve general mood and aid with sleeping issues.

The practice of yoga is a system of knowledge and practice that was founded in ancient India.  The goal of yoga is to bring the mind and body together creating physical, mental and emotional stability.  It is however, important to mention that more challenging styles of yoga may need to be avoided.  Hatha or Vinyasa yoga are designed to work with breathing, gentle movement and meditation, appropriate for a range of physical abilities and stage of treatment.

Meditative Qualities

Sitting quietly is an essentially meditative practice that forces one to be quiet and engage in inner reflection.  This reduces stress, which can undermine the body’s ability to fight off cancer and respond positively to treatment.  The meditative qualities of doing yoga, and reciting a mantra or comforting phrase can lower your heart rate, enhance circulation in the brain, and increase blood oxygen.  The study of the relationship between one’s thoughts and physical responses, called psychoneuroimmunology, has shown that processing one’s thoughts and strong feelings helps brain cells cooperate and communicate with each other.

Dr. Deepak Chopra, a renowned expert on the mind-body connection, characterizes this phenomenon of meditation and inner-mindfulness as the immune system eavesdropping on one’s “internal dialogue.”  The consequent health benefits can be very beneficial for cancer patients.

When it comes to preventing addiction, self-care should include education about pain medications, and open, two-way communications with the prescribing physician.  Ask questions about your medications and, above all, be sure to take them as prescribed.  For cancer patients, one of the most important points to be made about self-care is that it empowers patients to act as their own advocates.

At Family Chiropractic Plus in St. Petersburg, we are committed to nothing less than the best for our valued patients. Contact us today to learn more about our services and to request your appointment today!

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