I work with a variety of patients who are undergoing medical treatments, and recently one of my adult oncology patients mentioned an article in the Chicago Tribune about meditation and its benefits. I found this interesting as my monthly cancer support group I lead addressed this topic as well. Meditation and mindfulness is becoming more and more mainstream, and something that doctors are pausing to consider as its popularity and research base grows. There are many studies that have recently documented the benefits of meditation and mindfulness for patients of all types. Even though the article above is pertaining to breast cancer patients, I wanted to share the importance of exploring this realm and developing your own "relaxation toolbox" that works for you. Everyone encounters stress in their life, some good, some bad, but patients with chronic illness need to be especially aware of where they carry their stress and how to manage it. Whether its tai chi, massage, visualization, guided imagery, meditation, deep breathing, yoga, chi gong, progressive muscle relaxation...there are many tools that I encourage patients to "try on" and incorporate into their life, in order to improve their mental health. A key idea from these techniques is the importance of staying in the present moment and gaining control over your thoughts. Often when a patient is dealing with a chronic illness, they feel that this defines them and they spend much time worrying about what the future may hold. When will the next flare-up come? What will I have to cancel? How will it affect those around me? When you find yourself mentally drowning in the "what ifs?", coming back to mindfulness and the present moment is a great tool. The biggest barrier to patients doing this is time. But the most encouraging thing about stress reduction techniques is that they can be done throughout the day, a few minutes here and there. Similar to exercise, something is better than nothing. So give one a try. Google a few and see if anything resonates with you or peaks your interest. Or come in for a session and let Tiffany and I lead you through exercises. Honestly, what do you have to lose, besides some stress?
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