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How Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Stress

August 29, 2015

Most of us react to stress along a continuum that has remaining calm at one end and  completely freaking out at the other.

Everyone is different and that’s why stress can impact all of us in different ways, especially when we are going through something really tough like cancer.

When you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer or have already begun treatment, the stress sometimes can feel overwhelming. We’re all human and it’s only natural to worry, but learning how to manage stress can help with your fight and recovery.

Recent studies have shown that mindfulness meditation is an effective way to reduce stress. Mindfulness meditation helps you calm your mind, and focuses on breathing and self-awareness within a given moment. It’s basically a way to learn  how to be more present in our lives and take on a different perspective. .

One 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that breast cancer survivors who practiced mindfulness slept better, were more calm, had less physical pain and had an overall improved quality of life. Other research indicates that mindfulness also has a positive impact on a number of stress-related health issues, including migraines, fatigue, insomnia, depression and chronic pain. This may be because it creates a “relaxation response” that eases your minds and steadies your breathing, helping you combat the harmful effects of too much stress chemistry in your system.

I know what some of you may be thinking—who has time to sit still without any distractions? Understandable, but all it takes is 20 minutes of focus to quiet your mind. Start with a few minutes and gradually increase the time as you adjust to this new practice. All you need to do is focus on your breathing, close your eyes and relax your muscles. You also can say a positive word or short prayer to help your mind let go and be at ease.

Consistent use of mindfulness practices will change the way your brain responds to stress. It will give you more energy and help you relax. Lowering your stress hormone levels also will improve your immune function, which in turn may optimize your recovery.

Mindfulness practices have become increasingly popular because there’s more evidence of its health benefits, particularly for people with cancer. At UF Health Cancer Center —Orlando Health, we offer an eight-week program that incorporates mindfulness meditation, yoga and education to help reduce stress. The program is part of Cancer Support Community. Our goal is to be a resource for recently diagnosed cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers. Cancer is difficult enough and anyone braving this battle needs all the support they can get. If you feel overwhelmed or stressed, we’re here to help. Please contact us at any time to learn more about the Cancer Support Community and our programs.