The therapeutic process faced by women with breast cancer is long, and psychological support is essential from the start. In this sense, psychoeducation is essential: to provide us with information about the disease and about the techniques we will use to improve our physical condition and mental state. That is, with intervention we will try to improve our well-being in all areas.
We will dedicate this article to talking about the importance that relaxation can have for women who have breast cancer. The objective when incorporating relaxation techniques into treatment is that we can learn to control our level of activation through the modification of different physiological states.
How does relaxation affect us physiologically and mentally?
It is necessary to know that relaxation techniques tend to increase parasympathetic activation and decrease the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Relaxation is a state of hypoactivation characterized by a low heart rate, peripheral vasodilation, breathing from the diaphragm, low muscle activation …
However, in addition to the effects on the reduction of physiological activation, relaxation techniques have other cognitive effects. We are speaking about the increase in the subjective sensation of relaxation, of the focus and reorientation of the attention, of a greater self-control or of an increase of the capacity to discriminate between physiological responses.
The mental aspect
As Aaron T. Beck mentions with reference to the cognitive aspect, it is our mind that leads us to certain beliefs about ourselves, to errors or distortions in our thoughts that instead of relieving the battle against breast cancer make it even harder.
The cognitive aspect is fundamental in the treatment of breast cancer, since the thoughts that we have and feed will favor a positive state of mind, or on the contrary they will give us an even more negative view of our disease. Positive thoughts will increase our self-esteem, our desire to fight, our motivation and our adherence to treatment.
“My cancer scare changed my life. I’m grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life”.
-Olivia Newton John.
When can we use relaxation for breast cancer?
Relaxation in breast cancer patients seeks to help avoid nausea and vomiting because of chemotherapy and some types of radiotherapy (conditioned and generalized to certain stimuli that generate discomfort). In some way, we try to reverse the effects of this type of conditioning, which on the other hand is common in patients who already have several sessions.
In addition, relaxation improves the emotional state with which the patient faces different tests and results. Finally, relaxation favors self-control and limits impulsive behaviors, which often become tempting because of the frustration that the disease can generate.
What kind of relaxation is available?
The type of relaxation for each situation will depend on different variables, such as our knowledge of the technique,when our anxiety manifests itself most, or the time we have available. Next we will see two of the most important techniques for breast cancer patients.
- Progressive muscle relaxation (Jacobson): the objective of this is identifying yours level of tension and starting relaxation strategies every time you feels that tension in your body.
We can learn about tension through various exercises that involve the application of tension, voluntarily and intensely, in various areas of the body. As the exercises progress, the repetitions are reduced, in order to be able to suppress the tension exercises.
- Guided visualization: consists of making a mental journey through images, looking for sensations, situations and/or places that give you pleasure. In this way, we evoke different sensory stimuli of those places where you can relax.
Every day has its own goal
When you are going to face a complex step of breast cancer, a chemotherapy session, another session of radiotherapy, a visit to the oncologist waiting for the results. Look inside the fear and anxiety in your body and your mind to find a state of relaxation, helping yourself to cope and work through that phase you’re going through.
All people who have had breast cancer or have some idea about it understand that the suffering associated with the disease can hardly be measured. What a person feels when they say “you have cancer” are endless feelings, fears, anxiety, worries …
Every day has its goal, step by step, we are facing and overcoming difficulties. It is inevitable to think about the future and what will happen at the end of the treatment and feel the fear that it will not work, that the process continue or that the measures to fight against cancer are not enough. It is precisely in the face of this anxiety, in the face of these associated thoughts and emotions, where relaxation can help us.