Mindful Breathing and Meditation
Why is meditation important? When you begin to meditate, the stress response counters the relaxation response. You begin to enter into a state of peace, no matter what is happening externally. Through the feeling of relaxation you can achieve from meditation, you begin to decrease blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and reduce oxygen consumption. Thus, enhancing your entire physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. The practice of meditation / mindful breathing creates a gradual change in the brain. You might begin to perceive stress differently, or feel like you have more control over your emotions.
Deep breathing is not so much about eliminating stress, but managing it. Meditation and mindful breathing is excellent for cancer patients’ care, for it begins to heal the mind and body. For many centuries yogis have used deep breathing techniques, also known as pranayama breathing, to improve vitality and promote concentration. Deep breathing and meditation are also excellent treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAF), and depression. All of these diagnoses can stem from a cancer diagnosis and/or cancer treatment.
Make sure to check out the OncoPower App for guided meditations and support for cancer patients.
Letting Go Through The Breath
Through deep breathing / meditation, you train your mind to be aware of your thoughts, not controlled by them. A lot of times dwelling on a thought is a lot like holding your breath. The longer you hold your breath, the more tense you might feel due to the lack of oxygen in your lungs. When you continue to hold your breath you might become red in the face and have to exhale, or else you’d pass out.
Our thoughts work in the same way. When you hold onto your thoughts, they can drown out your intuition and cause more stress. You might even feel suffocated from overwhelming thoughts on a day to day basis. However, when you allow your thoughts to come and go during meditation you learn how to let go and ease the stresses that cancer might bring.
Benefits of Deep Breathing / Meditation:
- Reduce stress levels in your body.
- Lower your heart rate.
- Lower your blood pressure.
- Improve diabetic symptoms.
- Reduce depression.
- Better manage chronic pain.
- Better regulate your body’s reaction to stress and fatigue.
- Reduce the possibility of burnout.
Where to begin!? As mentioned above, make sure to check out the OncoPower App for guided meditations, affirmations, and deep breathing exercises. On the app you can also find cancer care specialists, treatment recommendations, and a cancer support community. Our Mindfulness coach and Meditation teacher, Natalie Thomas, is also available for 1:1 support. Remember, healing is possible through each inhale and exhale that you take.
Why Deep Breathing Is Important
Start by taking in a nice, deep inhale through your nose. Filling your entire belly up with air. Pause. Now as you exhale, allow the breath to leave through the mouth, nice and slow. Very good. You just practiced a deep breathing technique.
While breathing is second nature for us, we have to breathe in order to survive, for it plays a crucial role in regulating our physical, mental, and emotional health. The way we breathe is extremely important, and how we breathe is something we must focus on, especially while going through cancer treatment.
As humans, we normally operate by taking short, shallow breaths. We are subconsciously breathing rapidly without even realizing it. We tend to operate in ‘fight or flight’ mode on a daily basis. Fight or flight mode is an automatic physiological response to a situation and/or event that appears to be stressful or frightening. The sympathetic nervous system becomes activated by the perceived threat and triggers a stress response in the body. This can occur just by reading a work email or from living with cancer.
Breathing Is Your Life Force
Receiving a cancer diagnosis or going through cancer treatment can easily cause stress, anxiety, and havoc on the body. When you enter into this state of fight or flight, cortisol and other stress causing hormones are released into the bloodstream. When this happens, blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels rise, all of which can disrupt your immune system, sleep, and energy levels. This reaction makes recovering from cancer even more challenging.
Coming back to why breathing is important. Breathing is your life force, your anchor. It’s otherwise known as your “Prana”. Practicing meditation and deep breathing techniques regulates the nervous system, allowing you to control your body and mind. Through long inhales and exhales, you can slow your heart rate, stabilize your blood pressure, and lower stress.
Breathing is the connecting link between the subconscious and conscious mind. And practicing mindful breathing is similar to training a muscle. You begin to train the body to breathe slowly throughout the day. Thus, when a stressful situation presents itself, you enter that particular event feeling more calm and at ease. By regulating your emotions and anxiety through the breath, you are able to not get absorbed into stressful situations.
Make sure to visit the OncoPower App for guided meditations, affirmations, and deep breathing exercises. On the app you can also find cancer care specialists, treatment recommendations, and a cancer support community. Our Mindfulness coach and Meditation teacher, Natalie Thomas, is also available for 1:1 support.
Click here to read The Power of Breathing Pt.2.
In our society, there is so much emphasis on assisting other people. Maybe you are taking care of your family, kids, loved ones, and friends 2/47. Or are constantly giving and providing your energy to make sure everyone else is ok – but when do you take a second to check in with yourself?
Self-care is not selfish. Self care plays a huge role in supporting your physical and mental health, especially after receiving a cancer diagnosis and going through cancer treatment. The term ‘self-care’ can seem daunting, uncomfortable, and scary. However, self-care is essential to your overall wellbeing and mental self. Self-care encompasses a lot of basic but overlooked practices such as getting enough sleep, meditating, practicing gratitude, and saying ‘no’ to things that do not resonate with you.
“Self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.” – Audre Lorde
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
It may surprise you that one of the best and most effective practices you can do for self-care and stress relief is nothing at all. Well, maybe that is actually a bit misleading! Silencing the mind and tuning inwards isn’t really nothing – in fact, it can take time and practice to cultivate a solid foundation to reach inner stillness and peace. However, carving out time to silence the mind will always pay off. Meditation trains your brain to tune into the present moment, to focus on your breath, and to give your body the time and space it needs to relax. By sitting down and paying attention to where you are without distractions, you begin to accept and dismiss the thoughts and emotions that arise. Through consistent practice, you train the subconscious mind to do this even when you are not meditating. This self-care practice guides you to leading (and living!) a more mindful life on a day to day basis, and is effective for cancer patient’s care.
Meditating also provides you with the opportunity to set intentions that propel you to manifesting positive energy, all while tapping into the pure joy that you desire. One way to embark and begin your self-care practice is through our Meditation Program on the OncoPower App. By practicing our guided meditations and breathing exercises, you can jumpstart your self-care routine that reduces the stress and anxiety that cancer can bring. Led by Mindfulness Coach and Meditation teacher, Natalie Thomas, you can also sign up for 1:1 sessions for further assistance and more personalized coaching. OncoPower is one of the leading sources for support for cancer patients.
Another important form of self-care is expressing gratitude. Just by waking up in the morning and thinking of five things that you are grateful for is a practice of self-care. The benefits of gratitude are endless. When you give thanks for what you have in the present moment, no matter what is going on in your life, the universe will conspire to provide you with more to express gratitude for.
Through journaling and/or meditation, see if you can create time to notice and reflect upon the people, places, things, moments you cherish. Some additional benefits are: you begin to relish more positive emotions, your sleep improves, you are able to express more kindness and compassion (for both yourself and others), and you can begin to feel more ‘present’ and alive.
Expressing gratitude can even assist your body in building a stronger immune system. This is beneficial when going through cancer treatment. Gratitude expression can be for something big in your life, such as a child and/or family member, but it can also be for something as simple as expressing gratitude for a nice cup of coffee in the morning.
Affirmations are phrases / mantras that can assist you in overcoming challenging life moments, such as cancer, by subconsciously training the mind to think positive thoughts versus self-sabotaging thoughts. This is another self-care practice.
When one is diagnosed with cancer, it can be difficult to not have negative thinking which can manifest into increased anxiety and depression. Negative thinking can turn into destructive self-fulling prophecies, which is why it’s extremely important to rewire the nervous system to think thoughts that are in alignment with healing, love, and harmony.
Affirmations help you take control of your thoughts. When repeated and practiced regularly, each phrase / mantra begins to become engraved into the conscious and subconscious mind, so you actually start to ‘believe’ that each positive thought is true. While it is completely normal to think negatively from time to time, know that affirmations can shift your emotions, behaviors, and overall energy levels all for the better.
Affirmations can reaffirm positivity and self-assurance back into your life while assisting you on the path of healing. We also recommend you check out our Affirmation Meditations on the OncoPower App to assist you in further in your healing and wellness journey. You can also find a growing cancer support community on the OncoPower App.
Additional Self-Care practices:
- Take an epsom salt bath
- Stretch for 20 minutes
- Savor your favorite cup of tea
- Read a book on self-care
- Take a 20-min walk
- Tap into your creativity
- Use a soothing face mask
For more information, please visit us at OncoPower today!
Meditation. This word can seem scary at first. Taking time to sit in silence? Quieting the mind? Not ‘thinking’? What does that even mean?
For many of us, Meditation is a concept that goes against everything we have been taught. Since we were young, the majority of us have been programmed to constantly work hard-play hard, which consists of working long hours that eventually leads to burnout. We might have lived with the fear that if we took a break, or slowed down, we would be holding ourselves back from ‘success’. Our society has engraved in us to constantly be busy. We might even feel pressure, now in this moment, to always be doing something: whether it’s working, making plans, going to dinner, taking care of loved ones, etc. However, in doing so, we neglect our own needs of taking time to ourselves, finding stillness, and going within. The result? Increased stress/anxiety, heightened blood pressure, insomnia, digestive issues, depression, and illnesses (to name a few).
Through the practice of Meditation, we are able to take a second out of our day to pause, center our thoughts, and ease our minds. The power of Meditation allows us to slow down our breathing to come back to a place of stillness. Through the power of our breath, we begin to take ourselves (and our bodies) out of ‘fight or flight mode’ that stress can bring. We learn how to cultivate a sense of trust within ourselves. And with practice, we start to embody the feelings of peace that we may have longed for.
Meditation is when we take the time to close our eyes and sit with ourselves, whether through silence, music, or using guided meditations. When we meditate, we begin to reprogram the subconscious mind to be in alignment with our conscious mind. It is now scientifically proven that Meditation begins to strengthen the neural pathways in the brain that activates our ‘feel good’ receptors and dopamine production. It is also very effective to help reduce stress when going through cancer treatment.
Meditation is a lot like going to the gym. It can take time and patience to strengthen our Meditation ‘muscle’. You might not notice the results following one session, but with practice you slowly start to see the results. Meditation begins to change you from the inside out, and is an incredibly useful practice for cancer support.
Physically, you can heal the body, release tension, activate your digestive system and slow your heart rate. Mentally, you begin to slowly creep out of depression. Stress and anxiety begins to dissipate and might not be as present as it once was. Emotionally, you feel more stable, more happy and at peace. You might feel like you have control over your emotions and can make decisions with a clear mind. Spiritually, you begin to feel more connected to something greater than yourself. Your intuition becomes stronger and you embody a deep presence that everything is going to be ok.
There are so many incredible benefits that Meditation can bring. Meditation assists you in managing stress from cancer treatment rather than letting stress control you. Your thoughts soon become present, but they do not consume you and your emotional state. Sitting alone with ourselves – and our thoughts – seems scary. But with practice, it becomes easier and easier. Even just two minutes of Meditation can have a changing effect on the body, mind and soul. It all starts with giving yourself a few moments to be alone with YOU.
How To Mediate? (Natalie’s tips)
- To begin, either start laying down or sitting upright.
- You can always set a timer for 5, 10, or 20 minutes.
- If sitting upright, have your feet planted on the floor and your sit bones rooted on your chair. Keep your spine nice and long and roll your shoulder down your back. Allow the shoulder to relax.
- Close your eyes. With the eyes closed, your eyes are slightly lifted gazing at the space between the eyebrows. This is so you notice the difference between sleeping and meditation.
- Begin by taking three long, deep inhales and exhales. With each breath you take, imagine all stress and anxiety leaving the body.
- Feel free to put on some relaxing music while you focus on your breath.
- You can use a Mantra – a word / phrase – to assist you if the mind starts to wonder.
- A Mantra can be: Inhale PEACE, and Exhale LOVE.
- We highly suggest using our Mindfulness Meditation Modules found on the OncoPower app.
If you have more questions and/or would like to start your Meditation journey, feel free to check out our OncoPower App for guided meditations and additional support. The OncoPower App is a cancer support community to assist cancer patients. Happy Meditating!