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Survivorship: During and After Treatment
Cancer and its treatment can be stressful—for you and your caregivers. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation can help calm your mind, reduce stress, and sharpen your ability to focus.
Mindfulness and relaxation are ways you can reduce stress and feel more peaceful.
Mindfulness is slowing down to pay attention to what’s going on right here, right now. Some of the benefits of mindfulness are that it:
Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
In our busy world, it can be hard to slow down and notice the little things. Here are a few ways to use mindfulness to stop and smell the roses.
Eat your favorite food. Turn off the TV, place the food in front of you, look at it, taste it, and smell it. Enjoy it!
Listen to your favorite song—or any music that you love!
Think of yourself at the beach or in a garden or the mountains—anywhere you want. Close your eyes and think about what it would feel like to be there right now. Enjoy every little thing about this beautiful place!
Walk slowly and really focus on being there. Notice what you see, hear, and smell.
Sometimes we have thoughts that make us feel sad or stressed. Practicing mindfulness can help you work through these feelings.
It’s easy to let negative thoughts spiral out of control. When you are having negative thoughts or feelings, follow these five steps:
Do you ever notice that you’re harder on yourself than you are on other people? Try to give yourself a break and treat yourself like you would treat a good friend.
Whenever you’re being hard on yourself, try to be a little kinder with these three steps:
Take some time to do something that you enjoy, like a hobby. You’ll have something else to think about instead of worrying about cancer.
A great way to start practicing mindfulness is to set aside time (even 1 minute!) to slow down and breathe.
For help learning a focused breathing technique, watch this video:
Mindfulness Exercise 1 - Focused Breathing Technique
Many people with cancer have found that practicing relaxation techniques has helped them cope with stress and feel less anxious. Try learning and practicing relaxation techniques to lower your stress.
Set aside about 5 to 10 minutes a day, if possible, to practice one or more of these relaxation exercises. You also may be able to do them during a stressful time, such as during a medical test or treatment.
Take some time to let go of tension and clear your mind with this relaxation exercise.
Deep breathing can help keep stress in check. This exercise can be done with your eyes closed or open wherever you happen to be.
For guided instruction of a more in-depth version of this breathing technique, watch this video:
Mindfulness Exercise 2 - Three-Part Breath
Progressive Muscle Relaxation shows you how to relax your muscles through tension and release. This can help lower your overall tension and stress levels, and help you relax when you are feeling anxious. Practicing this exercise will help you learn what relaxation feels like, and to notice when you get tense during the day.
For help learning progressive muscle relaxation, watch this video:
Mindfulness Exercise 3 - Progressive Muscle Relaxation
You may also want to expand your mindfulness practice through focused meditation as described in this video:
Mindfulness Exercise 4 - Focused Meditation
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
This content was repurposed from the Springboard Beyond Cancer website. Springboard Beyond Cancer was established by the National Cancer Institute in partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS) to provide a free online tool and information encouraging cancer survivors and caregivers to get information, skills, and support. The tool is now maintained exclusively by the ACS.
Carlson LE, Doll R, Stephen J, Faris P, Tamagawa R, Drysdale E, Speca M. Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based cancer recovery versus supportive expressive group therapy for distressed survivors of breast cancer (MINDSET). J Clin Oncol. 2013; 31:3119-3126.
Mehta R, Sharma K, Potters L, Wernicke AG, Parashar B. Evidence for the role of mindfulness in cancer: Benefits and techniques. Cureus. 2019; e4629.
Carlson LE. Mindfulness in cancer care: Hype or help? Ascopost.com. www.ascopost.com/issues/july-10-2018/mindfulness-in-cancer-care/. Published July 18, 2018. Accessed November 30, 2020.
Last Revised: December 2, 2020
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