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Mindfulness and Meditation: A Useful Support During Cancer Diagnosis and Beyond

Susi Web

Meditation and mindfulness have been part of my life for over 25 years. I was introduced during my teenage years to support crippling anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I am writing this blog from a space of love and compassion, scientific research, client and personal experience.

Meditation has supported me through many life changes and difficult circumstances. It has supported me through my mum's, sister in law's and friends cancer diagnosis and journey. It has allowed me to develop a deep appreciation of life and gratitude.

Whether you have tried meditation and mindfulness before or are a complete beginner, rest assured there are many styles and techniques that you can access and try. Accessibility is now so easy with apps such as Calm and Insight Timer, Websites such as Youtube and many instructors now leading classes online. Meditation and mindfulness are non-religious so can be practised by anyone. It is suitable for all ages.

Let's look firstly at some of the scientific benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Then I will expand on as to how this may support through diagnosis and beyond—the benefits we experience to cover not only physical but emotional, psychological and spiritual too.

Benefits can include:

  • Reduced pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Calms anxiety and depression
  • Boosts immunity
  • Boosts cognitive health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces anger
  • Reduces Inflammation
  • Improves confidence and self-love
  • Improves creativity
  • Increases feelings of compassion and empathy for self and others.

You can probably begin to relate to many of these benefits and how useful these would be. A cancer diagnosis can be a shocking and difficult time, filled with much uncertainty. This applies to the person receiving the diagnosis along with family and friends who may also be affected. Feelings of wishing our life to be different, longing for a positive future and feeling stuck, angry, lost or lonely are all very common and real emotions to experience.

Meditation and mindfulness offer us a safe space to process these emotions; it also allows us the opportunity to find relaxation and clarity in times where we can feel overwhelmed and confused.

Man wearing black cap with eyes closed under cloudy sky 810775

A brief definition of mindfulness is "Awareness of what you are experiencing when you are experiencing it". This allows us to engage with our reality, not what story our mind may be creating. As human beings, we like to fill in the blanks, over analyse and create stories. Often these stories aren't supportive or true. Being in the present moment allows us to feel more secure, connected and calm.

As someone who suffered from anxiety for over two decades, I know that my thoughts and imagination were very frequently, negative and untrue. Mindfulness and meditation allowed me to recognise this and create more loving and supportive thoughts and actions.

Mindfulness is about creating awareness and being in the present moment. It allows us to develop a greater sense of being.

Meditation is quite different. Meditation allows you to move your body into a more relaxed state, allowing us to shift from our fight or flight response. It calms our nervous system and gives our bodies and minds a chance to rest, heal and turn our awareness inwards. Using meditations such as guided body scans can allow you to focus your thoughts, calm your mind and create space to relax.

Practising mindfulness through diagnosis will allow a greater sense of clarity, compassion and connection to your life. Helping you feel more secure and grounded. Meditation will allow you the opportunity to reduce tension and stress within the body. It will give you a safe and supported space to find calm.

Many meditation and mindfulness techniques will bring awareness to our breath and breathing. Breathing correctly and fully can allow us to calm our nervous system, boost immunity, supports detoxification, increases oxygen to our body and cells and promotes relaxation. So learning how to use our breath to support us can be a really valuable tool.

Moving forward meditation can support you in reducing symptoms of cancer treatment such as supporting sleep, reducing pain, improved mood, improved mental and emotional health. Mindfulness can allow you to find joy and acceptance in your day.

Where to start? You can find support through many apps and online sources. The NHS website has some mindfulness and meditation support.

Websites such as www.mindful.org have many informative articles and meditations you can access for free. You will also find additional free support from me via my youtube channel, social media pages, and I can also be found via the app Insight Timer.

Meditation is a really valuable addition for all life challenges and one that will serve and support you.

With Love

Susi x

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