In the classic Cancer a Turning Point: the Handbook for People with Cancer, Their Families, and Health Professionals, Lawrence Leshawn decribes the difference between a bad dream and a nightmare. In a nightmare these three elements are present:
- Terrible things are happening and/or worse are threatened:
- Your will is helpless to aid you—there is nothing you can do. Any hope resides in other forces or people (as in medical discoveries about which you can have no real effect and on whose appearance your life depends); and
- There is no time limit (155).
He states that cancer patients awake to a nightmare every morning and makes the observation that besides the physical discomfort, “the fact that the person with cancer is living in a waking nightmare has a weakening and exhausting effect.”
I would extend this appraisal of life to many people living with a serious chronic illness, from MS to rheumatoid arthritis, to Alzheimer’s or mental illness. And, it’s not just the patient who is living the nightmare, but the loved ones and family members, too. Never knowing when there will be another sign that the remission or period of calm is over, anticipating ahead of time another outburst or emergency.
Are You Sick of Being Sick?
Do you live in dread of a relapse, or new sign that things are deteriorating?
Are you having trouble sleeping?
Worried about your finances? How you can pay for the expensive treatment? Keep your job or relationship?
This is a time where all your energy should be going to your own healing, not dealing with the circumstantial issues, but of course, they are real.
Here are 5 tips to immediately bring you inner peace within minutes-
Easy, free, and non-addictive!
The great thing about these particular suggestions is that they are free or very inexpensive, work quickly, and can create a peaceful atmosphere for others too, even without their awareness. (More in-depth suggestions will follow in another post.)
1. Breathe like a baby. When we are stressed, we tend to breathe very shallowly. Notice how a baby’s tummy rises and falls as they breathe? You do it, too, when you are truly relaxed or asleep. Exhale completely through your mouth, now breathing through your nose; imagine that you are filling a balloon in your belly. Now let go and feel it emptying as you exhale. Even 3 deep breaths can affect our sympathetic nervous system activity, changing our brain chemistry and bringing in the relaxation response. The typical chest breath moves only about a half a pint of air. A full abdominal breath moves 8-10 times more. With more oxygen we also can think more clearly and make better choices in how to react.
2. Stretch. We often have no idea how tense our muscles are. To instantly relax muscle tension-as you inhale, tense up even more, in your pet areas to carry your stress. Now, let go all the way as you breathe out. Common areas are the shoulders, neck, and back.
3. Smile. No matter how bad we are feeling, for 40% of us, just changing our facial muscles into a smile will send a happy message to the brain. Check yourself now, to see if you are in the lucky group!
4. Smell. Neuroscientists say that the olfactory structures of the brain that process smell are wired directly into the deep limbic system. The natural oil of lavender reduces stress and depression and also enhances sleep.
5. Listen. Music has quieted our inner selves for millennia. There are many CDs for various tastes in music that entrain the brain and heart, creating instant calming. One cardiologist found that for his cardiac patients, listening to classical music for 30 minutes produced calming effects equivalent to a 10-mg dose of Valium.
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, Ph.D 2009.
Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D, 1987.
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping, by Robert. M. Sapolsky, 2004.