Patient and caregiver, heal thyself

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healthyself.jpgBy Toni Franciosi, Department of Social Work

Receiving a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness like cancer may be one of the greatest agents of change that exists -- a change that can lead to the pursuit of healing, not only for the body, but also for the mind and spirit.

For cancer patients and their caregivers alike, diagnosis and treatment may become an all-consuming, anxiety-provoking game of survival.

The mind and body connection

The strain of undergoing treatment and caretaking may seem relentless at times. But it's important to remember that our own thoughts and perceptions about what's happening can fuel an even greater "stress response," that can compromise healing. Under stress, the body experiences an increase in cortisol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol and heart rate, as well as lowered immune response.  

The mind and spirit suffer the consequences of stress as well. When the mind judges a situation, specifically as "good" or "bad," we are vulnerable to feeling isolated and separate.

Attitude is everything
Stressors in life cannot be eliminated, but they can be better managed. 

The Greek philosopher, Epictetus, reminds us that "it is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." Attitude is everything. Learning to relax the body and mind furthers the healing process by fostering greater levels of healthy biological markers, compassion, emotional stability, immune response and overall well-being. 

Relaxation techniques
Relaxation is integral to a balanced daily life. There are several exercises, such as abdominal breathing, guided meditation, imagery and mindfulness that can be practiced to achieve a more sustained sense of contentment and awareness.   

Patients and caregivers can influence their own healing by incorporating these and other techniques into their daily activity to manage symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.

Follow these links to experience a few of these mind/body relaxation techniques:
Additional support
The Department of Social Work invites all MD Anderson patients and caregivers  to experience the healing power of a variety of time-honored, mind-body interventions at the Body, Mind & Spirit Support Group. A light lunch will be provided by the Volunteer Endowment for Patient Support.

When: Monthly - 2nd Wednesdays, noon to 1 p.m.

Where: Mays Clinic - Patient Education Classroom, Floor 2, near The Tree Sculpture,  behind The Learning Center, Room ACB 2.1049

For more information contact Social Work Counselors Toni Franciosi, LCSW, at 713-792-0757 or Tena Gardiner, LCSW, at 713-792-7147.

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