Relaxing and trying to calm your fears and anxieties – even for short periods each day – can help you cope with the emotional effects of an illness, and can also help with pain or other symptoms too.
There are many ways of relaxing. There are books, CDs, tapes, DVDs and classes that can show you how to relax; or you may want to take up yoga. Progressive muscle relaxation involves getting to know groups of muscles around your body and learning to tense and relax them.
The Pain Relief Foundation provides relaxation tapes and CDs.
Visualisation (mental imagery)
This is a technique that involves bringing happy, relaxed images into your mind and using them to make you feel less upset or sad. By 'seeing' and 'hearing' pictures and sounds from times when you felt happy, you may be able to recapture some of the good feelings you had at the time, and bring these back into your current situation.
Visualisation can also help you to feel more in control of your situation, by 'seeing' yourself as a person in control.
There are many different types of meditation, all aimed at calming your mind and helping you to become at peace with yourself. You can try meditation by sitting quietly and being aware of your breathing without trying to control it. Whenever you become aware that thoughts have come up in your mind, just come back to the awareness of your breathing and your surroundings. Instead of being aware of your breathing you can put an object in front of you and focus your attention on it.
Meditation can be very difficult at first, and you may feel that it is not helping as you become aware of how busy your mind is. However, it will become easier as you practise. It may help you to let go of your distressing or depressed thoughts for a period of time once or twice each day. It’s helpful to practise meditation regularly.
People who have particular psychiatric conditions, such as psychosis, may find that some types of meditation make their psychiatric illness worse. If in doubt, it’s best to talk to an instructor from an established meditation organisation (and your doctor or nurse if necessary), before trying meditation.