Easy relaxation tips

Practising relaxation techniques can help you cope with the side effects of cancer, such as anxiety, breathlessness and fatigue.

Relaxing

As you cope with the effects of cancer, you may feel like it’s difficult to relax. It could help to do some relaxation exercises to ease your anxiety, to help with breathing or just to take your mind off things. Relaxing could also help you if you’re having trouble sleeping.

Check with your doctor or nurse before you try any relaxation methods, it could be that they are not suitable for you.

The following relaxation techniques are best practised in a peaceful place, where you can get comfortable either sitting or lying down. It should be a warm room and, if you prefer, somewhere with dim lighting:

  • Breathing exercises – If you can, breathe in through your nose and then out with your mouth. Try to breathe more slowly and deeply with each breath, taking breaks to return to your normal breathing where necessary.

    Start by counting one breath in to the count of two and one exhale out to the count of two. If you can increase this up to the count of four then you should start to feel nice and relaxed.

    Practise this for around five minutes a day.

  • Muscle release – Often our muscles build up tension, making it more difficult for our body and mind to relax. It may help for you to mentally scan your body for tension and allow it to release.

    We have a step-by-step relaxation guide to releasing tension.

  • Listening to music – You can find CDs or online sources of relaxing music. It may help soothe your mind to  listen to sounds from nature, such as waves rolling on to a beach, jungle sounds or rain sounds.

    Similarly, listening to an audiobook rather than reading may prove to be more relaxing for you, especially if you’re trying to drift off to sleep.

  • Mindfulness – Mindfulness is an approach that can help you change the way you think. It aims to get you to focus on the present moment, rather than the future or the past. You are encouraged to try to let thoughts and feelings go for that moment and focus on something else, like your breathing or an object.

    If any negative or stressful thoughts arise, imagine they are being swallowed up by a large cloud and swept away by the wind, out of your mind. Return to concentrate on your breathing. If the thoughts creep back in, repeat the technique. 

Relaxation techniques are not a form of treatment for cancer, but some people find they help them to cope.

We have more information about relaxation and mindfulness meditation on our website. You can order our ‘Relax and breathe’ CD for free.  It helps you learn ways to manage breathlessness through breathing techniques. You can find relaxation CDs at your local library too.

We also have more information on coping with your emotions and how to cope with fatigue.

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The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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