Using Mindfulness Practices to Reduce IPF-Related Stress

For many people, using mindfulness as a means to eliminate or reduce stress is a new concept. It seems as though the importance of mindfulness is only now being promoted across health care, literature, social media and through holistic wellness advocates. There are now wellness centers attached to medical facilities, such as hospitals or hospice locations that are offering mindfulness-based stress reduction classes (among other things) designed specifically to complement the medical care a patient is receiving.

Primarily, these wellness centers exist for oncology patients, such as the ELLICSR Health, Wellness and Cancer Survivorship Centre and the Cancer Support Community and their affiliates. While these programs specifically target oncology patients, have you considered how mindfulness can be helpful in reducing stress for those living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)?

MORE: How to find positives when living with IPF

For those living with IPF, the breathing techniques used in a mindfulness program may be too difficult or might evoke excessive coughing or shortness of breath. As a result, these programs might have to be adapted for IPF patients to participate. However, mindfulness encompasses more than just breathing, and below are some of the ways that mindfulness-based stress-reduction techniques can benefit IPF patients:

Mindfulness meditation
While this can sometimes incorporate breathing techniques that might be difficult for an IPF patient, breathing is only one part of meditation. By definition, meditation is a practice that also focuses one’s thoughts to achieve mental clarity or emotional calmness. Living with a chronic illness such can be very stressful, and the mind can be pulled in many directions with varying concerns. Focusing on one thing at a time through meditation can help patients feel less overwhelmed and therefore reduce stress associated with their disease.

Progressive muscle relaxation
This is a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique that is particularly helpful to people who feel the effects of stress on a physical level. It is a non-pharmacological technique that works to release tension in the muscles caused by anxiety-provoked stress; something that many IPF patients experience since struggling to breathe causes excessive anxiety. Patients can achieve this technique on their own by tensing the sore muscles deliberately, and then releasing the tension and focusing their attention on the differences felt between when muscles are tense and when they are relaxed. It can also be complemented through professional support such as massage therapy, reiki or gentle yoga.

MORE: Seven of the best apps for chronic illness management 

Promote mental clarity
For patients living with IPF, it is not uncommon to feel “foggy,” or so overwhelmed that remembering certain tasks becomes troublesome. Sometimes that mental fog can come from medication or depression, and sometimes it can come from having too many things on the go, even if they are important tasks such as appointments. Regardless of the reason, mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can work to help promote mental clarity.

Creating space for non-judgmental awareness
Too often in today’s society, people are their own worst critics and that self-destruction can be toxic to the mind, body and spirit, especially when fighting a chronic illness. The reality is: there is no rule book on how to live with a life-threatening illness, and patients should try to eliminate judgment from their lives.

While mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques or programs have been proven to be extremely beneficial for patients and their ability to cope with the stress associated with their disease. If you are looking for something to help you manage stress, perhaps connect with a local wellness center for resources in your area that are focused on helping patients manage their illness through mindfulness. You might just be surprised and how much you enjoy it!

MORE: Four ways to foster independence when a loved one has a disability 

Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!
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Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!

2 comments

  1. Bob Carlson says:

    Excellent advise and well written. It is very easy for those of us with a chronic condition or conditions to concentrate on what we can’t do rather than what we can do. Thank you.

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