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  • Using Mindfulness Practices to Reduce IPF-Related Stress

    Posted by Charlene Marshall on April 29, 2018 at 3:00 am

    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 centres 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)?

    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.

    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!

    Please share your experience(s) with mindfulness practices to reduce IPF-related stress. 

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