That’s why it’s important the public understand the connection between stress and cancer, despite a lack of hard scientific evidence, according to Dr. Thomas J. Barnard, M.D., spokesman for the Physicians for Responsible Medicine and a practicing physician in Ontario.
“When you take the scientific information we have and combine it with the common sense evidence, there’s clearly a link. Part of the problem we have in Western medicine is what we consider acceptable evidence,” said Barnard, who teaches human biology and nutrition at the University of Guelph in Ontario and is an author.
“It would be nicer to have these markers more obvious, but I don’t think we need cemented evidence before we encourage people to start moving in the direction of better health,” he said.
“My advice for healthy living is this: Eat good food, get good exercise, be kind, be calm. It kind of incorporates what your grandma told you, but it may take science awhile to catch up with that.”
OK, you now know that stress may have a negative impact on your health. But you also know you’re never going to be completely rid of stress. The key isn’t in doing away with all of life’s pressures but in how you handle them on a daily basis.
Here are some tips for stress management from Reina Marino, M.D., a Philadelphia-based physician and a consultant for the American Cancer Society, in developing a group stress reduction class for cancer patients and survivors.
When you are under stress, you often inhale from your chest, which tends to be a more shallow and constricted way of breathing. Breathing deeply, inhaling from your abdomen instead of your chest, provides more oxygen to your bloodstream and can help you control your emotions and stay calm.
To start, place your hands over your belly and slowly breathe in through your nose. Feel your stomach expand, then slowly exhale. Do this 10 to 20 minutes a day.
Meditation is a way to calm your body and mind by focusing your attention on one thing, such as a phrase, an object or your breathing. The most common way of meditating is to pick a word or phrase that you can say to yourself in coordination with your breathing. If you use a single word, repeat it when exhaling. If you are using a few words, try coordinating some of the words on the in breath and some on the out breath. It’s ideal to mediate at least 10 to 20 minutes a day.
Can you picture the way the seashore looked the last time you were there or imagine the smell of your mom’s apple pie baking? If so, you can practice imagery, which is simply creating a mental picture or scene that can help soothe and relax you. What colors do you see? What sounds or scents are associated with this place? What is the temperature like? Try to use all of your senses to create a more vivid picture.
Mindfulness is simply focusing on the present moment, concentrating on the here-and-now. As you go to or from work, notice your surroundings, appreciate the look of the sky or the sound of a bird. While at work or at home, try to focus on the task or project at hand, without thinking about what you have to do in the next hour or next day. Take pleasure in simple things, like savoring a good meal or laughing with your family and friends. Try not to get distracted by what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow. Enjoy today.