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Environmental stressors

Most environmental stressors are not particular to the cancer patient. Minor illness, family problems, stress at work, etc are stressors that all individuals face. These become a problem if there are too many, or if they are too intense (such as divorce).  Stress management form the focus of developing coping strategies for such environmental stressors. There is a considerable literature on stress management which the cancer patient can usefully consult. They suggest such coping strategies as avoiding stressful situations, delegating decision, organising your daily routines, taking time off for yourself, having a massage, etc. Most of these coping strategies are directed at specific stressors. But there are many such environmental stressors, and it would be inefficient to develop one for each such stressor. A more useful approach, especially for the cancer patient whose energy level can be low, is to develop a general approach that can be applied no matter what the environmental stressor happens to be. It is important for the cancer patient to keep stress under control since stress reduces the effectiveness of the immune system.

We have built into us the fight-and-flight response. Unfortunately, in modern society this is often constantly being activated whenever the person perceives threat. Such threat does not have to be an advancing dangerous animal. It can simply be a work situation, a social event, or something psychological. In such circumstances, a person feels stressed. The feelings of stress arise from the activation of the sympathetic nervous system: the purpose of which is to remove oneself from the stressful situation. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to do this. We may be able to run from a dangerous animal, but it may not be possible (at least in the short run) to run from an over-powering boss, or a family feud.

There is, however, an opposite response: the relaxation response. The purpose of this response is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a sense of relaxation and calm. But unlike the fight-and-flight response, the relaxation response must be learnt and cultivated. The importance of relaxation is well recognised by the Macmillan Cancer Support and is offered as part of their complementary therapies. Hypnotic relaxation is an alternative and has the advantage it can be engaged in at home at any time. Furthermore, hypnotic relaxation is well developed as part of hypnotherapy and is known to be very effective at reducing stress.

A first coping strategy for dealing with environmental stress for the cancer patient is to utilise hypnosis for developing the relaxation response. This can involve affirmations for relaxation while in a state of hypnosis; or utilising creative visualisation images, also in a state of relaxation. We shall deal with both here. In the first instance, it is necessary to achieve a state of hypnosis. This can either be done by a hypnotherapist or, ideally, by self-hypnosis. The audio files associated with Part IV all involve creating a state of hypnosis. Once this has been achieved, either direct affirmations are given for relaxation, or creative images are engaged in which also induce a state of relaxation. Here we supply only the affirmations and some creative images. These still can be used by the cancer patient with or without hypnosis.

For the cancer patient who is not utilising the services of a hypnotherapist, or has not learnt self-hypnosis, they need to acquaint themselves with the following 45 affirmations. Ideally, they can be recorded and played back while sitting with the eyes closed and in a relaxed state. The affirmations need to be repeated frequently so that they become part of your thinking.

Affirmations to enhance the relaxation response

1. I am calm and collected.

2. Every breath I inhale calms me down; every breath I exhale reduces my tension.

3. I overcome stress of all kinds.

4. I overcome all fear.

5. I am free from anxiety and continue to be so.

6. All is well in my world.

7. I am clam, relaxed and free from tension.

8. Anxiety is a thing of the past.

9. I am stress free and at peace.

10. My future is free from stress and anxiety.

11. Each day I feel healthy and strong.

12. My mind is relaxed and calm.

13. I am at peace with myself.

14. I am at peace with the universe.

15. I conquer stress on a daily basis.

16. I am calm and relaxed in every situation.

17. My sleep is peaceful and quiet.

18. Stress is just dissolving away.

19. I release myself from all stress.

20. My body shows no signs of anxiety or stress.

21. My needs to be anxious will now disappear.

22. Anxiety is no longer a part of my well-being.

23. Anxious thoughts just dissolve away quickly.

24. I always feel in control.

25. I am always calm, relaxed and at ease.

26. I am relaxed around others.

27. I accept uncertainty, it does not bother me.

28. I accept that there is uncertainty in life.

29. I am a unique person.

30. I have wisdom.

31. I respect myself.

32. I no longer worry or concern myself about what others think of me.

33. I satisfy my own special needs.

34. I can handle all situations.

35. I can overcome all problems.

36. I know that whatever I believe I can achieve.

37. I release myself from the burdens of the past.

38. I accept my limitations.

39. I free myself of past hurtful memories.

40. I see things clearly.

41. I respect my emotions and feelings.

42. I now realise that worrying is a waste of time and energy.

43. I can handle problems easily and efficiently.

44. I am calm and at peace no matter what is happing to me.

45. I am happy and content.

To download the audio file on the Relaxation Response, simply click on the file name and this will take you to Dropbox, which will allow you to save the file to your computer.

            Relaxation Response

As with all hypnotic suggestions, the aim is to believe in them. It is no good saying to yourself, “I am always calm” but then thinking that that is simply not true. The best way to think of these affirmations is as a set of goals, and not as you were in the past.

Environmental Stressors Return to post treatment