The Ipswich Head & Neck Cancer 

Support Group

The Journey Through Cancer Together...

We aim to support Patients, Family, Friends

and anyone who has been affected by
Head and Neck Cancer


Complimentary Therapies and Relaxation Techniques 

A Talk given at one of our support group meetings by Amanda Ford in Oct 2013

How stress affects our health and lives

A little bit is good for us. A lot is bad for us. Its all down to our fight and flight response, we all have it, its in our make up. Designed to prepare our bodies and minds to protect ourselves to give us the extra oomph to stay and fight or run away when we are threatened

This whole process is designed for short term use
Our bodies and brains are not designed to have high levels of these chemicals in our bodies on a long term basis.

Is a washing machine designed to work on the hottest wash and the highest spin 24/7 NO, 

what would happen to it if it did?



Lots of research to prove this. Stress related illness is increasing year on year.


Change our lifestyles

Start to look after ourselves

Eat healthy 5 a day, cut down on alcohol, smoking, loose weight, get good quality sleep

Know our limits, look at our work life balance, learn to say no

Talk to someone

Give yourself some space, experts say 10 to 20 minutes a day minimum should be set aside for you but 30mins to an hour is best

AND the main one I want to talk about tonight


What is relaxation????

Relaxation or a relaxation technique is any method, process or procedure, or activity that helps a person to relax: to attain a state of increased calmness: or otherwise reduce levels of anxiety, stress or anger.

Relaxation can decrease muscle tension, lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, amongst many other health benefits
Research shows removing stress increases a persons health


Many of us think relaxation is zoning out in front of the telly at the end of a stressful day, but this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress
To actively combat stress we need to activate the body's natural relaxation response ( a state of deep calmness) the relaxation response puts the brakes on the heightened state of readiness caused by the fight and flight response and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.
To attain this natural relaxation response regular, relaxation techniques can be used but they do have to be practised.

Different types of relaxation

Formal & passive exercises = deep breathing

Meditation, Visualisation, Mind Body, Relaxation, Movement based exercises = walking, gardening, yoga, tia chi

Body work exercises = massage, acupuncture, reflexology

If you crave solitude, solo relaxation e.g., meditation , progressive muscle relaxation will give the space needed to recharge your batteries.
If you crave social interaction a class setting will give stimulation, motivation and support

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10 practical on the spot techniques you can use any time and almost anywhere
to reduce tension and stress in your life

1. Meditation

Who thinks meditation is about twisting your body into uncomfortable positions and uttering oohs and ohms for an hour???
Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation, even knitting, swimming, walking, mowing the lawn, ironing and vacuuming, also driving how many of you have set off on a journey and cant remember parts of it?
Meditation is any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment.
If you catch yourself thinking about your job, your list of things to do experts say drop the thought and bring your mind back to the repetition of the activity. They say just 10 minutes a day will greatly reduce the stress.

2. Visualisation

Essentially picturing yourself relaxed
Try creating a peaceful visualisation or dreamscape. Start by visualising any thing that keeps your thoughts away from current tensions, replacing it with an image of something that makes you feel calm. The more realistic in colours, sights, sounds the more relaxed you will be.
A favourite holiday spot, fantasy island, landscape, riding your horse, or something touchable e.g. feel of your favourite jumper or shirt.

3.Deep Breathing

When you are stressed your breathing is shallow, when you are relaxed your breathing is deep.
Try this. Let out a big sigh!! Dropping chest and exhaling through gently pursed lips.
Inhale feeling your tummy, sides and lower back expand
Exhale sighing as you drop your chest feeling your tummy sides and back contract. Repeat ten times diaphragmatic breathing.
Another one is close your eyes imagine a triangle with a moving light as you breath in watch the light move from one point of the triangle to another, breath around the triangle
Lots of breathing exercises on Google, Boots web md

4. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is looking around you. It’s the here and now approach to living that makes daily life more richer and meaningful.

Its about approaching life like a child without passing judgement on what occurs
It means focusing on one activity at a time, no multitasking.

Practise it by focusing on your immediate surroundings. If your outdoors enjoy the shape and colour of the flowers, hear a bird call or study a tree.
In the shopping centre really look at the details of a dress, examine the jewellery and how its made, look at every detail, pattern and style. The key is to keep your mind focused on something in the present

5. Drink Tea

Coffee raises levels of the notorious stress hormone cortisol whilst green tea lowers levels and offers many health and beauty benefits.

Chamomile tea calms the mind and reduces stress. Research now shows even black caffeinated tea reduces levels of cortisol in the body not only reducing stress but helping us to handle stressful situations more easily.
Some foods are scientifically proven to make you feel better and help you relax. There are even certain snacks that help your body unwind without necessarily piling on the pounds.

6. Show some Love

Induce the relaxation response by cuddling your pet. Research shows stroking your pet reduces blood pressure and decreases stress hormones, some insurance companies give lower premiums to people who have pets, studies show people with pets live longer, due to de stressing
Giving an unexpected hug to a friend or family member a hug a day keeps the doctor away, a hug a day keeps the blues away
Snuggle with your partner/ children
Talk to a friend about the good things in life HAVE A LAUGH!!

social interaction helps our brains think better helps us to see new solutions to situations that once seemed impossible

7. Take a break

Thirty seconds is enough time to shift your hearts rhythm from stressed to relaxed

Adults need breaks too so when its all getting too much take a break, find somewhere quite, do some deep breathing

engage in positive thinking, that’s thinking about something that triggers positive feelings conjuring up the thought will help slow breathing, relax tense muscles and lower stress hormones.

8. Try a musical detour

Music can calm the heart beat and sooth the soul
Align your heart beat with a slow tempo from a relaxing song
Research shows listening to 30 minutes of classical music produces calming effects equivalent to taking 10mg of diazepam.

9. Try self massage

Place both hands on your shoulders and neck

Squeeze with your fingers and palms
Rub vigorously, keeping shoulders relaxed
Wrap one hand around the other forearm
Squeeze the muscles with thumb and fingers
Move up and down from elbow to finger tips and back again
Repeat with other arm

10. Exercise

Exercise can mean anything from vacuuming to running marathons and mind body exercises like Yoga, Pilates, Tia chi.

Exercise produces endorphins, natural feel good factor in the blood, producing a feeling of happiness that reduces stress
mind body exercises may not produce endorphins as not strenuous enough but they increase flexibility, strength, balance and numerous psychological benefits

There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone.

When choosing a technique consider:

Your specific needs

Fitness levels
The way you react to stress
Your lifestyle

Often alternating or combining techniques will keep you motivated and provide you with the best results

 Three food tips will have you de-stressing, relaxing and sleeping better in no time.

Eat foods high in tryptophan.This amino acid helps the brain produce serotonin - a chemical that calms you down, and melatonin - a hormone that can make you sleepy. This means it's not only great for relaxing, it's also a natural sleep aid and can help with depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Eat foods high in carbohydrates. Eating a high-carbohydrate meal, about two hours before bedtime, will immediately increase the levels of serotonin in your brain.

Add a bit of fat to your meals.By adding fats to your meal, not only will you feel the immediate effect from the carbohydrates, the fat will cause a delayed reaction, so serotonin levels will be increased slowly a few hours later too. This will help you stay relaxed or stop you from waking up in the middle of the night.