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Woman meditating

Guided Meditation Offers Relief to Patients, Caregivers Alike

The stress of being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment makes for an overwhelming time for a patient.

There’s so much to think about and choices to make, not to mention trying to keep things running at home.

“Getting diagnosed with cancer is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Just as our clinical interventions are important, it’s also important for the patient to have some control as they’re going through their diagnosis, treatment and survivorship,” says Kara Eaton, MA, Executive Director of Patient and Family Experience at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Guided imagery or guided meditation helps as a tool they can use to help them throughout and gain perspective.”

Roswell Park is pleased to offer a new guided meditation program to all patients and their caregivers, and made possible through donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation’s Quality of Life Program.

There are six different meditations for purposes ranging from helping a person fall asleep and reducing anxiety to optimizing chemotherapy. Each one consists of several pieces, some lasting just a few minutes and others up to 30 minutes.

What Is Guided Meditation?

Meditation is a kind of mental exercise. It involves sitting quietly, either in silence or with low, soft music playing, and trying to clear the mind while focusing on breathing. A guided meditation introduces a narrative component that helps the imagination take over in a positive, relaxing way.

“It’s a short period of time. You can put on a headset, listen on your phone, and you will be able to sit with guided imagery that works for you to help with stress and anxiety,” Eaton says. “Let your imagination take control for just a few minutes to take care of yourself for the rest of the day.”

Guided meditation uses visualization and guided imagery to reduce stress and create a positive mental and emotional state. It has been used successfully as a gentle but powerful coping strategy for cancer patients and their caregivers who are dealing with pain, muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety or depression.

Even taking just a few moments out of the day to meditate can help reset, adds Brian Braun, LCSW-R, Director of Social Work at Roswell Park. “It allows us the chance to slow down and examine our thoughts and minds. We are all often so busy, juggling numerous tasks, concerns and thoughts all at once, that it can become difficult to relax and slow down. The simple act of a meditation practice, even if only for 10 minutes a day, gives us that chance to reset, quiet ourselves, reconnect with calm and begin anew.”

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Time to Reset, Relax, Refresh

Some people might be skeptical at first, but both Eaton and Braun suggest trying guided meditation a few times, over the course of a week to 10 days, and then checking in with yourself to see if stress levels are reduced or if you’re sleeping better.

The guided meditations available through Roswell Park are also great for caregivers as well as healthcare workers, who often are bombarded with stress and anxiety as they help their loved ones and patients through their illness. “Being a caregiver — we don’t talk about it a lot, but it can be just as stressful as being a patient,” Eaton says, adding that the meditations can be used to help anyone who needs a little extra support during a difficult time