coping and progressive relaxation

here comes the lion
staring me straight in the eye
i don’t want to look

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

Some days the fright crawls under your skin, creeps across your scalp and etches itself on your face. You want to slap it away, but the anxiety paralyzes you. Some days the fear drains every reserve of your courage. You think you are fine, and suddenly the most inconsequential conversation sends you running back inside yourself. Tears fall so fast you can’t catch them.

Coping with the fear that accompanies cancer is an ongoing challenge. Some days bravado chases the fear away. For me, distractions are good; I simply ignore my fear. Some days I put it in a box and close it.

One technique that works for me, especially at night when the lion comes roaring into my head, is imagery combined with progressive relaxation. I dance the lion back into his cage and lock it. Then I cover the cage. Then I turn out the light and leave the building. I close my eyes. I walk to the ocean and listen to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. I lie down in the warm sand and begin to contract and relax my muscles, starting with my feet and working through every muscle group to the top of my head. With each muscle contraction and release I breathe deeply and continue to focus on my imaginary setting. After I complete the full circuit of muscle contraction and release, I concentrate on breathing, using hatha yoga breathing techniques along with the continued imagery. Sometimes this is the only way I can get to sleep.

Finding your own imaginary setting is a fun part of this exercise. It can be different every time or the same. When I taught prenatal exercise, I finished every session with this exercise; invariably, the class participants were asleep by the time we finished. Maybe this exercise will help you, too. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have to help you build your own routine.

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