Reducing stress

Why reduce stress?

In modern societies many people prioritise work and productivity, sometimes at the expense of caring for their overall health. This can causes us to experience stress. What’s more, chronic illness can exacerbate these stresses and make us feel overwhelmed.

In patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) it’s important to aim for a balanced lifestyle and avoid stress wherever possible. 

Simple techniques can reduce stress and pain in people with MPNs. We are thankful to Dr Brent A. Bauer of the Mayo Clinic MD (Medical Doctor) who contributed these stress-reduction and health management tips for people with MPNs. Dr Bauer is Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic in the United States.

Stress reduction has clear benefits

Research done at the Mayo Clinic (US) and other hospitals shows that stress reduction has clinical benefits for patients. Stress reduction:

  • Reduces pressure on blood vessels
  • Promotes healing
  • Increases immune function
  • Increases the positive effects of medication
  • Improves quality of sleep

In other words, it just makes us feel a whole lot better.

Pain reduction through massage

Research being done at both the Mayo Clinic (US) and at Sloane-Kettering (US) has demonstrated the value of massage. A study on massage after open-heart surgery found that patients had a reduction in pain and muscle tension if given regular massages. These benefits apply equally to patients suffering from cancer and receiving chemotherapy. If you have an MPN, you may wish to seek out massage as a complementary treatment to help reduce pain and tension.

Stress reduction through meditation

Research has shown that meditation offers substantial benefits, especially in reducing stress. Stress causes a decrease in immune function, an increase in heart disease, an increase in the rate of sudden death, and a decrease in the effect of medications. Meditation is a proven way to reduce these risks:

  • Meditation is simple – you just need 15 quiet minutes a day
  • You can choose a secular or a more spiritual style
  • Try a CD or DVD with guided meditation
  • Or, try the Mayo Clinic’s 15-minute guided meditation
  • Seek out your local church, synagogue or mosque if you prefer a spiritual approach

Improved wellbeing through yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice that has been shown to reduce stress and fatigue and promote wellbeing. You can try a yoga class, there are many levels and you can find one that meets your needs or try a yoga video demonstrating simple yoga postures. The effects are significant and proven: researchers Mustian, Palesh, Sprod et al published a report on the effect of yoga on sleep, fatigue, and quality of life. People in the study experienced:

  • Greater sleep quality
  • Less use of drugs for sleep
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Better quality of life

Patients in the yoga programme reported a 42% reduction in fatigue, compared with a 12% reduction in fatigue among patients who received usual care alone.

What to try for yourself?

Try a yoga video with demonstrations of simple postures. Seek out a local class at your local gym or sports centre at a level that suits you.

Would you like more information?

For more ideas visit the NHS website page for reducing stress.