Living with Lymphoedema is a mental journey from the moment you’re diagnosed. You might feel overwhelmed, confused, angry, depressed – it can be a rollercoaster of emotions – and compression can only treat the physical aspects of your condition. As well as accessing support from social groups locally and online, practicing mindfulness can help you cope with your thoughts and feelings.
Here are five easy ways you can practise mindfulness every day:
1. Keep a journal
Take time out to write down how you’re feeling. Even when things seem like they couldn’t get any worse, try to pick out the positives. This means turning the negative on its head and thinking about what you’re grateful for. It could be spending time with friends or being near a park, so you can take a walk. If you’re pushed for time, use an app or online notebook to record your thoughts.
2. Live in the moment
Try not to project or predict what life is going to be like in the future. Live for today. Work with the issues you’re facing on a daily basis and break them down into smaller chunks to make your feelings more manageable. As Bill Keane’s old saying goes, ‘Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”.
3. Focus on breathing
We already know deep breathing has a positive effect on the lymphatic system because it helps to push lymph fluid back into the circulatory system. But controlled breathing is also an essential part of meditation, which is thought to reduce stress and boost your mood. Sit quietly for a few minutes and try the 4-7-8 breathing method. Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and breathe out through the mouth for 8 seconds.
4. Take a walk
As well as helping to get lymph moving throughout the body, walking is great for the mind. We’re always rushing from one place to the next. So, make your next walk really count by walking slowly and really focusing on every step you take. Feel the ground beneath your feet, appreciate the beauty of your surroundings and let your mind wander.
5. Create a happy box
Happiness starts with your thoughts and what you tell yourself every day. When times are tough, we need positive affirmations that everything is going to be OK. Write down your strengths, skills and abilities on pieces of paper, ask family and friends to do the same, and keep them in a box along with photographs or personal items that make you feel good. Open the box whenever you need to recharge your mind, body and spirit.
One in four people will suffer mental health problems at some point in their lives. If you think you need help, talk to your care provider.