Having prostate cancer, especially recurrent or advanced prostate cancer, is always
stressful for both the survivor and their caregivers.

There are easily learned coping techniques to help us calm our mind and sharpen our ability to focus. Learning and using relaxation techniques and other mind/body techniques provides us with an exceptional way to reduce stress both caused by our cancer as well as other general concerns. Utilizing these techniques allow us to maintain our inner peace, despite what is happening to us. These techniques can be very useful as we wait to receive our infusions, climb into an MRI tube, wait for the latest test results or just sit around in our house thinking about our life situation.

Deep Breathing

Commonly, the anxiety and stress of living with cancer causes us to take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing does not allow enough oxygen to enter our bodies, making us feel more anxious, creating a vicious circle.

We often feel calm or rejuvenated after laughing deeply or sighing. Laughing and sighing is one way our body forces us to breathe deeply. Don’t we feel more relaxed after we laugh or sigh? One way to achieve this effect is to go to a comedy club, but there is a limit to how many trips to a club we can make.

As an alternative to a club try the following simple breathing exercise. You can do it anywhere and anytime:

1. Take in a deep breath from your diaphragm (the muscle between the lungs
and the abdomen).

2. Hold the breath for several seconds – however long is comfortable for you (don’t force it) and then exhale slowly.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two more times.

4. Afterward, relax for a moment and let yourself feel the experience of
being calm.


Repetitive prayers are a form of meditation. There are two traditional forms of
meditation. They include “one-pointed” meditation and “two-pointed” meditation:

One-pointed meditation utilizes one word or sounds which are referred to as a mantra. You can create your own mantra (the TV mantra we all are familiar with is ohm, but it is also possible to use an affirming word, such as, “calm,” “love” or “hope.” Once you have a mantra that you are comfortable with all you do is slowly keep repeating it to yourself. Continue this simple repetition, once or twice a day, for 15- to 20-minute sittings in a safe, quiet place.

Since we all have the natural tendency to jump from idea to idea – and from one worry to another, our goal is simply to relax our mind. If you find (and you will) that your mind wanders off your mantra don’t force it back, but instead try and guide it back gently.

The other form of meditation, two–pointed meditation, is also called “mindful”
or “insight” meditation. In this form of meditation, you focus on your breath in order to relax your mind. If your mind jumps from idea to idea, you should try to observe the pattern of your thoughts, while guiding them back to focus on your breath.

Observing your emotions or sensations should be done in a non-judgmental way, which
allows you to separate yourself from them rather than getting pulled
into them. One benefit of “mindful meditation” is that you can do it while seated or doing daily activities.

Guided Imagery

This stress-reducing technique incorporates both deep breathing and meditation into one process. Imagine a peaceful scene or setting, often from a memory, as you practice the deep breathing technique. In this place of calm relaxation, you can create a “wakeful dream” in which you envision pain or worries being washed away or your body. Envision yourself becoming stronger and healthier. When I practice this technique my “wakeful dream usually has water rolling over my body and I envision the water carrying with it my pain and concerns.

With all of these techniques, don’t forget to let go of your muscles as you relax. Un-scrunch your shoulders, let your legs, arms and face loose.

Try the techniques they do work. Expect to have some false starts, but stay with it. You will quickly appreciate the ease of practicing them and you will be delight with the positive results.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW