Reducing stress and learning how to relax can be helpful in reducing the frequency and intensity of hot flashes for some women. Examples of strategies you can learn include relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, yoga, massage, hypnosis, and biofeedback techniques. Many of these are covered in our section on Complementary Medicine.
Some women find that a technique called “paced respiration” helps them control hot flashes. Paced respiration involves training yourself to breathe slowly and deeply — just 6-8 times per minute, versus the average 15 times. The basic technique is to breathe in while slowly counting to 5 and then release the breath for 5 seconds. Remember to count slowly and breathe deeply. Once you master this technique for about 15 minutes, continue to practice it every day for 10-15 minutes (some recommend a morning session and an evening session). When a hot flash hits, start your paced respiration and continue it for 5 minutes.
In addition, there is some research suggesting that mindfulness training can help improve quality of life for women who are bothered by hot flashes and night sweats. It won’t necessarily reduce hot flashes’ frequency or intensity, but it can make them less bothersome. Mindfulness training helps you become aware of the present moment, without focusing on the past or future. It creates a space where you cannot focus on past negative events or worry about what might happen in the future. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training helps people use the practice of mindfulness to reduce feelings of stress.
You can learn mindfulness on your own, using a CD, podcast, or app, or you can participate in training sessions with an instructor, usually for a fee. There is a wealth of materials and information available online. Just a few possible resources include:
- Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is known for creating the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program and has developed numerous books, CDs, and online courses to help people learn these techniques, in addition to offering trainings all over the world. Search his name online and you’ll find many great resources.
- Courses offered through hospitals and health systems, such as The Penn Program for Mindfulness at Penn Medicine and The Mindfulness Institute at The Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. These happen to be based in Philadelphia, but you can search online or ask your doctor to find out if hospitals and health systems in your area offer something similar.
- Online programs such as the Cleveland Clinic’s Stress Free Now, which also offers a Stress Meditations app for the iPhone.
Another possible resource is YouTube: If you search for “mindfulness” or “mindfulness-based stress reduction,” you can access some free videos that may be helpful.