Chapter 1: Exploring feelings while living with a serious diagnosis
There was a lot of anxiety about dying. I didn’t know how to support him when I was feeling so anxious too.
Anxiety is a normal response to feeling threatened in some way. Dealing with complex healthcare and end-of-life issues often has a steep learning curve.
One of the biggest sources of anxiety for friends and families is the sense of uncertainty, often related to how the illness will progress. You may be trying to absorb and understand unfamiliar information, as well as trying to manage challenging emotional issues. For families who are considering caregiving at home, anxiety over how they will manage and if they are doing the right thing may also be a factor.
Another source of anxiety for families is the change in roles and responsibilities that takes place when someone is ill. For example, if a parent is affected by illness, another person may experience additional parenting demands.
Children may also feel anxious when dealing with the changes at home. To reduce their anxiety, offer detailed information about who will take care of them and what changes they will see in their day-to-day routines.
Anxiety can impact different people in different ways, even within the same family. Below are three general levels of anxiety. Click each one to read more.
Everyone feels anxious sometimes. Anxiety is a normal reaction to anything that threatens your body, lifestyle, values, or the people close to you. A certain amount of anxiety is normal and can cause you to act. For example, you might feel anxious about not knowing where your medication is because it’s important to take it at a regular time. Mild anxiety like this can cause you to be organized about where you put your medication and how you’re going to take it regularly.
Moderate to extreme anxiety can interfere with your ability to function normally. If you get so anxious that you are unable to cope with everyday tasks and responsibilities, talk with your healthcare provider.
Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear or apprehension that start suddenly. The effects of panic attacks vary. A panic attack can be intensely frightening, upsetting, and uncomfortable. Some people fear they are having a heart
attack or a nervous breakdown.
Symptoms of a panic attack can include the following:
- Fear or sense of dying or “going crazy”
- Overwhelming sense of losing control
- Flashing vision, faintness, or nausea
- Numbness throughout the body
These symptoms can also increase feelings of anxiety.
What may help
Talking with your healthcare provider can help; they may recommend treatment and refer you to a social worker, counsellor, or spiritual care provider.
Talking with a trusted friend or family about your thoughts and feelings can also help to reduce anxiety.
If your anxiety is related to questions about your illness, it may be helpful to write a list of questions and ask for a meeting with your healthcare provider, who can answer them.Consider using mindfulness meditation exercises. Many mindfulness-based videos for stress reduction