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Guest Writer: Strategies for Coping with the Anxiety of Living with a Serious Illness

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Simon Howden

 

Strategies for Coping with the Anxiety of Living with a Serious Illness

Finding out you have a serious illness is devastating. It forces you to come to terms with your own mortality, and while you should keep fighting every day, it’s most certainly harder to relax and find happiness when you’re faced with that thought each and every day.

For many, this causes significant anxiety. Even if you’ve responded well to treatments, your life is undoubtedly going to change. It has to, because you’ve been faced with a life changing event that has changed the course of your life forever.

But that anxiety becomes a problem when it holds you back from finding happiness in life. There are going to be trials, and times when it’s difficult to think positively, but the more time you spend focused on the adversity and the risks ahead, the less time you spend living for yourself in a way that makes you happy. Everyone will someday have to face their own mortality, but until they do, everyone deserves to try to live a life that is free of regrets and filled with joy.

Stopping Anxiety in its Tracks

Of course, this is often easier said than done. There is certainly no denying that the never-ending doctor’s visits, treatment side effects, and physical aches and pains can make controlling anxiety more difficult. But there are still ways to help you cope with the stresses ahead of you so that you still wake up each day ready to enjoy life. Some of these include:

1.  Goal Creation

The simple act of creating goals is extremely important for those living with a serious illness. You need to make sure that you’re always working for something, and that when you complete a goal you still have more to do. It’s good to be focused on the future and not feeling stuck.

Many of those with anxiety disorders (unrelated to serious illness) struggle with this as well. I certainly did. It caused me to spend each day focused on just getting through the day, and suddenly I woke up and a year had passed and I had accomplished nothing.

Even though serious illness can reduce some of your ability to meet some of these goals, there are always new goals you can try. Make sure you’re constantly working for something so that each day is one spent achieving something in the future.

2.  Permanent Creative Outlets

What Ms. Clark is doing with this blog is also incredibly valuable. When you suffer from anxiety, you no doubt have all of these thoughts in your head that you can’t seem to release. Putting them all on paper and sharing them with others is the type of creative outlet that many people need to simply take those thoughts out of their head and share them with others, and the permanence of a blog or journal ensures that at any point you can go back, see what you were feeling, and see how you are now.

Those that don’t like to write can try art as well. But anything you can do that lets out your emotions in a healthy way is valuable, and will reduce some of the pressure that these thoughts have on you.

3.  Fake It

It can be hard to feel optimistic when you are struggling with a serious diagnosis, even if you’ve managed to overcome it. When optimism fails, you try faking optimism.

We’re not talking about denial.  Denial is never healthy.  We’re just talking about pretending to be a person that isn’t affected by their diagnosis.  Pretend to be someone with a positive outlook, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

One of the most interesting things about the human brain is that when it’s confused, it tries to adapt to being confused.  By pretending to be positive, you’re confusing your brain, and often you’ll find that your mind turns you into a more positive person as a result in order to become less confused. It may sound silly, but it’s very effective, and absolutely worth a try for a few months.

  1.  Your Spirit and Anxiety

Still, in the end it’s not about the diagnosis. It’s about who you want to be and how you want to live your life. Your own willingness to recognize your anxiety and overcome it is going to be the key that moves you forward.  If you show your own inner strength by dedicating your life to happiness and enjoying yourself, you’ll find that no diagnosis can truly hold you back.

About today’s Guest Writer: Ryan Rivera has worked with many people struggling with chronic illness, and provides anxiety recovery tips at www.calmclinic.com.

Thanks, Ryan!  We appreciate your words of wisdom.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.