A terminal illness diagnosis changes everything. It throws your life into upheaval, affecting your family, your friends and everyone around you. It also means a drastic change in your physical, mental and emotional well-being and can result in serious stress and anxiety.
Are you feeling the distress that comes with your terminal illness? Though there may not be a cure for the condition you’re suffering, there are ways to cope with the unease that a diagnosis brings.
Here are 5 ways to manage the stress:
1. Empower yourself through education.
There’s nothing scarier than the unknown, so take time to learn all about your condition and what you can expect as your days go on. Talk to your doctor, connect with one of our knowledgable licensed clinical social workers, and use reputable sources like the Mayo Clinic, the UK’s National Health Service or the Cleveland Clinic to get more information. If you find yourself with more questions, write them down and save them for your next appointment. You also may want to bring a loved one along with you, as they might have questions you haven’t thought of just yet.
2. Have priorities in place.
Now that you know your time is limited, what are your priorities? Is it to fight your disease as much as possible? To spend as much time with your children or grandchildren as you can? Write down everything you want to do in your remaining days, and order them from highest to lowest priority. Use this list to keep you on track if you’re feeling overwhelmed or downtrodden after a hard day or treatment.
3. Plan your end-of-life celebration.
You might find solace in solidifying your end-of-life plans. This might include choosing your burial plot or casket or talking with family members about your funeral or celebration of life. If you have children or grandchildren, you also may want to determine what you will bequeath to them when you pass on. Get your end-of-life wishes in writing, and be sure you have advanced care directives, DNRs and other documents on file to dictate your end-of-life medical care.
4. Cultivate a support system.
Many people will likely volunteer to help when they hear of your illness, so take them up on it. In order to alleviate stress, you’ll want assistance with daily chores, transport to and from appointments, and just managing day-to-day to-dos at your home. Embrace the help and use the extra time toward your priority list. Your last days are best spent on things you love — not daily minutiae.
5. Speak openly.
Avoid making your illness the elephant in the room and talk openly about it with your loved ones and friends. Discuss your fears and concerns, and let those you love help you through these difficult times. You should also speak openly about non-illness related subjects, too. Tell your children you love them and are proud of them, give your grandchildren the sage advice they’ll need when you’re gone, and speak your mind while there’s still the opportunity to do it. This can be freeing and help you lighten any heavy burdens you may bear.
A terminal illness doesn’t have to equal stress or anxiety. Know your priorities, rely on your support system and plan your end-of-life details ASAP before it’s too late. Sign up for Uphold Health today to get your advanced care directives in order. Our licensed clinical social workers are here to help.