Anxiety, the forgotten stage of grief


Anxiety, the forgotten stage of grief

When someone we love is ill there are a range of emotions and feelings we might experience. Some of these have become widely associated with grief such as anger and depression with a lot of support available for managing these strong feelings. Anxiety, however, is often overlooked as a common response to a serious illness and yet has a powerful impact on both our immediate and longer-term mental health…

Anxiety after a loved one’s diagnosis

When someone close to us receives a serious diagnosis, we often feel as if we have lost our sense of safety and control. Life may no longer follow the same patterns and routines and the future may seem confused and scary. It is natural then that you might feel anxious or worried about what is happening and what might happen next, and it may even bring up worries about your own health and the health of other family members. Whilst these feelings are understandable, anxiety left unchecked can impact your own health long after a crisis is over and therefore it is important to recognise when anxiety is affecting you and to get support in managing it.

Anxiety can feel different for everyone but is often associated with a feeling of dread, irritability, restlessness and generally feeling “on the edge”. Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, elevated heart rate and difficulties around sleeping.

Some of these symptoms might be temporary responses to a dramatic time but if they start to affect your life or don’t seem to be getting any better, it may be time to seek support either from a medical professional or by talking to someone you trust, such as one of our qualified support workers.

How to cope?

Talking to someone about how you’re feeling can help you cope with anxiety but there are also positive things you can do yourself to help you manage anxious feelings and symptoms. Keeping a journal can help you organise your thoughts and break them down so that they feel more manageable and less overwhelming. This is a great practice for managing a range of emotions that you might experience when a loved one is ill.

Exercise can help manage some of the physical symptoms associated with anxiety such as issues with sleep as it promotes healthy sleep cycles. Exercise can also help with concentration and the release of endorphins can make you feel less stressed and generally more at peace.

Breathing practices have also been shown to reduce the stress, irregular heart rate and other physical systems of anxiety. Taking slow, deep breaths whilst paying attention to each inhalation and exhalation helps to calm the nervous system which in turn reduces anxious feelings and thought patterns.

Finally, healthy eating really can change the way you think and feel. Mood enhancing foods such as blueberries, bananas, oats, salmon, walnut and Brazil nuts provide nutrients that promote the release of certain chemicals within the body such as amino acids that help your brain regulate your thoughts and feelings, providing mental clarity and reducing anxiety levels.

Reach out

If you’re struggling with anxiety because a loved one is seriously ill and want to talk about it, head to our support page to find out how you can access one-to-ones or join our peer support group where everyone knows what you’re going through. If you feel you need some extra help try talking to your GP and, as always, ring 999 in an emergency situation.

Hope Support Services

Overross House
Ross Park

UK Registered Charity 1135680

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