Being a mum of two allergic children is laced with anxiety and what ifs. From replaying the worst case scenarios in your head, to managing every meal out and leaving them in the care of others, it’s a constant battle of emotions. J started school in September and trusting his teachers to keep him safe has been challenging.
Two weeks after he started school, my husband was diagnosed with cancer and a whole new rollercoaster began. We had to learn about tests and treatment options, surgery and survival rates. He is now on treatment which is working well but the future is uncertain and full of a lot of ‘we don’t know’ from medical professionals.
The last 10 months have been some of the hardest and yet simplest of my life. It’s amazing how a cancer diagnosis can refocus you on what’s important in life. Everyday I have to push back difficult thoughts and I’m not going to pretend it’s easy but I’m trying to stay positive and here are my top tips for dealing with anxiety, uncertainty and ‘what ifs’:
Focus on the here and now
I know it can sound trite, but we really don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We had no inkling Mr C was about to be diagnosed with cancer. Concentrate on enjoying each day and making the most of everything you have in your life.
Take time out
We are all busy and overwhelmed but it is important to take some time out when you can. For some people it might be enjoying meditation or a hot bath, for me it’s a walk in the fresh air to refuel. Even 10 minutes can make all the difference to your mindset.
Find some control
There are so many factors we can’t control and I really struggle with that. However, find the things you can control and do your best to secure them, whether that’s creating a care plan, cooking healthy safe meals or managing medication.
Write things down
For me, writing things down always helps me process them, whether that’s in a blog post, poem or just a to do list. Find what works for you but getting your feelings or thoughts out your head and on to paper can help stop your mind overthinking.
I do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions (maybe it’s the journalist in me!) as I like to know exactly what I’m dealing with. Knowledge is power, it can put risk into perspective and it can give you something to focus your mind on.
It’s important you have someone you can talk to, whether that’s a real life best friend or an online support community. It’s easy to keep saying ‘I’m fine’ but connecting with others who have been in the same situation or can listen will help relieve some of the stress.
Let yourself cry
Sometimes it all becomes too much and you need to let it out. This doesn’t make you any less strong or mean you can’t cope, it’s just a natural response to difficult emotions and an overwhelming situation. Treat yourself gently.
Confront the ‘what ifs’
This may not work or everyone but I find going to the worst case scenario can help take some of the fear away. What would you do if your child had a severe reaction? How would you cope if your husband had only months to live? Making it practical rather than emotional can reframe your feelings.
Ask for help
You may want to manage it all yourself but sometimes we need to ask for help. I had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and counselling with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) when a traumatic birth triggered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and heightened my anxiety. I haven’t sought counselling yet for Mr C’s cancer but I won’t hesitate to do so if I feel I need it.
Life isn’t always easy and it’s definitely not predictable. I am often told ‘you’re so strong’ or ‘I don’t know how I would cope’ but the fact is we all just do and you are stronger than you think. However, this shouldn’t be a badge of honour. The worst thing you can do it try to ignore your feelings and forge ahead. Acknowledge your sadness, fear or anxiety and make it a priority to address it in a way that works for you.
I’m also sharing this post over on Honest Mum #brilliantblogposts