Coping Strategies

Coping Strategies

Once you are over the initial shock of diagnosis, you will begin to subconsciously and consciously put strategies in place to help you cope with the precious time remaining. Everyone copes differently but here are some recommendations from others who have been through similar experiences.

  • Positive attitude. You may have come out all guns blazing from your diagnosis and want to fight all you can or you may feel totally despondent. Looking for the positives whilst remaining realistic will give you a better chance of coping with any treatment or the pain of your illness.
  • Get informed. Fear of the unknown often causes the most anxiety. Knowing what you have to face - however difficult, can be a relief. Having knowledge of your condition is an area in which you can retain control - allowing you to discuss what is happening with your doctors and make decisions that affect you.
  • Denial. Many people play down their diagnosis or even ignore it. This may be a coping strategy for some, but can be hard to sustain over time and is stressful for those around you. It does mean you can postpone dealing with some of the more difficult emotions associated with your illness but it may become more difficult when you really need help.
  • Don't give up. Anxiety and helplessness is very common but don’t give up. It may sound an odd thing to say when you are fully aware you are going to die. But think about it. We don’t normally walk around living our lives in half measures because we know one day we will die, live what is left to the full.
  • Consider counselling. If you find yourself overly anxious or obsessed then it may be helpful to consider therapeutic help. You can ask your GP to refer you or find local help here.
  • Stay in control for as long as you can. Allow people to help you, but unless you want them to don’t let other people take over.
  • Take care of yourself and your health. Although this may seem futile, ensuring you get enough rest, appropriate exercise and a good diet will help you to feel well for as long as possible. Ensure you keep doctors appointments.
  • Keep talking. You shouldn’t have to cope alone and you may have many emotions you want to express. Find someone to talk to - this can be anyone from a close family member to a doctor or counsellor.
  • Communicate. Try to give those around you an opportunity to communicate with you - they may have things they want to say and need your permission to express them.
  • Do it! If your illness allows it then this may be the time to do something you have always wanted to do. Why not travel or try a new experience?
  • Face facts. You aren’t going to feel great every day and there may be occasions when you can’t enjoy the things you once did. Focus on the things you can do.
  • Remember what you have and cherish it. This is a time to focus on the important things and families often become much closer.
  • Be practical. Make sure you have a will in place and if you have certain specific wishes about future care or how your death is handled then consider a living will. If it is likely that you will not be able to handle your own affairs then think about who you would like to look after them for you. This is called enduring power of attorney.
  • Plan ahead. You also need to get your financial house in order, plan how you will cope financially when you are not able to work and what the implications are for your dependents.

And finally - keep on living. Do you want to end your days in a chair waiting for death to turn up? If you are still well enough to work then why not carry on? For as long as you are physically able, keep doing what you have always done and try what you have always wanted to do.