Feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and mood swings are common in those who are caring for a loved one with breast cancer. There are a lot of unknowns about your loved one’s treatment and outcomes and anxiety about the future. Below we have listed some tips to help you manage your fears and anxiety. If you’d like to talk with someone, please contact our Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected]. She can match you with Peer Mentor who has been a caregiver, too, and understands, connect you with a support group, or provide you with free mental health counseling.
- Add planned activities to your daily life. Staying busy helps keep you from thinking about your fears.
- Add in exercise to help decrease stress, anxiety and depression and increase chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier — like walking, bike riding, etc.
- Add in outdoor activities, such as going to the park or the beach. Being outside in nature and in fresh air can help calm anxiety.
- Distract yourself from your fears or worries by watching TV, listening to music, reading, or anything else you enjoy. Something that you enjoy and that engages your mind can help distract you from your fear and anxiety.
- Use a diary or journal to note stressful events – record the event, thoughts, and feelings that bring about the stress. As you come up with ways to reduce stress, write about them in the diary and note how well they work. Some women journal through certain times, and then stop. Some go back to it, and others do not. Remember, this is about you, not anyone else.
- Take medicine for anxiety as directed by your doctor. Some caregivers find that they can cope without medication, others need it for a short time, and still others need it long term. There is no right or wrong answer to how and when to use medication. Find the balance that works for you if your anxiety becomes more than you can handle.
- Laugh. Groucho Marx once said, “A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast…” When it comes to anxiety, laughter is the best medicine.
- Don’t deny your problems or fears. It’s O.K. to have fears and it’s O.K. to cry once in a while. Make sure that these feelings don’t keep you from enjoying the rest of your life. Identify what is making you anxious or fearful. Sometimes just knowing what is bothering you can help.
- Talk to family and friends. Just getting fears out in the open often helps to relieve them. Talking may help you better analyze what is making you anxious and fearful.
- Identify a support person you can talk to. Everyone needs someone they can lean on. If you are not at ease sharing your feelings with everyone be sure to find at least one person to confide in and obtain some strength. And if you don’t have that person in your life, call Forge’s Volunteer and Support Coordinator, Jinida Holt, at (205) 990-5368 or [email protected]. She can match you with a Peer Mentor who has also been a caregiver and understands.
- Attend support groups or follow an online blog. Talking to other co-survivors and hearing their stories helps to keep your fears in check. We have several support group options available at Forge – virtual, in person, and in closed Facebook groups. And if none of our options are a perfect fit, we can connect you to other support groups that might be.
- Talk to your loved one’s doctor or nurse. Knowledge is power, and knowing more about your loved one’s condition can help ease fears.
- Try relaxation techniques to help reduce stress and anxiety. If you would like to learn more about relaxation see our Relaxation Technique Tip Sheet.
- Develop thought-stopping practices when fears feel like they are getting the best of you. If you find yourself thinking anxious thoughts there are ways to make yourself stop:
- Think or say, “Stop!” to yourself to interrupt the thought. Continue to think “stop!” until the unwanted thought stops.
- Replace an unhealthy thought with a healthy thought. When an unwanted thought enters, replace the thought with a healthy, positive one right away.
- Try to focus on positive images in your life, like family and friends, or nature images that help relax you.
When Do You Need To Seek Help?
Anxiety is also a symptom of depression. Call your doctor or nurse if your anxious thoughts interfere with your sleep, if you cry all the time, if your fears keep you from doing things you used to enjoy.
If you need help dealing with being a caregiver and all of the emotions that involves, please reach out to Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected]. She can match you with Peer Mentor who has been a caregiver, too, and understands, connect you with a support group, or provide you with free mental health counseling. As a co-survivor, you deserve support, too.