Creative Anxiety Coping Strategies for Those with Terminal Illness
By Ryan Rivera
Living with terminal illness is an already a difficult process as you handle all of the symptoms associated with your disease, but you have a responsibility to yourself, and your family, to enjoy every day you have left. One of the major factors that stands in your way is anxiety. It’s easy – natural, in fact – to feel anxiety when you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness. Forty-four percent of all those diagnosed with a terminal illness experience noticeable levels of anxiety, and those numbers are skewed by those that have already sought treatment.
There’s no denying that anxiety can have a negative influence on your life. When you’re constantly worried about your health and your future, it can be difficult to enjoy the present. You need to find a way to handle your anxiety and panic attacks, whether it’s through counseling, relaxation exercises, or some type of creating anxiety coping strategy.
What Makes a Creative Coping Strategy?
Anything and everything can be a creative coping strategy. While a few examples will be illustrated below, the truth is that if it is a healthy activity that makes you feel more relaxed and content it is worthwhile. The only thing that limits you is your imagination, and your willingness to find coping ideas that you can enjoy. Examples of creative coping strategies include:
Art can be a powerful outlet, especially when you’re dealing with chronic illness. Using your own imagination and a type of art you like (anything from painting, sketching, sculpting, etc.), you can show your affection for your friends and family, craft something that illustrates your thoughts and concerns, and so on. In addition, you can make art pieces for those in your life that they can keep with them as memories. That can be comforting for you and the recipients of your art pieces.
· Video Games
You may not really need to play video games – and you certainly shouldn’t play violent or thriller video games that could fuel anxiety. But video games are a great example of a fun and leisurely activity that can relax your mind. There are plenty of low-intensity, fun video games that keep your brain active and your mind off of your troubles. Video games, like comedic (non-violent/drama) television, are all useful ways to relax your mind and body.
· Thought Poetry
There are two important things you need to do in order to cope with your daily anxiety. First, you need to keep your mind active, finding ways to not necessarily distract yourself, but to find activities you can enjoy as best you can. You also need to write down your thoughts, because our brains have a natural ability to fear forgetfulness, and when you have a terminal illness, you likely have many thoughts floating around in your mind.
Writing poetry or finding a creative way to write down your thoughts accomplishes both goals. It allows you to keep those thoughts in a permanent place, while also giving you something interesting to do. If you’re not fond of poetry, you can also try essay writing, and look for ways to turn your thoughts into something longer and more interesting.
· Support Group Activities
Most support groups sit in a room and discuss the issues of the day. These support groups are very effective, and do provide you with a degree of social support that can reduce your overall anxiety levels. But support groups do not need to take place indoors. If you’re still feeling up to it, you can consider organizing support group games and activities, so that not only can you have a helpful ear – you also enjoy something fun and interesting.
· Mindfulness/Relaxation Exercises
You may not always have the strength to go enjoy activities, nor the alertness to work on something creative. When you are unable to keep yourself physically and mentally active, consider performing unique calming exercises designed to relax your mind and body. There are several types of meditation, yoga, and relaxation strategies that are known to help your mind and body relax. Try deep breathing exercises, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, and more – you may find one that is able to help you relax that you can continue to perform every day.
Reducing the Anxiety in Your Life
There is no doubt that being diagnosed with a terminal illness has impacted your quality of life. But you owe it to yourself, your family, and everyone around you to make sure it doesn’t affect you any further. Anxiety and panic attacks will stand in the way of enjoying every passing day, which is why it is important you find a way to relieve your anxiety. Get counseling, go to support groups, and try to find creative and interesting ways to keep your mind and body active. It may be difficult to completely rid yourself of anxiety, but if you can decrease its strength, you can continue to enjoy as many days as possible.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera understands anxiety, and has written a great deal of information for those suffering from anxiety related to terminal illness at www.calmclinic.com>