What is anxiety and what are the symptoms?
- Do you remember the surge of butterflies when you first took your driver’s license test? The knot in your stomach you felt walking into an important job interview? These are typical physical symptoms that may signal anxiety, a state of tension that warns of possible danger.
- Other symptoms that may signal anxiety include:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased worrying
- Trouble sleeping
- Tension (feeling on edge)
- Distractibility (wandering thoughts, finding it hard to concentrate)
- Feeling panicked
What situations can result in anxiety?
- Some anxiety-producing situations are shared by many of us. Life after a terminal diagnosis may be one of the most anxiety-filled times we face, whether experienced by a person with the diagnosis, a caregiver or a family member. Anxiety is a common and understandable response.
- When we face uncertainty, we experience concern - we don’t know where the road will take us or how long it may be. This worry can easily move into anxiety. Often it can be hard to pinpoint the cause of anxious feelings. Many aspects of facing death can contribute to anxiety: under-treated pain, the disease process itself, medications, increased worries about the future, and fear of what’s to come.
How can you decrease anxious feelings?
- One good place to start is with your Hospice team members. Knowledge and information can help ease fears about the disease process or what to expect. By talking things out, your Hospice team may help you find the source of some fears.
- Common fears shared by many patients include:
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of loneliness
- Fear of losing family and friends
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of disability
- Fear of loss of identity
- Fear of sorrow
- Fear of being a burden
- Fear of being dependent on someone else
- Fear of what happens after death*
- Common fears of family members include:
- What will the death be like?
- What if I give him/her too much medication?
- How will I cope with caring for the person, my children, my job, etc.?
- How will my finances be affected?
- How will I face the future without my loved one?
- It’s okay to have many questions and it’s okay to feel anxious on occasion. Your Hospice team wants to help you. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or request ways to help ease worries and fears.
What helps anxiety?
- Relaxing by learning breathing exercises
- Ask for help
- Use a volunteer or accept offers of help
- Focus on what you can control
- Talk to your family about your fears
- Focus on today
- Talk over any spiritual concerns
* Rando, Therese: Grief, Dying and Death, Champaign, Illinois, Research Press Company, 1984.