How to cope with a medical crisis
Coping with a medical crisis is anything but easy. Being diagnosed with a serious disease or hospitalized for an unexpected illness can be very stressful and take an emotional toll.
Many of us will face a serious illness at some point in our lives—for ourselves or a loved one. If it happens to you, here are a few tools that may help you cope from the American Psychological Association, Mental Health America and other experts.
When it’s you
From shock to anger, fear to grief, it’s normal to feel strong emotions when you’re diagnosed with a life-changing or life-threatening illness. It may help to:
Share your feelings with someone you trust. Talking about your emotions with a counselor, partner or friend can help you better understand what you’re going through. And it may help you feel less alone.
Write about it. Putting your thoughts on paper can help you process emotions. It’s also empowering. For instance, if you were just diagnosed with a chronic illness, you could write down questions for your doctor about caring for your health.
Seek support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You might need rides to doctor visits, help with household chores or just someone to talk to. Family, friends and coworkers likely want to help. Also ask your doctor about local support groups and other services that may be available to you.
Find small ways to enjoy each day. Being sick is stressful. As much as possible, try to make time for relaxing activities and things you enjoy. If the future seems uncertain, plan for today or next week. The plans you make could be as simple as spending time with your family or friends.
Let go of what you can’t control. You may not be able to make your illness go away. But there may be other parts of your life you can control. Try to put your focus there.
When it’s your partner
Taking care of a partner who’s sick can be a very stressful job—on top of your other responsibilities. Here are a few tips for helping your partner and yourself get through this time:
Just listen. Lend a sympathetic ear when your partner feels like talking about the illness or his or her feelings. But keep in mind that some people may not want to talk—and don’t push.
Learn together. Do some research on your partner’s condition and how to manage it. See what you can do to help with day-to-day treatment. Knowledge can give you both peace of mind.
Go to appointments. Being with your partner to hear treatment instructions can be helpful. You might also help arrange for any other services they may need, such as in-home care or meal deliveries.
Accept help. Caring for your partner is a big job. Don’t feel guilty for accepting help from others. Try to have a to-do list ready to go so that when someone offers you help, you can give them something specific to do.
Take care of yourself. When you’re focusing on someone else, it’s easy to let your own healthy habits slip. Try your best to eat healthy foods and get enough exercise and rest. It’ll make you an even better caregiver.
When it’s a friend
It’s easy to feel helpless when a friend is ill. But there are some simple things you can do show you care:
Show up. Just being there is one of the best ways to support a friend who is ill. If your friend isn’t ready for company yet, you might say something like, “If you ever need to talk, I’ll be there.”
Pitch in. Your friend might need help keeping up with family or household responsibilities. Even helping with little chores can make a big difference. For instance, you might offer to care for a pet or water the lawn while he or she is in the hospital. And you could help organize other friends or co-workers to help out too.
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