Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear. It can be helpful in the short term by keeping us alert and ready to act when we feel under threat. But if these feelings continue for a long time or are difficult to cope with, they can affect people’s daily lives.
- a churning feeling in the stomach
- restlessness and irritability
- feeling tired
- lack of concentration
- muscle tension or pain
- disturbed sleep.
Some people may have panic or anxiety attacks, where they feel intense or overwhelming fear and discomfort. Attacks can come on suddenly with no warning and can last up to 30 minutes. They may cause physical symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, breathlessness, sweating or shaking.
What causes anxiety?
We know that people living with a life-limiting illness face a lot of challenges. It’s natural to feel anxious when facing uncertainty about the future or the possibility of dying. Other possible causes of anxiety include:
- pain – people may worry about getting pain or dying with pain; those with cancer may worry that new pain is a sign of the cancer spreading or coming back
- medicines – anxiety can be a side effect of some medicines
- uncertainty about the future
- the end of treatment – people may struggle to adapt when their medical appointments suddenly stop or become less frequent
- being isolated from friends and family
- family worries – for example, worrying about being a burden or leaving family behind after they die
- money worries.
Worries can build up over time and sometimes it may only take something small to trigger an anxiety attack.
How is anxiety managed?
Support and understanding often go a long way to helping someone manage their anxiety. Getting the right support and treatment for anxiety can help people cope with their life-limiting illness and have a better end-of-life experience.
- Talking to someone they trust (people may find it reassuring if they’re able to speak to the same professional over a period of time)
- Treating symptoms, such as pain and breathlessness
- Psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy
- Medicines, such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines
- Practical help – for example, help with making plans, housing or finances
- Spiritual care – supporting people to feel a sense of meaning, comfort, strength and connection in their life.
Also, try using our Calming Hand tool that you can download below. This technique can help control panic attacks and works well with episodes of breathlessness, whatever the cause. Its simplicity makes it useful in helping you to remember the main points of your coping strategy when you are experiencing panic or breathlessness.
Links & Downloads
How can I help someone with anxiety?
People cope with anxiety in different ways. Some prefer to sit and talk, whereas others need practical help. Some people may not tell anyone that they’re feeling anxious, so you may need to ask them if they’re worried about anything and if they have any symptoms of anxiety.
- Reassure them that anxiety is common, especially in people receiving palliative care
- Acknowledge their feelings without judging or minimising them
- Ask open-ended questions
- Allow pauses in the conversation without rushing to fill them
- Use everyday language
- Take time to build a trusting relationship
- Ask them how their anxiety affects them and what makes it better or worse
- Ask them how you can help when they’re feeling anxious (for example, they may want you to talk to them calmly, distract them with another activity or help them with breathing exercises)
- Try not to pressure them into doing anything they’re not ready for.
Here we have provided some Relaxation Recordings, here you will find seven relaxations varying in length from under two minutes to almost six minutes, there is something for both patients, their families, carers or friends to simply take some time and space to relax and focus the mind amongst the busy lives we lead.
Simply click PLAY on the relaxation of your choice and enjoy the restful voice of a member of Dorothy House staff as you immerse yourself in some time for you.
This short relaxation follows each of your five senses and offers two minutes of peaceful focus that brings calm to your body and the opportunity to be peaceful throughout your day, whatever you might be doing.
This is a short relaxation designed to focus your thoughts on your body and develop techniques to release tension through areas that are most comfortable for you. As with many of these relaxations, at just two minutes long, they can be used throughout your day.
Mindful Breath (Long)
This relaxation focuses on breathing in a comfortable position with a focus on being in the moment and practising the shapes, colours and textures around you. Perfect for sitting or lying down.
Mindful Breath (Short)
This relaxation also focuses on breathing and is a shorter version. This relaxation focuses on being in the moment and practising the shapes, colours and textures around you. Perfect for sitting or lying down.
This relaxation develops affirmations or mantras that can be used within or outside of a relaxation setting to help promote happiness and positivity to yourself. This short relaxation can be used throughout the day to return to a place of comfort whenever it is needed.
This relaxation works by connecting your peaceful self with positive scenes and experiences that evoke good emotions felt and witnessed during that time. This is a longer version of the visualisation.
This relaxation works by connecting your peaceful self with positive scenes and experiences that evoke good emotions felt and witnessed during that time. This is a shorter version of the visualisation.