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Ten Ways I Keep Anxiety at Bay
When you’re a 40-year-old mum of a five and one-year-old, merrily going about the work/life hustle, ticking off your 40 at 40 Bucket List, you’re not expecting an intrusive breast cancer diagnosis.
Life is supposed to begin at 40, yet just a couple of months later all my plans for the summer of 2019 had been replaced with frequent stays on the NHS and not the sort of cocktails I had been anticipating. Sadly, there are no frequent flyer points. I did ask!
I’ve finished treatment now and delighted to report that the 'Boobie Bug' (my five-year-old’s words) has vacated it’s former premises. So now I join the ‘Remission’ club. Mission Remission is a page I’ve been following for some time and a club I’ve wanted in on.
I followed a slightly unorthodox approach in my cancer journey. I was of the view that it could take my hair, but I was damned if it was going to take my sense of humour. I’ve inflicted that ridiculous and often dark sense of humour on my nearest and dearest for years and I was adamant that I wanted to maintain the status quo. Once everyone got on board it made for quite an entertaining journey.
Throughout my treatment I was always trying to look for the positives and making use of the unique opportunities that cancer had given me. I doubt I’ll ever be able to authentically pull off a bold Uncle Fester at Halloween again!
After Treatment, Anxiety Struck
Whilst undergoing treatment, and caring for a young family, I didn’t have much time to dwell on what was happening to me. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when the anxiety and fear would kick in but then I’d usually have to mediate between the children and the moment passed.
It’s when the treatment finished and I had time to breath that I thought ‘wow, that was pretty bloody epic’ and I felt a bit flat. That’s when the anxiety made attempts to creep back in.
I’m no stranger to anxiety as I suffered with it following the birth of my first child. During that experience I learnt that the heavy pressing feeling on my chest was anxiety manifesting itself physically.
How did I overcome my anxiety back then?
A well-timed Christmas break, some counselling, an adult colouring book, a new gym membership and a few books on mindfulness and mindset. I learnt that I needed to take time for myself. To do the hobbies I enjoyed. To talk about how I was feeling. To ask for help, accept it if it was offered and to not feel like a burden on people.
I also tried to live ‘in the moment’ rather than dwelling on what had been or worrying about stuff in the future. What can I control now? Looking at today I’m unlikely to be able to control my two-year-olds tantrum, but in terms of my outlook on cancer I am healthy, I have my family, we are all safe.
This was how I tried to live during my treatment and it is serving me well again now, not least because of the new C-word on the block (Covid).
Back in January, when I was re-booking the cancelled family holiday from last year, I actually got a bit panicked to be thinking so far ahead. Me booking a holiday and panic was never something you’d see in the same sentence. August seemed so far ahead, a lot could happen between now and then, but I wanted to start looking ahead. Well, as it turns out that’s all gone a bit flip flop now… but not because of the cancer.
Last year’s cancelled family holiday saw us re-carpet the lounge. This year we’ve bought a new fridge freezer. Third time lucky next year?!
So what do I do now?
How do I try and keep the anxiety at bay? Here are my ten ways:
- Try to live in the moment. What is happening to you today? Right there in that second how are you feeling? If you’re breathing and safe then you are doing OK.
- Look at what you can control instead of focusing on what you can’t. For example, with Covid you can’t do anything about it. But you can do your best to keep yourself safe in your bubble.
- We’re all going to get aches and pains. I’ve made a pact with myself that I’ll keep a note of them and if they go on for more than 2 weeks I’ll phone the GP. I will not turn to Dr Google. I did that a few years back when I had ringing in my ears and diagnosed myself with a brain tumour. Turns out its tinnitus. Annoying, but it’s not going to kill me.
- Talk to someone. My nearest and dearest, my GP. They might give you a different perspective on your concern.
- Take time for myself. Read a book, listen to music, have a bath, go for a walk. I try to get outside walking every day to get those endorphins going.
- I’ve changed my diet and try to eat healthier. This reassures me that I’m fuelling my body with the good stuff.
- At the end of each day, I think back and make a note of three things that have gone well. I know this might sound a bit tree-hugging but it’s easy to dwell on the bad stuff. I then think the whole day was rubbish when in reality there is always something good to be found.
- I write. When there’s stuff swimming around in my head that I can’t process properly, I commit it to paper. I can sort through it easier that way. Also, I really like stationary so I find this very cathartic.
- If I do start to feel overwhelmed or panicked, I concentrate on my breathing. I try not to think about what has been, what might be coming, but concentrating on what is happening right now. Of course right then, in the moment, I’m fine.
- Sometimes I press my thumb and forefinger together and think of my happy memory. For me this is sailing around the Whitsunday Islands in my early twenties, sat on deck after an amazing storm with the ship’s bell dinging and Moby playing in the background. It’s a place I take my mind back to when it’s racing away from me.
I know I’m only a newbie member of this remission club but after the amazing job my body has done of kicking its unwanted visitor off the premises, I’m certainly trying to look forward with positivity. I’m not saying it’s easy but I think keeping anxiety in check when we’ve had something big like this happen is more of an ongoing process and something we need to practise.
We just need to be kind to ourselves.
I’m a wife and mum to Toby (6) and Chloe (2). I was diagnosed with Grade 3 Mixed Ductal Lobular Breast Cancer in June 2019. At the time I was working as a lawyer and will be returning to work on 1st July 2020. I write a blog called ‘Lightboxblogger’ where I talk about all things small human related.
I’ve now added cancer to the mix and am currently having a new website designed. I’ve also just finished writing a book about my cancer story. Think Bridget Jones, but instead of falling in love I’m trying to kill something. It’s always been a dream of mine to write a book and ironically cancer afforded me a subject and the gift of time. It’s currently in the editing stages so watch this space…
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