Tips for Coping with a Family Member’s Illness: Trying to be Still when All You Want to do is Run

We all have times in our lives when we have to wait to see how things will work out. We can’t flip to the end of the story to see if our favorite characters make it.

I am in that space right now. My dad is dealing with some health issues. No matter how hard I try I can not bend the space-time continuum to see if everything will be okay, and I get to enjoy my dad for many more years. Life stress can cause anyone to indulge in, or develop unhealthy behaviors.

Stress, for those of us with ADHD can lead to some incredibly destructive behavior. Our normally hyper-charged system goes into overdrive from the extra adrenaline in our systems.We often suffer from raging insomnia, and do wildly impulsive things based on our addictions of choice. We make poor decisions because we are tired. Our struggles to focus are intensified as routines are interrupted by ourselves, or the need to care for others.

We struggle to keep still, to fight our urge to bolt. Our desire to seek the comfort of distraction and movement intensifies. Excess is the hallmark of our lack of coping. We may find ourselves over-eating, over-spending, over-drinking, over-exercising, over-reading (yes, it is possible), starting a new hobby, or deciding that now is the time to start building that addition / greenhouse / remodel a bathroom.

Unable to cope with our discomfort and lack of control, we start every project on our to-do list, creating even more stress. You do get a lot of things done, but you often end up exhausted and more stressed, as well as adding to the stress of those around you.

 This is not my first time at the cancer rodeo, standing in the chute, waiting to see how bad, or short the ride might be. These are five tips for coping when a family member has health issues:

1. Breathe. Stop, and make yourself take ten slow breathes.
2. Sit. Stop, and make yourself sit. Set a timer and take ten minutes to check in with yourself and what you are feeling. If possible sit outside. Spending even just a little time in nature is good for you.
3. Hug. Hug the people around you, hold on tight (not in a creepy way). Remember they are stressed too.
4. Stop starting new things. Finish what needs to be finished.
5. Set a timer for a certain time everyday to stop what you are doing and think about the person you are worried about, pray, meditate, send woo, send love, chant, whatever your spiritual beliefs are just do it. Just doing this one thing consistently kept me grounded through a best friend’s battle with cancer.

I hope these help. They have helped me keep it together when my life felt like it was exploding.