Managing changes in everyday life

Coping with your family and children

Looking after or supporting a family can be hard work even when you are well. Trying to juggle the roles of mother, father, daughter, son or breadwinner at the same time as coping with a serious illness and all the emotions it can cause may seem impossible. It can feel difficult to support other people when you may be feeling in need of more support yourself.

It’s important to be realistic about what you can manage, and to get help from your partner, family or friends before things become too much for you to cope with. You might need to give up some or all of your responsibilities for a short time, so you can concentrate on coping with your illness and its effects.

If you have very strong emotions, or anxiety, you may need to take time off from work until you feel better. You may also need to take time off work if you’re caring for a relative who is seriously ill.

As a parent, you may not be able to do all the things you usually do for your children. This doesn’t mean you have failed in any way, but just that you need to plan your time and save your energy for the most important tasks.

Remember that you’re probably not alone in your feelings. Your partner and other family members may have concerns and worries too. You may be hiding what you really feel so as not to upset other people. Getting your concerns out in the open, and understanding that others feel the same, can be very reassuring and helpful. Talking things through may be all that you need. For anyone involved it may also be helpful to talk to someone outside the family, such as a good friend or a trained counsellor.


It is not always easy to talk to children about a serious illness or your emotions. However, it’s often best to be as open with them as you can, giving information appropriate to their age.

Coping if you live alone

A diagnosis of a serious illness can cause people to feel very isolated. If you live by yourself you can feel even more alone and unsure of who to turn to when you are upset and anxious.

Some people have busy lives, and family and friends close by. If you don’t have people near, it may be hard to know where to get help from. You may like to join a support group where you can meet with other people in a similar situation.

It may be a good time to think about taking up a hobby so you can meet people. Doing something new may also help you feel better and lift your mood.

The internet is becoming a common way of socialising. If you have a computer then you could think about joining an online social network for people who have the same illness as you.

If you feel very low, you can arrange to see your GP. They can chat to you about your situation and discuss what may help, or refer you to another professional who can help.

Telecare Self-Check online tool

Visit the Telecare Self-Check online tool to find the right support for you in your area. This easy to use online tool allows you to find helpful information on telecare services that could help you live independently at home for longer.

Coping with work and your emotions

If you are very worried or distressed, you may have problems concentrating and may feel that work is the least important part of your life at the moment. If you are depressed you may find it difficult to work. In either case, you may decide that you need some time off work. Most employers will be sympathetic and helpful. It can help to have a discussion with your manager or personnel officer so they know what is going on and can plan to cover your work while you are away.

You are the best judge of when you are well enough to go back to coping with the stresses and responsibilities of your job. Don’t rush back too soon, particularly if you have feelings and emotions which are disturbing your sleep and leaving you tired during the day. It may help to go back for short periods and gradually increase your hours until you are able to cope with your usual work hours.

Many people look forward to the time when they can return to work and a normal routine again, and find that the support of colleagues and work mates helps them to feel better. Everyone is different. When you are back at work, it’s important to build up your workload gradually and not to take on too much too soon. Make time for yourself each day, and try to rest during your lunch break. If your job is very demanding, you may want to consider changing it or working part-time.

If you need advice about your rights as an employee, you can contact your local social work department, Citizens Advice Scotland , Department of Work and Pensions.

Last updated:
06 May 2024