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Coping Strategies in Hospital 

Having a child or love one affected by Necrotising Enterocolitis can have a damaging effect on our mental health. Coping with stress reactions is common after a serious illness, injury while staying in Hospital. Even though it is your child who is ill or injured, your whole family can be affected. It’s normal for you, as a parent, to feel overwhelmed trying to help your family and yourself cope.

Many parents have trouble coping with stress reactions, also called traumatic stress symptoms, when their child is very ill or injured or in the hospital. You might notice that you and your family members feel stressed about different parts of the illness.

Siblings may feel scared about being in a hospital with strange sounds, smells, and people, they too may be scared about being separated from their parents while they stay in hospital to care for their sick baby. Parents may feel helpless seeing their child in pain or uncomfortable, or may be scared that their child might die.


There are steps you can take that might help with how you are feeling:


Talk to someone you trust:

Talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious could be a relief. It may be that just having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself. If you aren't able to open up to someone close to you, the NEC UK, Samaritans and Anxiety UK both run helplines that you can call to talk to someone. Here at NEC UK we also have open and closed Facebook support groups where you can speak with others who have too been affected by NEC.


Try to manage your worries

Having a child ill in hospital can be really difficult, daunting and to stop worrying when you have anxiety is really hard and exhausting. You might have worries you can't control. Or you might feel like you need to keep worrying because it feels useful – or that bad things might happen if you stop. It can be helpful to try different ways to address these worries.

For example, you could:

  • Set aside a specific time to focus on your worries – so you can reassure yourself you haven't forgotten to think about them.

  • Write down your worries and keep them in a particular place – for example, you could write them in a notebook, or on pieces of paper you put in an envelope.

Try to accept that this is how you are feeling at the moment, but it won’t last forever.

Looking after your physical health

Did you know?
A medium-sized banana will provide about 10% of your daily vitamin C needs. Vitamin C helps support brain health by producing serotonin, a hormone that affects our sleep cycle, moods, and experiences of stress a​nd pain. Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose, giving you a fat and cholesterol-free source of energy. A fast-easy snack, ideal on the move or when spending time in hospital.

Look after your Physical health by

  • Staying hydrated, maintaining hydration helps to keep your body and its internal organs working at full capacity, this in turn supports your hormones to work positively and is beneficial to your mind. 

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences.

  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels.

  • Try to do some physical activity. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental well being.

  • Try to take yourself for a walk, even if this is a short one to the shop for a hot drink or pop outside for a breath of fresh air, a short walk to eat your lunch outside are all effective ways to lift your mood.

Keep a Journal/Diary

Writing things down is a powerful way to record things that are on your mind. Families who have or are experiencing a neonatal journey can find this particularly helpful. It’s an outlet anyone can use to support mental well being.

  • Use a daily planner

  • Keep a diary

  • Write a blog

  • Use your phone to write things down

  • Write it, fold it and put it away with post it notes.


It might help to make a note of what happens when you get anxious or have a panic attack. This could help you spot patterns in what triggers these experiences for you, or notice early signs that they are beginning to happen.

You could also make a note of what's going well. Living with stress and anxiety can mean you think a lot about things that worry you or are hard to do or control. It's important to be kind to yourself and notice the good things too.

Keeping a journal can also help support you during important medical meetings, reviews and ward rounds.  Remember to make note of any questions you have; you may well forget these under difficult circumstances and may well want to reflect back on them at a later date.


Try peer support

Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other. Many people find it helps them to share ideas about how to stay well, connect with others and feel less alone. You could Contact a specialist organisation. For example, you can find details of support groups, forums and helplines on the Anxiety CareAnxiety UK. Visit our How We Can Help Page for further support and information provided by NEC UK


Complementary and alternative therapies

Yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, herbal treatments, Bach flower remedies, and hypnotherapy are all types of complementary therapy that you could try, and see if they work for you. Some people find that one or more of these methods can help them to relax, or sleep better.

Our sense of smell can be used in ways that help promote our mental well being. Useful in gently encouraging us to do things that have a positive influence. A favorite shower gel, some room fragrance are all effective in lifting your mood.

Try breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. Deep diaphragmatic breathing can be used if we are feeling anxious or panicky. It is a powerful way to control hyperventilation, slow a rapid heartbeat and promote physical comfort.

Breathe… always remember to breathe. Take time to inhale and exhale. It’s the simplest thing, but is forgotten in panic attacks.

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