How to Address Caregiver Anxiety
Experiencing stress is a normal part of assisting someone as a caregiver. With that said, constant worrying and persistent anxiety associated with caregiving are not expected. If you are a caregiver experiencing persistent or pervasive stress, there are some strategies you can employ to address your anxiety.
Symptoms of Anxiety
You may be like a notable percentage of caregivers and not even appreciate that you are experiencing what clinically is known as anxiety. You may be brushing off clinical anxiety as “just being stressed out.”
Alternatively, you may be the loved one of a caregiver assisting another family member. You may be concerned about your loved one who is caregiving and wonder whether or not he or she might be suffering from caregiver anxiety.
Indeed, it certainly is possible that you are the recipient of caregiving assistance. You may be concerned that your caregiver is experiencing more than “normal stress” and suffering from anxiety.
No matter the scenario at hand, there are some symptoms of anxiety that you should bear in mind, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
The first step is identifying when you’re becoming anxious and experiencing anxiety. It is to recognize one or more of the signs and symptoms mentioned a moment ago for what they are.
A primary step to address caregiver stress is recognizing your body’s response. Listen to your body. Recognize physical changes in your body, particularly those listed previously in this article.
Don’t let your body’s symptoms scare you. Consider them as attempts to get your attention to the reality that you are experiencing caregiver stress. Once you know the sensations and signs, you place yourself in a position to be able to control them. You put yourself in a position to better address caregiver stress now and into the future.
Take Time to Practice Relaxation
As a caregiver, you must remember that self-care is not selfish. It is necessary for you, your family, your profession, your friends, and even the person you provide caregiving assistance to.
There are relaxation techniques that can quickly restore at least some sense of calm when you are experiencing stress and even anxiety. Examples of relaxation techniques that have proven beneficial to people experiencing caregiver anxiety include:
- Deep breathing
- Tai chi
- Music and art therapy
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Autogenic relaxation (imagery and body awareness)
The Mayo Clinic recommends using relaxation techniques and positive coping methods to optimize the possibility of overcoming anxiety associated with caregiving. These positive coping methods include:
- Thinking positively
- Finding humor
- Managing time and priorities
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Spending time outside
- Reaching out to supportive family and friends
The Mayo Clinic adds that relaxation techniques can help you cope with everyday stress. And these techniques can help with long-term stress and anxiety and stress related to various health problems, including heart disease and pain.
Accept the Uncertainty of Caregiving
An important aspect of addressing and overcoming caregiver anxiety is understanding that there will always be an element of uncertainty associated with caregiving.
The reality is that fear of the unknown plays a tremendously significant role in anxiety. Chronic worriers can’t stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with 100 percent certainty what will happen all the time. The problem is that no person can predict the future let alone control the outcome of every situation. Thinking about everything that could go wrong doesn’t make life more predictable. This type of thinking cannot and will not keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying life. Stop worrying by asking yourself these questions as suggested by Harvard Medical School:
- What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen? Is there a more likely, alternate outcome?
- Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me, and how will it hurt me?
- What would I say to a friend who had this worry?
When to Seek Professional Assistance for Caregiver Anxiety
While many of the previously mentioned self-care and self-help techniques mentioned in this article will be invaluable in assisting you in getting beyond caregiver anxiety, some people need professional assistance to address this type of anxiety. There are some considerations to consider when trying to determine whether or not you should seek professional mental health assistance and support for what you perceive to be caregiver anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are:
- You feel like you’re worrying too much, and it’s interfering with your work, relationships, or other parts of your life.
- Your fear, worry, or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control
- You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
- You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
- You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors — if this is the case, seek emergency treatment immediately
Support Groups for Caregivers
Support groups have been organized in recent years, and a growing number of communities. These groups exist to provide support and encouragement for people who devote time to serving as a caregiver for a loved one.
Respite Care for Caregivers
Finally, many caregivers are able to deal with anxiety associated with caregiving by being able to take a break from assisting a loved one. Taking a few days or a week off might be the solution a caregiver needs to get beyond feeling stressed or experiencing caregiver anxiety. A caregiver can take advantage of available respite care assistance in many communities. Through respite care, a caregiver can get a break knowing that the person he or she cares for will be in safely cared for while he or she is on a break.