Anxiety and Caregiving
Marina Mails, NCC, LPC
Bereavement Counselor II
As a caregiver for your loved one you likely face daily anxiety-provoking situations. Perhaps you are watching someone that you love decline and wondering how you can help, fearing for the future. Maybe you are juggling a hectic schedule, coping with financial uncertainty, family conflict and many other difficult things. Normal worry and nervousness can turn into full-blown panic under such intense circumstances.
You may notice yourself feeling unfocused, shaky, having trouble sleeping, feeling edgy, having trouble breathing, experiencing stomach upset and many other symptoms. Anxiety symptoms are our body’s natural response to stress, but can feel uncomfortable and even scary. If you are experiencing physical anxiety symptoms, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor just to confirm that anxiety is the underlying cause.
What’s causing my caregiver anxiety, worry and nervousness?
Some anxiety inevitably comes from the uncertainty about the future, and the many decisions you must make daily as a caregiver. You may feel intimidated by the level of care you have to give your loved one. Many people feel this way. Perhaps you face uncertainty about our loved one’s pain level, or what course the disease will take. Spiritual concerns often arise for people struggling with illness and their caregivers. If you have a Hospice team, reach out to your nurse, chaplain or social worker to ask questions. Don’t hesitate to call if you need clarification or assistance. If your loved one is not a Hospice patient, The Counseling and Education Center may be able to provide guidance or assistance. Call 336-621-5565 for more information.
How do I help myself cope with my caregiver stress?
Taking good care of yourself is essential as a caregiver, and often very difficult, due to time and energy constraints. Caring for yourself can help make you more resilient, however, and less prone to anxiety.
The following are tips for fitting self-care into a busy caregiver’s day:
- Exercise – go for a brief, brisk walk.
- Ask for help whenever possible. Is there someone in the family who can mow the lawn, pick up groceries or help in some other small way?
- Check in with your expectations. You cannot be the perfect caregiver, and putting pressure on yourself to get everything “right” ads stress.
- Steal a little time for yourself. When your loved one sleeps, take a nap, or do an activity that recharges you like talking to a friend, working on a project or journaling.
- Get sleep as regularly as possible. Adequate sleep and rest help strengthen us physically and emotionally.