Anxiety itself is common. More than most other tasks, though, caregiving — regardless of who it’s for — can generate anxiety from its built-in uncertainties: the senior’s condition, the available options, and unanticipated or unwanted changes the future may bring. In addition, a caregiver’s anxiety could inadvertently interfere with the positive support and healing that he’s trying to provide.
So it’s important that every caregiver dealing with anxiety try to remain as calm and upbeat as possible. Here are some simple skills to help you cope with anxiety from caregiving — and other areas of life, as well.
Change Your Attitude
It’s often impossible to change the anxiety-producing circumstances in which we find ourselves. But it’s always possible to change our attitude toward those circumstances. As difficult as things sometimes become, we always have a choice to focus on love, hope, and optimism. Even focusing on small moments of happiness or acts of kindness can help get you through a particularly rough day.
Join a Support Group
Sharing your experiences with others can often help in dealing with anxiety. If you can’t find a formal, professionally run caregiver support group that you like, ask some of your friends and family to meet with you regularly.
Knowledge is power. The more you learn about your loved one’s issues, the less anxious you’ll feel about them. For example, if your senior parent has a rare disease, learn all you can about the specifics of her condition. This will reduce your uncertainty and help keep your anxiety in check.
Gather Spiritual Support
If you gain comfort from prayer, use that pathway to help yourself feel less alone and better supported. However, you don’t have to be religious to benefit from taking some time to be with yourself and reflect. Meditation and relaxation techniques are known relievers of anxiety. Even open spaces and natural settings can prove supportive.
If you enjoy nature, spend more time surrounded by trees, flowers, and bodies of water. Take time to enjoy a sunny or rainy day, a full moon, or a starry sky.
Care for Yourself, as Well as Your Loved One
There are genuine and often immediate benefits to be gained from taking breaks away from your caregiving responsibilities. Go hiking, biking, swimming, or camping. Make time for simple pleasures like taking walks, listening to your favorite music, going out to dinner with friends, yoga, massages, bubble baths, or whatever else pleases and relaxes you.
It’s also important to stay healthy, so you can remain strong for your caregiving responsibilities. Eat as healthfully as you can. Cut back on sugary sweets, soda, and alcohol. Eat more fresh fruit and veggies.
There are times to focus on your caregiving responsibilities. But it’s equally important that you take in some of the “feel-good” stories that abound. Websites like HappyNews.com are full of inspirational stories to brighten your day.
You can find more suggestions for coping with the emotional toll of caregiving here.