While caregiving can be a genuinely rewarding experience, caregivers may experience anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety include the inability to think clearly, to focus logically when processing a situation or information, and general fatigue. A caregiver may be overwhelmed by feelings of fear and helplessness as their mind clings to worst-case scenarios.

When anxiety is present caregivers find it difficult to make decisions, retain information, and interact with loved ones. They may begin to suffer physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations, muscles tension, and nervous tremors. Unchecked anxiety will affect a caregiver’s work-life balance and may result in chronic health issues.

A caregiver may experience worry and fear from the demands of being responsible for another person’s wellbeing.   Anxiety is manageable and it is possible to maintain a healthy work-life balance and good relations with patients or loved ones. Six useful tips to help reduce anxiety often associated with caregiving include:

Rest and Sleep:

Caregiving is stressful physically and mentally, and it is important find time during the daily caregiving routine to briefly relax.  Rest may include taking time to exercise, read, go for a brief walk (if it is possible to leave your loved one) or just quietly sit in order to regain the energy and momentum necessary to continue with the caregiver duties

A sleep-deprived caregiver cannot provide optimal care.  Sleep is important for everyone but necessary for a caregiver.  People who provide full-time caregiving are often fatigued and do not get sufficient sleep.  Sleep is beneficial for mental health, reducing stress and anxiety.  When a caregiver has restful sleep they are able to make better decisions, are mentally alert to process and recall information and able to clearly focus on the tasks at hand.   

Confide with Family and Friends:

Maintaining relationships is not always a priority for caregivers.  Personal contact with people who know you and understand your caregiving role is vital.  Don’t be afraid to seek advice or emotional support.  A simple phone call to share your feelings will suffice if it is not possible to meet personally.  These close, special relationships not only reduce a caregiver’s stress and anxiety but allow the bond with family and friends to strengthen.  In the darkest of times these are the people who sustain and keep a caregiver positive. 

Seek Support from Other Caregivers:

Full-time caregivers become accustomed to being alone or isolated.   Some people are comfortable in their own skin and are not bothered by the isolation.  Others are not always comfortable sharing sensitive issues with family and friends or looking to them for advice.   Caregivers should not feel defeated because there are many avenues a caregiver can navigate to find support.  Support groups will generally consist of like-minded people who have similar issues.  Having a support system is a good way to share stories, trade caregiving tips, and get encouragement and support.  Not everyone needs to join a support group but for many it is the difference between success and failure in your caregiving journey.

Ask for and Accept Assistance

Caregivers need to understand that it is acceptable to ask for help.  Family, friends, neighbors or support group members will generally find time to provide assistance if it is requested.  It is not an imposition on their time.  Caregivers need to differentiate that this is not asking for respite care where someone stays with your loved one so you take a break.  Not everyone will be comfortable staying alone with a loved one while you are gone.  They would, however, be happy to run errands, buy groceries or go to the pharmacy or post office for example. 

Discover Community Resources

Caregivers are not limited to seeking support from friends and family.  They can access a variety of resources through various entities in their community.  Many public, private and commercial entities have on-line chat groups where caregivers can ask for or give advice how to address and resolve any issues they are facing.  Churches and community organizations have groups that meet periodically or regularly to discuss specific issues. Other services offered by community resources include adult day care, or trained volunteers who might provide a brief respite from caregiving duties.   Community colleges, churches or local hospitals may offer classes where caregivers might learn how to properly move a patient for physical therapy, care for certain illnesses or get certification for necessary training such as first aid or CPR.

Know Your Limits

Caregivers need to know their limitations and seek outside assistance when necessary.  Situations will occur that are beyond the caregiver’s control.  There is no need to feel guilty so long as the caregiver continues seeking assistance and gaining education that ensures the safety and wellbeing of the person in their care.  The answers, good, bad or indifferent are available to the caregiver who understands they can’t do it all.

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

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