Anxiety in caregivers is incredibly common. While caregivers are there to care for people that need them, far too many caregivers are living with severe mental health issues themselves, especially anxiety, because of the way their caregiving duties are affecting them.
This is a serious problem – not just because anxiety itself can be damaging, but because it goes against two of the most important truths of being a caregiver:
- You’re a better caregiver when you’re happy and free of stress.
- Your life should never be given up at the expense of your work.
Far too many people forget that being a true caregiver involves caring about yourself just as much as it involves caring about others, so it’s important that you never let your anxiety become too overwhelming or prevent you from achieving happiness.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Many caregivers suffer from stress for a whole host of reasons, including:
- Fear – Those that act as caregivers often come face to face with their own mortality, or experience profound fear that they’ll fail as a caregiver. There is an issue known as emotional mirroring as well, which involves experiencing fear because you see fear in the person you care for.
- Stress – Caregiving can be frustrating and stressful at times, and unfortunately prolonged frustration can lead to the development of anxiety. It’s not often a 1 to 1 relationship, but too much stress over a significant period of time makes anxiousness very likely.
- Avoiding Needs – Finally, many caregivers stop caring about themselves in order to care for others. While some degree of personal sacrifice is necessary, it’s crucial that it doesn’t overwhelm your life, because the more you avoid your needs the more stress and anxiety you’re likely to experience as a result.
There is simply no denying how powerful the anxiety of caregiving can be, and unfortunately if you are unable to cure it, the effects can be long lasting. The following are useful ways to make sure that caregiver anxiety no longer overwhelms your life:
- Exercise Often – One of the first things to go when someone acts as a caregiver is exercise. But exercise is nature’s most powerful anxiety reduction strategy. As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you exercise regularly. Movement and activity are natural anxiety cures, and only by staying active can you hope to fend off some of the effects of caregiver anxiety.
- Therapy and Support Groups – Admitting you need help is extremely important. There are many therapies and support groups available for caregiver anxiety, because caregiver anxiety is so common. Take advantage of them. They’re effective, and they’re there for a reason.
- Social Time – You also need to find time to see friends and family, and hopefully create new memories that outweigh your caregiver stresses. It doesn’t matter when you schedule them. Do your best to find social time any time you have a break – or even when you’re caregiving, if possible. Spending time with people whose presence you enjoy can be a big help.
- Staying Busy – Earlier we mentioned creating new memories as a way of coping with anxiety. The problem is that many people with anxiety let themselves be overwhelmed by that anxiety to the point that they sit and do very little in their off time. As tired as the stress may make you, it’s important that you still create new and interesting memories. As soon as you have any time off at all, even if it’s just a short break, plan something to do. Those memories will outweigh some of the stresses you experience, and help you cope with your overall anxiety.
None of these are surefire solutions. The reality is that you also need to deal with all of your anxieties – not just as a result of caregiving – and you need to commit to them full time. But the more you can reduce your caregiver anxiety, the better a caregiver you’ll be, and the better a life you’ll have in the process.
- Mahoney, Rachel, et al. Anxiety and depression in family caregivers of people with Alzheimer disease: the LASER-AD study. American Journal of Geriatric Psych 13.9 (2005): 795-801.
- Novack, Thomas A., et al. Primary caregiver distress following severe head injury. The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation (1991).
About the Author: Ryan Rivera has seen how much caregiving can create and affect anxiety. He has a website on overcoming anxiety and anxiety treatments at www.calmclinic.com.