My husband and I recently decided to move my mom into our home. She has advanced arthritis, so having her here allows us to help her with the tasks she has trouble with.
Immediately after she moved in, we realized she needed a lot more help than we had anticipated. Her doctor advised her to avoid a few activities, such as heavy lifting and climbing stairs. But we often come home to find her doing at least one of her restricted activities.
Since she moved in, I have been experiencing anxiety.
As I head home from work, my heart races. I immediately assume there’s going to be an emergency involving my mother. Even when she is safe, I still feel overwhelmed, and it takes me a while to calm down.
I’m afraid that my constant worrying is going to affect my performance at work and strain my relationship with my husband.
How can I better cope with my caregiver anxiety?
Katherine Jones, Holland, MI
Anxiety is a biological response that occurs when your body perceives a threat. This perceived threat triggers feelings of tension and worry, as well as physical changes like increased blood pressure and heart rate.
When you feel out of control, you can quickly begin feeling anxious. You may even get caught up in a cycle of feeling anxious about your anxiety.
Here are 5 tips to help you break the cycle and better cope with caregiver anxiety.
- Understand Your Anxiety
Before attempting to cope with your anxiety, take the time to learn what triggers it.
- Are you afraid your mother will harm herself?
- Are you afraid of losing her?
- Do you think she is not taking her health seriously?
When you feel anxious, stop and ask yourself why. Do you notice a pattern?
- Do Not Expect to Eliminate Your Anxiety
A mistake people often make when dealing with anxiety is thinking that they will be able to eliminate it.
Anxiety is a biological response, so this assumption is unrealistic. It is more realistic to manage your symptoms.
The next time you feel anxious, acknowledge your symptoms. Take a deep breath and thank your body for the message. Remind yourself that you are anxious because you’re afraid your mom could be in danger, not because she is in danger.
- Put Your Health First
It may seem counterintuitive, but putting your health first is one of the simplest ways to relieve anxiety.
Here are a few ways you can be proactive about your health.
- Get regular check-ups. Don’t wait until you are sick the make an appointment with your doctor.
- Get enough sleep. Research suggests there is a strong correlation between sleep and anxiety. Those who don’t get enough sleep are 17 times more likely to have clinical anxiety than those with normal sleep habits. Aim to get 7–8 hours of sleep every night. Never sacrifice sleep—it is key to your well-being.
- Exercise at least 3 times a week. Exercise can play a tremendous role in managing Yoga has been shown to alleviate anxiety and arthritis. You could even invite your mom to join you.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Being mindful about the foods you eat can significantly improve anxiety. Say no to sugar and other processed foods. They have been shown to aggravate symptoms of anxiety. Do your best to maintain your weight.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine have been shown to worsen feelings of anxiety. Limit them as much as possible.
- Take time to relax. Relaxing can be anything from a trip to the spa or a 10-minute meditation
- Stay Connected
Healthy relationships are an excellent way for you to cope with anxiety. Here are a few ways you can stay connected.
- Maintain relationships. Regardless of how busy you are, always make time for friends and family.
- Join online or in-person caregiver support groups. This will give you a chance to talk about your challenges as a caregiver with those who are likely experiencing the same difficulties.
- Volunteer. Helping others makes us feel good. Find a cause you are passionate about and volunteer. Not only will you be giving back, but you will also get a chance to meet like-minded people.
- Ask for Help When You Need It
Caregivers are often reluctant to ask for help, but it’s important to accept that no one can do this alone. Seek help from:
- Medical professionals. There is a fine line between normal anxiety and anxiety that requires medical attention.
Don’t be ashamed if you need to seek help from a medical professional. Your doctor will be able to make recommendations specific to your personal needs.
- Family members. Don’t be afraid to lean on your family. They will often be more than happy to help.
- Respite Care. If you are concerned about your mom’s safety while you are away, it may be a good idea to consider respite care services.
Assisted Living: When You Need More Than Respite Care
Anxiety isn’t something you can get rid of overnight. For many caregivers, it is an emotion they have to work on regularly.
If you continue to struggle with caregiver anxiety despite your efforts, it may be time to ask your mom to consider an assisted living community.
Heritage Senior Communities provides quality care for seniors across Michigan. Our Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland provides both assisted living and respite care services. If your mom has any doubts, a short-term respite stay can be a great way for her to experience an assisted living community. Contact us today to schedule a tour.
I hope these tips help you better cope with your caregiver anxiety.