Managing Anxiety for Caregivers


Anxiety is a strong feeling of worry or fear that gets in the way of you living your daily life. While it’s normal to feel like you have a lot to do, anxiety can stop you from doing regular tasks.

Managing anxiety among caregivers

Causes of anxiety for caregivers

Caring for a loved one with cancer can be a rewarding experience that brings meaning and purpose. Caregiving while also handling your own responsibilities, feelings, and concerns about your loved one’s illness can cause anxiety or stress.

Being a caregiver comes with many tasks, such as managing medications, cooking, doing paperwork, making appointments, and tracking symptoms. You may feel like you need to do all these at once, which can be overwhelming. This is why it’s common for caregivers to feel anxious.

Anxiety can also be caused by:

  • Having to do medical tasks you aren’t prepared for.
  • Feeling like you don’t have control over your own life.
  • Concerns about your loved one’s well-being.
  • Being unsure about the future.
  • Your loved one’s emotions about their cancer diagnosis and treatment.
  • Your own emotions about your loved one’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.
  • Not having enough support from family, friends, healthcare team, or other people in your life.

Signs of anxiety in caregivers

Anxiety can cause physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, or both. It’s important to recognize the signs of anxiety and ask for help when you need to.

Signs of anxiety include:

  • Worrying that you cannot control.
  • Nervousness.
  • Fatigue (feeling more tired and weak than usual).
  • A faster heart rate than usual.
  • Headaches.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Sweating.
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded.
  • Chest pain.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Trouble concentrating and remembering.

Some symptoms can be caused by medical issues or medications you’re taking. This is why it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you experience any of these signs, talk with your healthcare provider.

Tips for managing anxiety for caregivers.

Anxiety can affect your mood, your health, and the care you provide to your loved one. This is why it’s important to take care of yourself. If you don’t, you may feel like you’re too stressed or tired to do anything. Here are some tips that can help:

Take time for yourself.

Balancing your own responsibilities with your caregiving role can make it feel impossible to take care of yourself. Caregivers often feel guilty or selfish for taking time for themselves. Some are afraid that something will happen to their loved ones if they aren’t there.

If you need to be a caregiver for a long period of time, you have to take care of yourself. This can help you feel better and take better care of your loved one.

Set 3 goals each week to take care of yourself. Small, doable goals set you up for success. For example, instead of saying you’ll get more sleep, try getting ready for bed 15 minutes earlier each night. When you complete small goals, you get a burst of energy that pushes you to keep going.

Check in with yourself.

Ask yourself how you’re feeling and consider your own emotions. Some caregivers find it helpful to keep a journal. Others find it helpful to write out their thoughts and feelings. Some prefer to express themselves through art, yoga, or dance.

Ask for help and accept it

Ask your friends and family members for help with household chores or with preparing meals. When people offer their help, take it. Feeling guilty about accepting help is normal, but needing support isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. You’ll take better care of your loved one and yourself the less overwhelmed you feel.

Prioritize tasks

Being a caregiver comes with many responsibilities. It may feel like you need to do all these tasks at once, but that’s not realistic.

Choose what you need to do first to help you stay organized and feel less overwhelmed. You may find it helpful to create a checklist of the things you need to do today, this week, or this month. If you aren’t sure how to prioritize tasks, ask for help.

Do light physical activity

Light physical activity can help improve your mood and relieve stress. Get out into the fresh air and sunshine by going for a walk or a short bike ride. Talk with your doctor before starting new exercises.

Spend time with friends and family

Create a support system to stay connected to people who can support you and talk with you about your experience. Anxiety and your caregiving responsibilities can make this feel hard to do. Having a support system can help lower stress and make you feel better.

Try relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can help you manage your anxiety. Try deep breathing, meditation, and acupressure (putting pressure on parts of your body to help you relax).

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