Many of my clients often ask, "What can I do to reduce my anxiety?" While my response often varies depending on an individual's specific situation, there are three core recommendations I often suggest that can help almost anyone.
1) Identify the Source of Your Stress - understanding who and/or what is causing your stress is the first step to reducing your anxiety. If you are able to identify what is causing your worry/anxiety, the next step is to ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do to change it?" Answering such a question can give you an opportunity to evaluate your situation and clarify any choices, if any, you may have.
2) Learn How To Manage - If you can reduce your anxiety, knowing how you can change it and taking action is important. Whether you are in the process of changing it or even if you are unable to make any changes, learning how to manage the anxiety is vital to maintaining your ability to continue functioning. Engaging in activities you find relaxing or finding an outlet for your worry may help release the negative emotions/symptoms associated with your situation. For some, going to the gym, knitting, watching a comedy, meditation, or simply a nice hot shower are a few of the activities they engage in so as to distract their mind and focus their thoughts on something enjoyable.
3). Try, Try and Try Again - learning what coping strategies are best for you is a trial and error process. What works best for one person, may not work well for you. I often encourage individuals to try various techniques until they find something that helps them relax. Of course, it is critical to first rule out any medical explanations for symptoms you may be experiencing like headaches, digestion issues, heart palpitations, etc. Also, if you are finding it difficult to reduce your anxiety on your own, it is important to understand the role therapy can play in helping you. In some cases, therapy can simply help individuals understand why they are stressed, while for others it is a form of guidance that helps clarify what options are available.
For some family caregivers, finding themselves in the crossroads of caring for a parent and a partner can exacerbate the caregiving experience to a level that many others are unable to comprehend. Aside from learning how to manage and cope with a parent's illness, having to deal with a partner's health concerns can cause a loved one to feel even more isolated, depressed, anxious, etc., especially if their partner is the person they regularly turned to for emotional support and comfort. Managing, coping and maintaining are all ideas that can seem so foreign during this period but learning new strategies and continuing to utilize strategies that have worked is crucial. Below are a few strategies that often prove beneficial to family caregivers I've worked with...
1) Prioritize - part of being able to get through this difficult time is being able to identify what needs to come first, what can come second and what can be delegated to someone else. Without doing so, your world can suddenly seem as if it is crashing down all at the same time. Begin by identifying which days of the week are critical for you to be with your parent vs. your partner, and identifying which tasks need to be handled by you vs. handled by other individuals. Doing so can help maximize the quality time you have with your loved ones as opposed to spending it doing things that impede on that time (i.e. going to the pharmacy, grocery store, etc.)
2) Recognize Your Limitations - It is okay if you can't do it all because chances are, you can't! Asking for help, taking a break and accepting the fact that you are not a superhero are some of the challenges many family caregivers struggle with. This is generally the case when family and/or societal pressures are causing them to feel otherwise. After identifying some of the responsibilities you have, which you would love for someone else to do, the next step is to identify any individuals and resources that can help with those tasks and ask them. While it may, at first, seem like there is nothing/no one that can help, don't be so quick to make that conclusion. While you may have no one in your immediate family/social circle, don't discount the help you may be able to receive from your neighbors, local religious organizations and community agencies. Many family caregivers I've worked with are often surprised at how much is actually out there and in many cases often find out about the services after the fact.
3) Eat Well, Sleep Well and Cherish the Little Moments - There is a lot to be said about the power of good sleep, healthy eating and being appreciative. The amount of energy you exert in any given day to care for someone else is energy that has to be restored. Without tapping in to regenerating sources like sleep, nutrition and positivity, you are losing energy and will end up running on low. Thus, ultimately impacting how much you can physically and emotionally give to caring for your loved ones. While there are many techniques that can be utilized to enhance sleeping and eating habits, the first step is to acknowledge their importance and be proactive about incorporating it in to your routine. The same holds true for appreciating the positive things in your life, no matter how small.
Are you caring for a parent and a significant other? How are you managing? Please share any insight or questions you have below. I also welcome any questions you may have.