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Caregiver Anxiety

An Introduction to Caregiver Anxiety for Caregivers of Those with MS

A word about Caregiver Anxiety from guest poster -
Ryan Rivera

Caregivers of those living with MS have a lot of responsibilities. No matter how important the person is in your life, those responsibilities can be grating over time. Unfortunately, this can give rise to some mental health issues, including something known as anxiety in caregivers.

This type of anxiety in caregivers is a feeling of intense anxiety and stress as a response to being a caregiver. High degrees of caregiver anxiety are common in as many as 35% or more of those taking care of others, and that number doesn't include mild or moderate amounts of anxiety and stress that can still affect happiness and mental health.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles

Caregiver anxiety can be caused by a number of different factors, but the most common factors are as follows:

  • Fear – Fear is the greatest issue with caregiver stress, because there are so many different fears that arise when working as a caregiver. There is the fear of being insufficient help to the person you're caring for. There is the constant reminder of what it's like living with chronic illness (a fear that many people share, but don't have to think about daily). There is the fear of a more stressful life. Countless fears can arise when you're caring for others.
  • Non-Existent Coping – Everyone (not only caregivers) suffer from stress on a regular basis. But most people take time out of their day to cope with that stress, doing activities that give them relief. Caregivers have a tendency to avoid their own mental health needs while caring for someone else. Without coping, that stress tends to build up over time and lead to anxiety.
  • Frustration – Frustration is often a powerful emotion – more powerful than people give it credit for. While it's unlikely caregivers are frustrated with the individual living with MS as a person, the situation itself and the needs of others can be frustrating when you know how important it is to respond to these needs.
Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici

It's crucial for you to learn to take care of your mental health needs. This is important for two reasons – both of which need to be acknowledged before you can successfully relieve this stress:

  • The first reason is that just as the person you're caring for is important, so too are you important. Living with MS can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you don't deserve happiness as well. It's important that caregivers realize that they are also valuable people, and their happiness and needs do matter.
  • The second reason is that, in reality, good mental health and happiness genuinely makes you a better caregiver. Over time, caregiver anxiety and stress can become so pronounced that they cause poorer decisions, more fatigue, and other issues that are less ideal for caregiving. The person you're caring for wants you to be happy and needs you to be happy, so recognizing that your own mental health is important is crucial for success.

Simply acknowledging these things for yourself is a tremendous part of relieving that stress. Even if it means you need to pay a bit less attention to the individual with MS for a while so that you can cope with the stresses of the day, the end outcome will be more happiness and a better quality of life.

Other treatment options include support groups, which can be highly valuable for caregivers. Exercise is also very important as many caregivers forgo physical activity – yet physical activity is one of the most powerful ways to relieve stress.

Therapy can also be useful, and simply being healthier in general – eating healthy, going to the doctor, etc., will have an impact on your ability to cope. Combine that with lifestyle changes that are focused on your mental health, and you'll have an easier time coping with caregiver anxiety.

The most important part of recovery, however, is recognizing that caregiver anxiety is a real thing, and it needs to be addressed. Once you do, you'll be a happier person and a better caregiver, and the person you're caring for will be happier as well.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera has met several caregivers that were struggling to treat their anxiety. He continues to provide tips and tools for coping at Calm Clinic. (Links will open in a new window).

Head over from Caregiver Anxiety to the Caregivers Corner for more information about caregivers.

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