We probably don’t have to tell you that those with elderly parents are more prone to anxiety. The root of anxiety is unexpected changes, and the health of seniors can change suddenly. Caregivers are also working hard to balance multiple priorities, and often feel stretched to the max. Addressing severe anxiety will require help from a doctor or therapist, but the tips below will give you some tools that you can use on your own to get to a more relaxed, peaceful state.
1. Do something you enjoy. Yes, we know you don’t have a lot of spare time. But there’s much you can do to make life more pleasant in the bits of time you do have. A ten minute walk on a nice day can work wonders, especially if you make a point of being in the moment and enjoying it. Another thing to do that adds virtually no extra time is to listen to your favorite music while you’re in the car, at your desk, or doing chores. Also, try to squeeze in time for your hobbies. Even spending just an hour a week, or one day a month, can help lift your mood and give you an outlet.
2. Try meditation or breathing exercises. Simply taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing has more of an effect than you might think. If you find your anxiety rising, stop and take some slow, deliberate, deep breaths. This basic technique should help, but you can search online for more breathing exercises to get further benefits. Meditation or prayer can have similar advantages. Don’t worry if you think you don’t know how: meditation can be as simple as taking the time to pay attention to your breath and the present moment. You don’t have to be an expert.
3. Focus on nutrition and exercise. When we’re busy, taking care of ourselves can be one of the first things to go. But sticking to healthy routines goes a long way to staying on track in life. If you find that in your stress it’s hard to say no to fatty or sugary comfort foods, start not by cutting back on the things you crave but by adding healthier options into the mix. Have a piece of fruit as a snack or a salad along with your dinner. You’ll likely find yourself wanting less as these additions help curb your hunger, and as you develop a taste for healthy choices you’ll pick them more often. As for exercise, even a walk and a quick stretching routine can make a difference.
Addressing your anxiety is not just about helping you feel more calm and peaceful, but about helping your loved one as well. Your parent is probably picking up on your stress, even if you think you’re hiding it, and they themselves feel more stressed in turn. Taking a little time for yourself to follow these steps will benefit not just you, but everyone around you.
For additional tips, check out our post on caregiver stress.