Do these scenes sound familiar:
- You've been in bed for an hour, tossing and turning, but you can't sleep. You keep re-hashing the day's events and worrying over everything that needs to get done tomorrow. Now you start fretting about the fact that you can't get to sleep.
- You're trying to quickly get in and out of the grocery store, because mom has a doctor's appointment this afternoon and the kids have to be dropped off at soccer practice. Suddenly your heart starts beating fast, and your hands start to sweat.
Feeling stressed is normal for caregivers. But constant worrying, unrelenting doubts and pre-occupation with the "what ifs" and worst-case scenarios can be unproductive and even paralyzing. Anxiety causes physical symptoms -- trembling, heart palpitations, insomnia, sweating, fatigue – and mental anguish that interfere with day-to-day life.
The good news is that chronic worrying it is a mental habit you can learn how to break. Here are some techniques for coping with anxiety.
Recognize Physical Changes
The first step is to identify when you're becoming anxious. Listen to your body and recognize physical changes in your body: butterflies in the stomach, feeling as if your heart is beating out of your chest, shortness of breath. Don't let your body's symptoms scare you, let them talk to you. That rapid heartbeat doesn't mean you're having a heart attack; it's your body's natural response to anxiety and stress. Once you know the sensations, you can control them. Think of the physical symptoms as a fire engine going to another place. You've noticed them; now let them pass by.
Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, can instantly lower the physical symptoms and mental worry associated with anxiety. Place one hand on your stomach above the navel, and the other hand on your chest. Breathe in slowly until the stomach rises and hold your breath for three to five seconds. Then, exhale slowly. Another exercise to try is muscle relaxation. Tense, and then relax your muscles, one by one. Tense your shoulders, then feel the sensation as you relax those muscles. Continue tensing and relaxing down the body: forearms, hands, abdomen, buttocks, legs and feet. In addition, learning yoga, meditation or prayer will teach you techniques that you can use throughout the day to reduce stress.