Tag Archives: Stress management

The Cycle Of Worry and Anxiety

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we’re worried about something, our mind becomes our enemy. We tend to create a long list of “What if’s? What if we mess up at work? What if my car breaks down? What if I have a fight with my spouse? What if, what if, what if……?

Our tendency is to dwell on the bad things that might happen instead of ridding ourselves of these worries. Many people naturally have a more negative bias in our brains which, when confronting our “what if” scenarios, can spiral into more anxiety and worry.

If you deal with anxiety and anxiety disorders on a daily basis, it can be a challenge to put an end to those thoughts before they turn into chronic stress. However, there are ways to train your brain to stop these thoughts. Peter Norton, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston says, “The more you look for something or expect something to be there, the more likely you are to find evidence of it, so sometimes people can mislead themselves (when they’re having an anxious thought)”.

Here are some tips for getting rid of an anxious thought before it takes complete hold:

1. Check your feelings.  Recognize and validate your feelings, then take a step back, a deep breath and consider your anxious thought. Instead of trusting your pattern of worry, reevaluate the issue based on actual past experiences & current knowledge. You may find your emotions shifting and realize that this isn’t a true concern. If you find that it really is worth the worry, at least you’ve taken the time to evaluate it.

2. Ponder it carefully.  Many people will think they should put their worry out of their mind. But Dr. Mickey Trockel, M.D., a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University says that but avoiding fearful thoughts actually makes anxiety worse. Rather, think it through carefully. “Challenge your own thoughts and diffuse them, rather than hide them underneath the rug,” he says.

3. Develop perspective. Ask yourself questions about the situation such as why you feel the situation is so bad or what you think the worst possible outcome might be. This allows you to step outside of your feelings to approach your thoughts in a logical way. Again, using past experiences and current knowledge will help you develop a more rational view of the situation.”

4. Meditate. When anxiety and worry start to creep into your mind, practice relaxation as a way to calm yourself. Set aside five minutes to push away the thoughts that are weighing you down. Focus on your breathing, something positive, a pretty scene, or a happy moment but don’t allow negative thoughts.

5. Confront your fear in small ways. Don’t expect that your most nagging fear is going to go away if you practice these techniques. Instead, start with the small worries, taking baby steps to overcome the habit of worry and anxiety. As you practice these techniques, you’ll be able to overcome the bigger obstacles of life.

Allowing your mind to control your emotions, creating anxiety and stress, can zap you of precious energy. Actively work on these techniques so you aren’t consumed by worry.

Five Stress-Busting Tips For Caregivers

Caring for an aging parent, ailing spouse or child can take its toll on the caregiver. While care-giving is a task undertaken with love it can cause a strain on the caregiver’s health and in some instances put a strain on the relationship between caregiver and the care recipient.

As a way to help relieve stress, caregivers need to take time for themselves, away from the duties of caring for a loved one. In many cases, it’s not easy to do because you may need to find someone to come and relieve you, or if your loved one it able to be left alone, you still may worry, “What if something happens while I am gone?” The answer to that worry is that you could find another family member or friend to come and stay with your loved one or you could equip the home with a home medical alert device; with this device, at the push of a button he or she can receive assistance in the event of an emergency while you were out. These devices provide peace of mind for all involved in the caregiving relationship.

Once you determine you’re in need of some “stress-busting” here are five steps you can take that will go a long way toward self care – something that far too many caregivers do without:

  1. Take time to meditate. For some the word “meditate” may conjure up images of having to sit crossed legged on the floor chanting and for others, it may be a more spiritual. You can fit in short bursts of meditation by going to a quiet, preferably darkened room, perhaps putting on soothing background music and simply relaxing. Concentrating on your breathing and relaxing your muscles is a great way to relieve some stress when you simply can’t get out of the house or away from the caregiving tasks you’re faced with.
  2. Spend one day a week making a week’s worth of meals. Make your freezer, casseroles and your oven your best friend. Setting aside one day a week to cook for the upcoming week is a great time saver, especially if you work outside of the home. When you batch cook you are already in cooking mode so things move along quickly. Look for all-in-one meals that freeze well and offer healthy proteins; supplement the meals with fruits or vegetables as a side dish. You’ll find that creating meals during busy weeknights to be far easier.
  3. Speaking of eating… caregivers often forget to eat or take care of themselves and may be more likely to grab a quick, sugary or high carbohydrate snack; this will give you a quick  burst of energy but it will quickly wane. Keep cut veggies and fruits in the fridge. Portion out healthy, high fiber snacks and keep them handy for a quick pick me up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and drive-through restaurants as your go to foods.Fruits and vegetables
  4. Volunteer. This may sound counter-intuitive to a caregiver, but find an organization that you love and volunteer your time – it could be a local animal shelter or teaching knitting at a senior center or offering guided tours at the local museum. When you volunteer in this capacity you are giving back to a charity or organization that you truly love and it will help you to interact with others and, frankly, get out of the house for a while. Volunteering is something that you are truly doing for you.
  5. Take time to just slow down. As a caregiver, especially if you work outside of the house, it’s almost natural to rush through everything. Rushing means you’re going to be distracted and honestly that could lead to either you or your loved one getting accidentally injured. Another way to slow down is to make certain you’re getting a good night’s sleep. How can you do that? Sleep in a cool, darkened room, don’t use your computer or smart phone in the bedroom, turn off the television (if you need noise to fall asleep, invest in a sleep machine), go to bed and get up at roughly the same time during the week and even on the weekend.

Remember, a well-cared-for caregiver is better able to care for his or her loved one.


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Stress Management Techniques For Caregivers

Taking on the role of caregiver can be both a blessing and a stressful situation. It was noted, in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association that, “caregivers manage stress in less healthy ways than the general population.” The reasons for this vary, but the unhealthy habits many of them share include: watching television for more than two hours a day, smoking, eating unhealthy and others.

Taking a temporary step to address stress, such as taking the day off and spending time at the mall means that you’ve relieved a day-to-day stress, but could potentially be faced with an out of control credit card bill. Drinking a bottle of wine to “take the edge off” can lead to a poor night’s sleep as well as other potential health issues. Stress needs to be managed on a daily basis in healthy ways.

How can you, as an overwhelmed caregiver, relieve your stress without adding to your daily burdens and tasks? You need to find methods that will help “alter unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving” and these could include taking a daily walk, going to the gym, making certain you take time for a sit down, healthy meal. In many instances, stress leads to a “fight or flight” mechanism in our brains and that leads to the thinking that indulging in a bowl of ice cream or doing nothing other than watching television will relieve it. Those are temporary fixes to an ongoing issue that caregiving brings.

As a stressed out caregiver, you are likely not the best advocate for your own mental health. You could see every minor setback as a major inconvenience and likely have a difficult time distinguishing between a “big deal” and something that truly is not. As an example, missing or forgetting an appointment is truly not a crisis that will bring the world crashing down, but if you look at is as a major setback in scheduling rather than something to be worked around, your stress may be getting the better of you. In some cases a missed appointment may lead to feelings of guilt and thoughts that “you’re not a good caregiver” and those are self-defeating and untrue.

What can you do to practice self-care and make certain you are not going to buckle under weight of the stress that being a caregiver brings? There are several relaxation techniques you can practice and we offer a few of them here:

  • Don’t think you need to set aside a large block of time for yourself, a simple 15-minute block of downtime at various intervals throughout the day could be just what you need to get a fresh perspective. Your 15 minute block could be set aside to pursue a hobby you enjoy, read a book, listen to a book on tape, take a walk – whatever will give you momentary pleasure.
  • Practice deep breathing techniques. When you’re stressed you tend to take short, shallow breaths which do not help your stress levels. To do deep breathing you need to take long, slow, deep breaths through the abdomen rather than short breaths through your upper chest.
  • Is there a time or place where you can picture yourself that brought you joy and peace? If so, practice guided imagery. Envision the location, and how you felt when you were there, in as much detail as you can and let yourself relax into the feeling.
  • If you have a pet or have time for a pet (cats are relatively low maintenance) spend time with them. Studies have shown that owning, and simply petting a dog or cat reduces stress. Even if you don’t have time for a cat or dog, consider getting a fish – watching them swimming is soothing to many people.
  • Practice yoga. This form of exercise works on both the mind and the body. It helps improve strength and flexibility and incorporates deep breathing techniques.

Do you feel you simply can’t get away or can’t leave your aging loved ones for the time it will take for you to get that “alone time”? Reach out to a friend, family member or church or other religious affiliation and ask for help. Look for someone who can come and sit with your aging parents so you can take time away for yourself. Don’t forget the benefit that having a home medical alert device can bring to both you and your relatives. With these devices, they are never truly alone because help is only a touch of a button away. A home medical device could provide you the peace of mind necessary to take a few hours away from your caregiving duties and the cost is typically minimal for the rewards reaped.

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For Your Health’s Sake Get A Grip On Stress

Whether you’re a caregiver or the elderly relative in need of care, stress impacts everyone. Regardless of whether it’s work, family situations, finances, failing health or even a social situation, stress can lead to potentially harmful impacts on your mind and body. Not all stress is harmful, though, there are times when a stressful situation may motivate you to make a decision or meet a deadline, but long term, chronic stress is another matter entirely.

Each individual responds to stress in his or her unique way and what is stressful for one person may not cause any anxiety in another. The ways in which you respond to your particular stress triggers can help you cope. For example how to react to stress can hinge on myriad items, including:

  • Your overall view of the situation. Is it as bad as you originally imagined?
  • Do you think you can get through the stressful situation? In other words, can you see light at the end of the tunnel?
  • Are you generally an optimistic or a pessimistic individual? Your attitude going into a situation could also impact the amount of stress is places on you.
  • What is your general state of health and mental well being? Have you been sleeping well? Eating healthy? Exercising regularly? Your overall health situation will impact how stress affects you.

Stress, especially chronic stress can lead to overall anxiety, sleep issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and depression. In the case of a caregiver and his or her stress, feelings of guilt may also factor into the stressful situation. Gaining control of your stress and managing stressful situations will help you get back on an even keel and lead you back toward a happier, healthier state.

Here are some steps you can take to rein in your stress:

  • Take control of the situation. There are items you can easily address and there are items that may be out of your control – determine which are which and then tackle those that you can and ask for help on those that are beyond your control. Simply knowing what you can and cannot do can relieve stress.
  • Write it down. Many people find they wake in the middle of the night with a to-do list running through their heads. To avoid this it’s best to write a list of items you know you need to complete; the simple act of writing it down will usually remove it from your mind. Also, don’t forget to write down those items which cause you the most stress. Writing them down may help you see a solution you hadn’t considered previously. Write down items which can be delegated to other family members or for which you may need outside, professional help; remember to ask others to help share the load.
  • Learn to say no. Remember, it’s all right to simply take a step back and take a day off from caregiving; or if you’re a senior that babysits the grandchildren you too can ask for a day off. There are times when a caregiver needs to take care of him or herself and the best way to do that is to ask for relief and a day off.
  • Prioritize and set limits. Only you know what are the most important items for yourself and your family. If you’re a member of the so-called “sandwich generation” (those who are raising their own families while caring for aging parents) you need to balance time with your family as well as with your parents. Once you’ve listed priorities take a hard look at the list and see if there are items you could delegate or simply not do.

Finding ways to manage stress will lead to a healthier and happier life for both the caregiver and the senior. Remember too, as a caregiver you need to be cognizant of the stress your aging relative may be under. Take time to sit with them and ask what stress they may be experiencing and seek out ways to help them cope – you will all be better off for it.