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Caregiver Insights: Senior In Home Care

The Anatomy of Caregiver Stress in Home Care - Sacramento CA

By Patrick Philbrick-Director on May 16, 2014 6:44:02 AM

Do you ever feel stressed about things that might go wrong? Ever feel like life is just too much and you can't possibly handle it all? Have you ever worried about the future? All these are symptoms of anxiety, also known as "Monstrosizing" or "Catastrophic Thinking." But there is good news, you can learn to be more resilient and cope more effectively with this common malady of caregivers and healthcare workers.

To understand, and cope effectively with anxiety we first have to precisely define it. Anxiety is commonly mislabeled as "fear": "I am so afraid of what will happen to me"; I am afraid I won't be able to pay the bills at the end of the month"; "I have a fear that my mother won't be cared for properly and will get sick or worse." All these "fears" have a common thread. They are all describing a fear of a future event. That is the precise definition of anxiety. Why is this important? Because, to deal effectively with any problem you first have to understand what it is. Fear is the feeling we have when we perceive an immediate threat from something happening right now. For instance if someone points a gun at you, that feeling would be fear. Anxiety is the feeling we get when we perceive a real or imaginary threat sometime in the future.

There are two kinds of anxiety, healthy anxiety and Unhealthy anxiety (or clinical anxiety). They can both be painful and intense. The difference is in the behavior they prompt you towards. People feeling unhealthy anxiety are tempted to avoid the threatening situation. For instance, if you have a final exam coming up and you decide to go to the beach instead of studying for the test. That would be an example of avoiding the situation in a self-defeating way. If instead you make a plan to study for the test, you would still feel uncomfortable, feeling the pressure of the possible unwanted consequences, but in this case you would be doing something constructive about it. Healthy anxiety is temporary and stimulates you to do your best, whereas unhealthy anxiety decreases your performance and can last indefinitely as the problem never gets addressed.

Anxiety is a two part emotion: there is an "if this happens" part, and a "then this will happen" part. The second part, the perceived future, is what gets exaggerated and distorted in Unhealthy Anxiety. In the case of studying for the test, we might imagine that we already know the future, "why bother, I'll just fail anyway," and perceive the future result as having only one possibility of a tragic result. This distorted thinking takes the possibility of a dire result and convinces us that it has a high probability of coming true. The truth is that less than 1% of the things we worry about actually come to pass in the horrible way we imagined them. Just think about that for a second. If you could free up 99% of your thinking to focus on more productive, satisfying, healthy thoughts, what could this do for your quality of life?

Bringing in a professionally trained, nursing supervised caregiver can do wonders for reducing the amount of anxiety that is robbing you of your quality of life.