For many informal caregivers anxiety is a constant companion. But over time persistent anxiety can cause health problems like stomach pain, headaches and fatigue- all of which may interfere with a caregiver’s ability to perform their duties. Most people look at anxiety as something they’d like to prevent, but there are also ways to harness that negative energy and turn it into a positive. If you’re a family caregiver who’s currently dealing with anxiety, here’s how to use it to your advantage.

Warning Signs of Caregiver Anxiety

Anxiety is the body’s natural way of responding to stress. As a caregiver look for these anxiety warning signs:

  • Pounding heart or rapid heart rate
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Stomach pain, nausea or digestive trouble
  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Trembling or shaking

Left unaddressed, chronic stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on your relationships and self-esteem- ultimately placing you at risk for more serious health problems.

How to Turn Anxiety Around

There are several ways to transform anxiety into productivity, including these:

Repackage that anxiety

Because everybody is exposed to stress at one time or another, anxiety is inevitable. Because anxiety and excitement are both emotional states characterized by enhanced mental and physical arousal, rather than trying to remain calm repackage your anxiety as excitement.

When you’re nervous because it’s time to feed a loved one with dementia, rather than thinking “I’m so nervous” turn those negative thoughts around by saying something out loud like “I can do this”. Instead of focusing on a potential threat- like your loved one getting agitated- focus on the benefits that your feeding assistance provides.

Tap into the adrenaline

Anxiety causes your body to release adrenaline, and that’s why many sports coaches prefer their athletes to be a little anxious rather than relaxed before a big game. When your body releases stress hormones it can ultimately enhance performance and productivity- which may come in handy when you’re trying to load your senior in the car or help them up the stairs.

Find your anxiety “sweet spot”