Carers and anxiety

While caring for a family member or friend who has a disability or illness can be a rewarding and positive experience, the ongoing stress can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder.

When a caring role continues for many years, or is relentless and demanding, or when the role is physically or emotionally challenging, the stresses can result in an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms may include:

• feeling worried all the time;

• difficulty concentrating;

• restlessness;

• fatigue;

• irritability;

• difficulty sleeping.

Most people will experience anxiety symptoms at different times of their life, but if these symptoms are ongoing and begin to interfere with daily activities, it is important to seek medical help. Too often, carers are so busy caring for someone else that they neglect their own needs. But the sooner you seek medical attention, the sooner you can start a treatment plan towards better health.

This can then lead to better resilience and capacity to cope with the demands of caring. Talk to your GP for an assessment of your symptoms; your GP will be able to confirm a diagnosis and help you to explore the supports and treatments that are available. Types of treatment include psychological interventions (‘talking’ therapies, counselling), medical interventions and complementary therapies (relaxation, breathing, yoga).

It can be frustrating not understanding the symptoms and treatments. Arming yourself with information will help you feel more in control and confident about the treatments being offered.

Support for you as a carer

Caring can be difficult at the best of times; it can feel almost impossible if you are experiencing your own health issues. To help you last the distance, make sure you access all the support that is available to you. Contact the Carer Advisory Line for advice and information about practical, financial and emotional supports that are available to you as a carer.

Quick tips

When you are caring for someone else you often put your own needs last - this is very common. But perhaps you need to be reminded that your own health and wellbeing is important. Here are some practical strategies for managing stress, too.

• Eat well. A nutritious balanced diet will give you the fuel your body needs to keep on caring;

• Exercise regularly. Physical exercise can relieve tension and reduce stress levels;

• Sleep well. Caring can be exhausting so try and get eight hours sleep every night;

• Share the care. Let family members and friends know that their help and support is welcome;

• Talk it over. With a friend or family member or with a professional counsellor. Join a Carer Support Group and meet other people to share tips and experiences;

• Take a break. Do something that you love...or do nothing but relax and recharge your batteries.