As a caregiver, there are times during your journey where you may feel anxious and experience certain feelings in your stomach like butterflies.
Having stomach butterflies is a normal feeling; we all experience them.
As you feel these anxiety stomach butterflies (also known as the ‘fight or flight response’) you may also feel your heart beating quickly and you may start to sweat.
This type of caregiver stress and anxiety might simply be a reaction from not knowing what the person you are caring for wants. Or, maybe you have just learned how to apply a dressing and you do not want the person to know how anxious you feel because it might make them feel the same way.
In caregiving, each day is like a roll coaster; it takes you up and then down. It also takes a lot of energy and strength to care for someone with health concerns.
As you continue to doubt yourself you may research continuously, trying to find the right thing to do or the right words to say. Let’s face it, caregiving is a journey, a road with unexpected turns, and you have to be prepared.
In the beginning, it might feel like way too much to deal with but if you prioritize, and set realistic goals, you can be better prepared for when the unexpected happens.
How to stop stomach butterflies
Let’s start by prioritizing some caregiver goals:
Taking care of yourself – In caregiving, how many times do you procrastinate, or as they say in Spanish, manana. You will buy groceries tomorrow and for now, just eat comfort foods like ice cream and cookies. All of a sudden your blood sugar rises and drops rapidly and you feel even worse.
Make sure you eat and drink properly, which means 3 balanced meals, going easy on the snacks, and drinking plenty of water for hydration. Having caregiving breaks throughout the day is recommended like going for walk or calling and chatting with a friend that is in a similar caregiving situation. For some reason we forget about these vital breaks. Using reminders on your cellular phone or making notes in your day timer are great ways to help keep you on track.
Share the unknown road with your care team – Taking each day at a time will also help. It’s alright not having all the answers all the time, or not feeling confident performing some of the tasks at hand.
Over time you will build a health care team that can be by your side through your journey, which might include a nurse or an occupational therapist, among others. As your health care team shares their wisdom with you and helps you build your confidence, you will experience fewer and fewer anxiety stomach butterflies.
Even so, should you not feel comfortable and the butterflies start, and something just does not feel right, take comfort in knowing that having stomach butterflies is a normal feeling; we all experience them.
What if you are preforming a new task? Be honest with yourself and if you are not able to perform the task, ask for help. Joining a support group, whether it is online or in person, will allow you to share your experiences. You will be surprised at how many people are living in your shoes.
Dealing with not so nice words – At times, the person you are caring for may get downright rude and leave you wondering where those words came from. Take a minute and under your breath, start counting backwards from 100. Then nicely let the person know how you are feeling and have a calm discussion if possible. The person that you are caring for could be frustrated or it could be because of the disease process, or even the medication they are taking. Try real hard not to take these words to heart.
Caregiving is about balance. Whether your glass is half empty or half full, it’s about taking it one day at a time and finding your way to cope with caregiver stress and anxiety. It’s about developing your own coping strategies that work for you such as:
- Walking in the park and looking at the environment, whether it is the sky or a beautiful sunset…it’s about seeing everything that is in front of you. Smelling the fresh air and having the sun on your face.
- Joining an exercise class such as Tai Chi or Yoga
- Learning to play an instrument or even learning a new language
- Watching old homemade movies or looking at cherished pictures
- Calling a friend and reminiscing about the good old days (and maybe even the bad ones)
- Meditation and breathing exercises
- Having respite and time for yourself
As a caregiver, you might feel that you are always giving and working; it can be emotional exhausting. In order to take care of others you need to be happy, healthy, wise, and first, take care of yourself. Know when to ask for help. Rest assured you are not alone and other caregivers are experiencing many of the same feelings, including anxiety stomach butterflies.
Elizz is a Canadian not-for-profit organization and powered by Saint Elizabeth Health Care. Elizz offers family caregivers a full range of caregiver support services, plus care support for those in your care.
If you still have questions about caregiver anxiety and wish to speak with someone, please contact our support team at Elizz, the place in Canada for all things caregiving. Call Elizz now at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549) or connect with a caregiver coach.
You might also like our Elizz article on Caregiver Stress Management.