The Caregiver Cup Podcast

Redirecting Chronic and Obsessive Worry as a Caregiver

October 03, 2023 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 181
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
Redirecting Chronic and Obsessive Worry as a Caregiver
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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Do you feel like worry and anxiety are your constant companions as a caregiver? It's time for a change, and this episode is your golden ticket to making that change happen! As we mark the three-year anniversary of the Caregiver Cup Podcast, we implore you to join us in a candid discussion about worry - the worry habit, the core beliefs and most importantly, how to manage it.  You can also listen to Episode 159 for more about worry. 

Taking care of someone can often lead us down a rabbit hole of obsessive worry, which is both mentally and physically draining. But what if we told you that it's possible to redirect your energy from these worries to more positive thoughts? Listen in as we delve deep into the difference between general and unhealthy worry, the core beliefs that fuel obsessive worrying, and how we can transform this energy into trust and positivity. Our personal stories of overcoming worry will enlighten you on the many ways it can manifest and how to combat it.

But what's a celebration without some audience participation? As we commemorate three years of this podcast journey, I  want to hear your thoughts, experiences, and encouraging messages. Share with us and get a chance to feature in our special video!
Remember, managing worry and anxiety is a journey, and together as a community, we can help each other keep our cups full. So, plug in those earphones, lean back, and let's toast to the strength and resilience of caregivers everywhere!

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Thank you for listening. If you know of another caregiver who could benefit from this podcast, please copy and share this episode.

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Speaker 1:

I am thrilled to share some exciting news. So, before we get started with today's episode, I wanted to give you a preview of next week's episode, october 10. Because the podcast the caregiver cup podcast is turning three years old. Oh my gosh, it feels just like yesterday that I sat behind this microphone for my very first episode, filled with hopes that just one person would listen and find value in our conversations and fast forward. Today, I am so deeply grateful to have the privilege of connecting with you for three years, and so next week's episode is going to be a journey of those three years. I'm going to share some of the things that I've discovered, some of the successes, some of the challenges, some of the previews of the next year forward, and I want to share a video of podcast listeners. So my, my special request for you is if you want to be part of this video series that I'm going to share during the podcast episode, go to my podcast inbox and share your thoughts, experiences, messages of encouragement or whatever you want to share You're going to be able to go to. Let me see what this is here. Pod inboxcom forward slash Kathy Lynn Van and I'll put the link in the show notes. So stay tuned, join me next week, october 10. But until then, let's jump into the episode today. Well, hello there and welcome to another episode of the caregiver podcast. I'm excited to share this episode with you and wanted to start out by saying I thought I hadn't figured out. I had a strategy that worked in the past, but now it's back in full force. It just proves that when you don't practice your habits and keep them in check, you can fall off the bandwagon. What am I talking about? Worry? And we're going to talk about that. These past two weeks, for me, my worry is keeping me up at night. My mind is so creative that I could be writing a fiction novel of all of the what ifs and all of the crazy thoughts in my head. I've lost focus and I can't go ahead and stay focused. It has sucked my energy and didn't feel like I was doing anything at all and I was just just frustrated and overwhelmed. I'm a chronic worrier and I have worked so hard to keep my mind in check all of the years that I was a caregiver. When Ms Worry comes back for a visit. Now this past couple weeks she's come back and I've called her Ms Worry this week the floodgates of worry opened up. And let me explain a little bit of what I think, because worry comes to me when I get triggers and challenges. And so a few weeks ago, probably a month ago, my dog, my black lab that was nine years old, cooper, we found out that he had bone cancer and then we went ahead and kind of spent a couple weeks with him before having to say goodbye, right, and we knew that we've always been a two dog family and we knew that we wanted to open our heart and our home up to another dog and we filled out the adoption paperwork, not knowing that we qualified right away, and so we got a new puppy called Eddie. We think he's an Australian terrier mix or an Australian shepherd mix, we can't figure it out yet and he came from the streets of Houston, texas, and so, you know, and I started jumping into the puppy, new puppy dog mom, and I started and it just triggered so many things for me, and this week it's been my mom's anniversary of her death. The fall brings back all of the chemotherapy with my dad and my husband, so I think there's a combo of everything. So I went into puppy dog mom and it just grew my worry to unbelievable levels. What if the puppy, what if Eddie bites on the electrical cord? And what would happen? My Eddie found that. We found that Eddie has severe diarrhea and I brought him to the vet and we found out that he has hookworm not uncommon, especially when we're talking about. The mom of this. Litter was living in the streets, probably not vaccinated, so he either got the hookworm from the placenta or the milk from the mom or whatever he has been eating. And what I've been doing is obsessively obsessively I mean googling his condition, googling training, googling the environment, talking about the risks, everything. Now I've been just obsessive and even to the point where they said the rescue people said they were going to gather all of his records because they had some here, they had some in Houston and they were going to get them to me in five days. What? They didn't get them to me in five days and I was worried that they didn't have records and I created all these stories in my head. So you kind of get it. So after a few days of noticing my excessive worry and it's just excessive I knew I had to go back on breaking my worry and this habit that I have and get back to a strategy and a breaking habit of worry, because I did this in every caregiving situation and I started out this way and I've had to train myself. Because when Dennis got his stage four non Hodgkin's lymphoma, I was googling life expectancies and planning in my mind what would I do when he passes away and he never passed away, but I was thinking the worst. So now I want to go ahead and tell you I've done episodes on worry. The last one I did was episode 159 called Breaking the Worry Habit. I'm gonna link that in the show notes. So if you want to dive deep into the science, the types of worry, the ways we worry, you can get back into that episode after you listen to this one and really get a really good comprehension of the entire worry topic and so that you'll have this context. And so if you are like me and your worry becomes out of control, I want you to gather as many nuggets as you can so that you can work on your own strategy. So when we encounter situations that cause us to worry and become anxious, the very first thing that we have to do is recognize it and understand what's the difference between worry and obsessively worrying, and so we define worry as a normal human emotion, just like anger, just like sadness. Worry is an emotion we have to understand. When we are in the state of this unease and concern about potential events or challenges or outcomes or struggles, our mind goes into our thoughts and we start playing stories in our mind or start strategizing and thinking in our mind, which leads us often to feeling restlessness, stress, anxiety and all of these out of the normal experiences, versus when it's worry and anxiety. On the other hand, that worry takes one step further. Anxiety is when worry manifests in our body and in our mind and it heightens us emotionally, physically and beyond to these worries. It's almost like worry. Now took your hand and said I'm anxiety, worry, I'm gonna take your hand and I'm gonna drag you even further into your worry in your mind. So some people physical symptoms may arise then when they get that and that signals to them that something's wrong. If your worry turns to anxiety and they manifest together, your heart may be racing, tightness in your chest, blood pressure. Think about the physical symptoms that may have it. I was doing this with Eddie. My thoughts were ruminating, thinking about what if he dies of hookworm? Because if that hookworm gets into their bloodstream, it causes anemia. And what if, lucy, our other lab, gets it? And then I started feeling stomach aches and my nerves were rolling in my stomach and obviously I wasn't sleeping and so that was affecting my whole body and mind. And I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. So why do we worry? As humans, as caregivers? Life is full of uncertainty. Life's full of changes in its constant. Especially as caregivers, we're going through change and challenges and situations all the time. So in the episode 159, I get into this a lot more, but in a nutshell, the brain interprets that as danger and it wants to keep us safe. The brain interprets that as a negative force coming in and wants to protect us. So think about what your worry is about and when you worry because things like when my mom was diagnosed with lupus, I sat sad and worried about what lupus could do. It's okay to be concerned, but when worry and anxiety get in and becomes obsessive, then it takes over your body and so you might be worried about health concerns or symptoms or a storm coming in. What if this happens? You might be worried about you saying something the wrong way and it could potentially have hurt somebody, or relationship dynamics, not diagnosis, financial worries or loneliness. When you go ahead and think too much into it and get too analytical, then worry starts taking over, and so it's perfectly natural to experience worry in the face of challenges. I want to just bottom line that, but I've had to learn to identify when it becomes too much, when it becomes unhealthy, and what is triggering it. And a little bit about myself. Growing up, my parents worried all the time. Even to my dad's death, my dad was still worried about the finances. He was worried about mom. It was just a normal thing in my household. It was natural to have conversations at the dinner table and discussions we were. We would worry about the weather, we would worry about the state of the country, we would worry about other family members, and it was Very natural, and so I was taught that worry was part of the conversation. I had to realize that it wasn't a motion that was taught to me not good, not bad, not different. Whatever it was, it was what it was. When I learned the difference, though, between general worry and ways to process it, versus obsessive worry that caused anxiety and became chronic, it was a huge game changer for me, and I learned that as a mom Raising my kids, because it was almost to the point where I was obsessively worried about them at school Playing on playgrounds and all of that. And then I noticed it came back when I was a caregiver and it came back and now it's back again. This is the powerful realization, because it means that our perception and interpretation of events and challenges Will have an emotional response, will have a physical response. What is your response? I want you to really reflect on it. If it's worry and anxiety, then I want to talk about the whys. You want to figure out the core beliefs that are truly myths, that may be causing you to worry. And so we're gonna go through these myths. We're gonna go through these beliefs that are core and built inside of you and there's no way to really Take them out of you for a lack of a term or lack of and graphically pull them out of you and throw them away, but by recognizing them you can then build a strategy To go ahead and keep these at bay. So let's go through some of the core beliefs that most women have, that most caregivers have and Really, my parents had as well. The first one that is a core belief, is, I thought about worry. Worry means we care, and so the core belief here is worry is good and it means we care. Well, many women hold that belief that worrying shows and proves that they care and have concern. It may be true and you do care for that person, but isn't there a better way to love that person and care for that person then obsessively worrying about them? I Think about. The example that came to my mind is Dennis had to have his stem cells harvested they had a poem out of his body and Harvest them through a machine, and so it was kind of like Taking his blood and then going through and almost looks like a dialysis machine, if you know what dialysis is and then they take the Stem cells out and then put the rest of his blood back into his body. And we had to do this over two days, a Wednesday and a Thursday and when they came to us on Thursday they said it's not looking good, we don't have enough stem cells, so we're gonna go ahead and ditch and give it one more day In hopes that we can get x amount of stem cells on Friday. And if we can't get x amount of stem cells on Friday. We don't have enough stem cells to do a stem cell transplant, so we had then would have to go back to the drawing board and try to find a donor. And so we got that news on Thursday night and and Normal human response is to worry about what is going to be next. But I obsessively said I'm so worried about you, dennis, I'm worried about what your thoughts are, and stuff like that. And he said you can't worry about me and Really we can't control the stem cells that are harvested. We just have to go ahead and and we focus our energy into positive thoughts and trusting that they're going to try something different that day. By Worrying about him, he thought it was more like pity and Sadness and that was bringing him down. So that's just an example of potentially why. It doesn't mean I don't care about him, but I should be going ahead and and Transferring and finding a healthier way to love that person and care for that person. Another core belief is worrying that somehow worry prevents bad outcomes and your brain wants to do that. That might sound crazy or irrational, but our subconscious somehow believes that if we worry the worst, then we're gonna be better, okay, and it's not true. When we worry the worst, it's doing what I did. I then can't sleep, then I'm obsessively googling, then I'm Zapping myself of energy, all that kind of stuff. Another one is some people believe that worry can prevent things from happening. But think about it. What we worry about and the stories we tell ourselves, they normally don't happen. Like I said, I could write a fiction novel for all the crazy things I worry about, that don't even happen. It's the constant dwelling on the worst-case scenarios. And so you can. You can think about the worst-case scenario, but then stop worrying about it. Control what you can worry about. Another belief we may hold is that worrying helps us prepare Well, but worrying is counterproductive. Prepared is a good skill, but over thinking can actually cause more stress, burnout, steal your energy, rob yourself of joy, and so you don't want to go ahead and stay in that negative state. Some people feel worry is inevitable. Like I talked about with my parents, it became who I was. I would worry in high school about testing, worrying about my common dance routines and what if I forget a step. I would worry about what if my date didn't show up, or what if my date was a jerk, what others thought about me. It was part of my personality and I carried this doom and gloom in my head for a long time and, like I said, it carried it into motherhood. Another belief that is not true is worry is being responsible. You know people like this. They worry about everything. But there are healthier ways to be responsible and healthier ways to manage the demands and the uncertainties. And when you can shift that to something positive or optimistic, then it's a better space to be in. Another belief is some people believe worry connects them to others. Oh my gosh, get into when my mom was in her apartment complex or senior living apartment complex. They fed off of each other. I'll be honest when people say I'm worried about you or let's talk about who we're worried about, it bothers me. I discuss when they say that to me. I'm so worried about you and my mom would say that, or somebody wants to connect with me this way. I discuss it immediately and tell them don't worry about me. Why don't you, instead of worry, support me or pray for me or do something fun with me? Worry is just a waste of time, in my opinion. You can be impatient waiting for a diagnosis. You can be anxious waiting for the test results, but by obsessively worrying about the worst you need to go ahead and do something to combat that. The last one the belief that I have is worry keeps you comfortable. Worry for my parents was comfortable. It was comfortable. Conversations it was natural to have conversations. I know it sounds really strange, but it was easy conversation and a common mood to worry. Then it teaches your subconscious to believe that it's normal. It was hard for me to shift that and I noticed this past week how easy it was to go back into the archives in my subconscious and it just worked again. It was easy to work. When you recognize these untrue core beliefs, you can start working on ways and strategies to shift your worry habit. So when you recognize your worry, it's not shutting it off per se, but it becomes obsessive. And when it becomes obsessive and causes anxiety, you notice physical and emotional effects and you have to start working on a strategy because there's no easy way to shut it off. I was reading my notes and I'm like what did I write here? And so I wanted to make sure I elaborated on that First. We may not be able to control every situation. You know this. We only can control what's in our control. We may not be able to control what other people say, we may not be able to control the diagnosis or the treatment results, but we can control how we perceive and react to them, so shifting our focus can make the difference. So let's talk about practical strategies or hacks. Now, these are my own strategies and hacks. What I'm hoping is, by giving you mine, you can take some of these and use them, or it might spark some other ideas. The first thing that you wanna do, though, is recognize it, embrace it and be aware of your core thoughts and beliefs and understand why you worry, and you have to really reflect on that. Are you worrying to protect yourself from disappointment? Are you worrying to show somebody that you care? Are you worrying because it's comfortable, habitual, like I do? In this kind of situation, it's amazing how, when you shine a light on your beliefs and your core beliefs, how it's going to help you to take charge of your worries, and you wanna think about what do you do when you worry. Do you have this vivid imagination that just goes into worry land? I do, and then I start having dreams about it at night. I have dreams at night that I can't fix something and it's like I have to figure out why I'm dreaming these consecutive nights in a row. Do you Google obsessively, looking for the worst, or do you ask the negative questions over the positive questions, do you lose focus and then you can't get back on track. Do you lose sleep over this? Do you get emotional? Do you get distracted by worry? I want you to uncover it's kind of like unpeeling the onion and you have to look at the root cause of your worry and remember it's a normal emotion. And so what you wanna do is saying is this a normal worry or am I in this worry with anxiety and obsession, and it's becoming chronic? Because if it's that, then you wanna shrink it down. And then another hack is you wanna distract your brain. How can I stop it? Or distract the worry and saying, okay, ms Worry, I'm going to stop now my worrying because I can't control the outcome. The blood work is already in the stem cell harvesting on that Friday is already collected. Now it's in the hands of the count and we're gonna see if the count work and, by the way, that count did work. But we have to distract it. The best way for me to distract worry is to physically do something, is to physically move, is to physically get somewhere. It might be going up for lunch getting a cup of coffee, doing my gardening, going for a walk, vacuuming the floor, whatever it is. I have to get my mind off of it and so you wanna be able to go ahead and shrink that worry down and shrink it down. I also look at distracting my negative thoughts and I've talked about this many times when you go on a walk or when you're driving or when you're doing something distracting your thoughts. This morning during my walk, I looked at all the Halloween decorations and was just looking at them and it was distracting my thoughts because I didn't wanna walk the whole way today. I was tired and I'm like nope, kathy, you're gonna stay focused. You need to go ahead and get your walk in because you know that it does your body good. And when I looked at, I mean I saw like these boards that said boo. I've saw mums, I've saw people putting decals on their garage doors. So it distracted me and gave me, it made me smile. And so what can you do to go ahead and get your body and distract your body? Maybe it's watching your favorite show or binge watching something, listening to a podcast episode, listening to music, going for lunch with a friend, whatever it would be. So that's a hack, thinking about that, and you may have to experiment with this and find something that works. Another thing that has really helped me is write it out. Write it out, create a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, on one side of the paper. Write down all the things you're worried about and potentially could happen. Right, get it all out on paper and then, on the other side, put the worry truths or the facts on the other side and listing out the facts or the truths, really put it into perspective and then, better yet, if you're still struggling with it, put a result at the bottom or in right over the top and saying I worried about Eddie in his hook worm and not getting his records from the adoption agency for a while, and it was like four or five days and the results are he's on medication, the hook worm is being treated, lucy's being treated, because I made the call, I have the records and he seems like his diary is going away. These are the facts. Why did I worry for five straight days? Get myself sick over it. I have to keep reminding myself that this is the habit I have to rebuild and the strategy that I have to continually work on. So that's it Now. You can also document. What if nothing happens? What if everything's okay? That could be your key words to say Ms Worry, what if everything's okay and works out? That could be your ticket too. Another strategy or a hack is to talk it out Now. If you are not able to have any success with your worry and it's consuming you, then you need to go ahead and talk to a licensed professional. You need a coach, you need a therapist, you need somebody to talk to so that they can help you work through that, finding out if there's past trauma or past triggers that you need to work through first. Another hack for us as caregivers is, let's say, you're worried about something, an upcoming doctor's appointment or your loved ones have symptoms now, and yet they're just stewing inside of you. Why can't you call the doctor? Why can't you call the nurse? Why can't you talk it out with them so that you can go ahead and get a better grasp on it? And then you have the facts, then you have the truths, then you can ask what's the worst case scenario? What could we do to resolve this, that kind of thing? And then you can start working through that versus writing that fiction novel, like I did for ever and ever and ever, and it's unbelievable. I don't even wanna get into some of the crazy thoughts in my head, but you can imagine. Another thing is talking to a friend. Talking to a friend that can go ahead and talk you off of the worry ledge or, better yet, working with a coach or an accountability partner and telling them I have this worry problem, this worry situation. I have anxiety and stress from worry. And here is my worry plan. When I go ahead and connect with you and saying I am worried, these are the things I want you to ask me. I want you to help me with my strategy. Oh my gosh, it works so well. So that's another one. Another one is give yourself a time to worry and then turn it off and then saying no more worry, and you have to really be disciplined, no more. It's kind of like I'm only allowed to have this many chips and then I close the bag and I put it in the cupboard no more. It takes willpower, but you can do it. Another hack is think of worry like a guest at your door. Right, you can go ahead and invite the guest in, or you can shut the door and just and not answer the door because you don't want worry in. Or you can bring that guest in, but then you let that guest leave at a designated time and you shut the door. Another way to think about worry is like a light switch. Yep, the light switch went on and it's a bright worry light. But you know what? I'm gonna turn it off after an X amount of time and when I shut the switch off, I don't worry about it. You have to find your way and try different things and experiment with it, because you can have a healthy worry and saying, oh, I'm worried about this, why am I worried about this? I'm gonna worry about this, the facts of the worry, and then I'm gonna turn it off and go ahead and not let it consume my day. So, overall, what can you control? And then think about what's beyond your control. So the strategy of worry is when you recognize it and embrace it and then work through your worry and other troubling emotions, you can take control of your health. You can take control of your well-being and your overall caregiver life. This is just another way to go ahead and control the stress and burnout and live your best life as a caregiver. It's a constant learning process. This skill set that you're learning here on the Caregiver Cup podcast can be used with worry in your caregiver life. It can be used with worry in everyday life. But the big thing is you have to protect yourself from this emotion. This emotion is natural, but you can't let it consume your life. You can't let it consume your health. You can't let it consume your anxiety and stress and burnout. So I hope you enjoyed today's episode. Can you do me a favor? If you liked this episode, can you go ahead and share it with another caregiver that you know? Follow me, hit that subscribe button and, best and most important piece, if you go ahead and give me a five star, that brings my podcast up and more people will have exposure to it. I know it's a little cumbersome to do these things, but if you wouldn't mind taking just a moment, it would mean the world to me. So until next week, if you can't wait like I can't wait. October 10 is when the caregiver podcast turns three years old and it's going to be a special podcast episode from me and from, hopefully, listeners. If you wanna be part of that video series, then I'm gonna play in that episode and you wanna share your insights and your feedbacks, and where you listen or why you listen, I'll be willing to go ahead and play a little clip and talk about you. So be part of my celebration with me and then tell we see each other next week. Have a great rest of the day and, most importantly, how full is your cup today? Keep that cup full. It's so important for you. Bye for now.

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