Coping in Difficulty

People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins they wonder whether they are not taking cold. ~John Jay Chapman, American author

My mother is a worrier.

And by that, I mean she worries over everything.

I don’t remember her being so caught up with fear when my sis and I were little.

Oh, sure, she fretted over whether the house was clean, whether we were eating properly, and whether she was raising us right.

Those seem like reasonable concerns though for a woman who at the time didn’t work outside the home.

But I noticed early on that Mom was different from Dad. She was more emotional, more dramatic, more delicate; he was more rational, objective, and sensible.

After Sis and I grew up, went to college and started our own careers, I assumed Mom would relax.

Her job was done and done well.

But she didn’t.

And Daddy’s death a decade ago added to her stress.

Today, in what should be her golden years, she’s caught up in an endless cycle of worry.

Fear of falling and having to go into a nursing home. Fear of illness and death. Concern over politics, the weather, and whatever else she believes needs her attention.

While worrying is learned behavior, it’s also inherited. There’s a gene for fretting, and it’s passed on to subsequent generations, much the way blond hair or dark skin is.

I don’t like that.

It’s enough of a challenge being the caregiver for a nervous, anxious, Chihuahua-type of person without becoming just like her!

Especially when I so desperately crave peace.

So when Mom flies off the handle, I employ some coping techniques:

  1.  Avoid stress by taking care of me. Focus on healthy living, eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising. Refuse to be caught up in drama or situations I cannot control.
  2. Surround myself with kindness and compatible, supportive friends. Partake of retail therapy, even if all I do is window shop. Decorate my personal space with candles, flowers, and things that make me happy.
  3. Spend time alone. Time to contemplate, pray, meditate. Afterward, everything’s better in Debbie’s World.
  4. Immerse myself in work. Write, do web design, play music, read, interact with the dog. Staying busy is therapeutic.
  5. Realize that genes might be hereditary, but anxiety is controllable. Or, more accurately, my reaction to stressful situations is.

Any coping techniques you’d like to share here?

Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night. ~Author Unknown

17 thoughts on “Coping in Difficulty

  1. Being a caregiver is a life changing experience. Over 3 years ago when my wife became extremely ill our rolls changed dramatically. Her cardiac surgeon told me that my life would change in ways I would never expect. He was right. One of the best bits of advice was to get negative people out of my life. He said they should have been gone yesterday! As I have said many times there is no manual on how to do this stuff. It is a grind and it does take it’s toll both physically and mentally. One of my biggest frustrations is that people have said that they didn’t want to bother me because of her health. My thing is let me worry about that! You do feel guilt about even the thought of doing things for yourself. Over time you build up emotional walls and the your most important word is trust. Hang in there!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Duke! Yes, negative people are a drain, whether you’re caregiving or not. I avoid them like the plague. I think it helps to have in place a support system, whether it’s people you trust to vent to or services who can spell you off for a bit. The best thing I’ve learned is you have to take care of yourself to adequately care for another!

  2. “Fear of falling and having to go into a nursing home. Fear of illness and death. Concern over politics, the weather, and whatever else she believes needs her attention.”

    Debbie, my mother was the same, she worried about everything. But so did her mother, so I think it’s a learned thing. I think worry becomes addiction because it makes the worrier feel like they’re “doing” something; it makes them feel alive and vital.

    I really love your list of coping techniques, each one is so very good; many of which I do myself. One thing I do whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with things, is that I spend time in nature because it seems to clarify, balance, and heal me. Also, I focus on all the things in my life that I’m grateful for, which snaps me back into a feeling of peace and all-is-well.

    Sending you much love and “good energy”, my friend!

    • You know, Ron, my grandma never seemed to worry. Not like my mom anyway. Maybe she inherited it from her dad’s people. I think what they used to say about worry — it’s like a rocking chair, giving you something to do but never getting you anywhere — is so true!

      I love your reminder to get out in nature and I do that a lot, but only when the weather cooperates. I’m not much for tromping in the snow or rain, ha! And focusing on all the many things I have to be grateful for really is a humbling experience. And some might call this dumb, but I get a remarkable feeling of calm just by fingering my beads and crystals!

      Enjoy the week ahead, and thank you for your support! xo

  3. I had a mother with similar inclinations. Eventually, I found two responses that helped. Out loud, I would say to her, “I tell you what. You live your life, and I’ll live mine.” And more often than you can imagine, I would tell myself silently, “I’m the adult in this room.” That always made me giggle a little (to myself) and that was useful.

    There’s no question that loss of control and fear of being left alone with no one to care for her were driving motivations. That’s why things got worse as she aged. Apparently the gene didn’t get passed on to me, though, since with no family at all to care for me as I age, I ought to be getting nervous, but I’m not. Maybe I should worry a little more!

    • Oh, Linda, I got a chuckle out of thinking about you reminding yourself that YOU were the adult in the room! That’s so very true, my friend. I have to tell myself that more these days. “Second childhood” really is a thing, isn’t it?!?

      I’m glad you avoided the gene. I think I have, too, though just being around her too much makes me jittery. That’s why I have to limit our interactions and find time to escape on a regular basis. Not that I don’t love and appreciate her, but that I have to tend to me, too!!

  4. I don’t have your load to carry, Debbie. My heart goes out to you. I use a technique to manage worry. I ask my self the question, “What is the worst that could happen if the worry comes true?” I then ask myself the same question about the answer. So let’s take a hypothetical case, “What’s the worst that could happen if I’m put in a senior home?” The answer, “I’ll be dependent on others.” Okay, “What is the worst that could happen if you are dependent on others?” answer, “They’ll fail to perform.” So if they don’t perform what is the worst that could happen? As you can see the worsts get less and less until maybe it is down to missing a bowl of oatmeal.

  5. Well, I blow that theory up. My Mom is a worry wart, and I am not a worrier. Perhaps, I was always too busy trying to keep her from worrying,
    Everyone (it seems) I know is worried about falling (could it be age, say it isn’t so) and they are falling more. And if they do fall it’s never a bruise it’s a broken something or other.
    Worry can be an essential intuitive connection—there are times it can propel you into action, but more often than not I’ve watched it ruin the quality of people’s life.
    I think you’re suggestions are lovely, soothing, and practical and I admire you for not letting worry consume your life, Most people will say “I worry it’s just the way I am,” Instead of I could worry, but I am choosing not too right now. I reserve the option for later.

    • Thanks for adding your wisdom here, Katybeth. One article I read ( suggested that we get one worry gene from dad and one from mom. It’s when the two genes are both for worry that we become worriers. Or something like that. Anyway, perhaps it’s a mom-thing to worry, but like you, it seems to be my lot to keep Mom from going overboard rather than adding to the confusion.

      Little kids never seem to fear falling, and they spend a lot of time on the ground. Maybe we should take lessons in HOW to fall so we don’t hurt ourselves. Then perhaps we’d feel more confident and less vulnerable. Or maybe clothing styles need to become more padded, like what football players wear!

  6. My mom was a worrier, but not to the extent your mom worries. I guess it’s all she can do, maybe all she has control over. I don’t know how I would have coped with my mom’s worries, she hadn’t gotten to the state of being overwhelmed by it when she died. But my way of coping with worrying is to try to find something in each situation to help the situation.

    • Thanks, Dawn — great idea! I do try to help where I can, but sometimes it’s frustrating not to be able to reason with fears. On the positive side, I’m just blessed she’s still here for me to try to help!

  7. Hi Debbie – looking after my precious Mama, she had a few fears that seemed irrational but were very real to her. I noticed several other elderly friends shared a few of those fears in common. Maybe it came from growing up in the Depression & WWII years? (Don’t think watching the news these days helps the fear factor for any of us!) I tried to divert Mama’s attention with music & uplifting movies & activities she enjoyed. And chocolate! 🌷🎼🍫🎼🌷

    • Great suggestions, Virginia — thank you for sharing them! I do find comfort in knowing others have survived this. I think you might have touched on something that I hadn’t considered — Mom’s fears might have something to do with her growing up years. While I can’t erase all that, maybe I can help to make her present calmer and happier!

  8. Oh Debbie, your worrying mom sounds like my dad and I fear I may have inherited that anxiety gene. You offer great suggestion for coping especially for caretakers. I find that yoga really helps with my mind and body especially that ever aching back.

    • Thanks, Pat. I sure empathize with those back issues. I never had them until that fall I took five years ago (the one where I broke two ribs). If only I could go back and prevent that!! Hang in there, Sis!

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