09/03/2013 05:59 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

Manage Anxiety While Caring For a Loved One

There are currently 42.1 million adults caring for their loved ones here in the U.S. The majority of these caregivers are women who work outside the home and spend at least an additional 20 hours each week caring for a family member or close friend without receiving monetary compensation. The added stress of caring for loved ones has led to a 29 percent increase in the use of anti-anxiety medication among caregivers.

Express Scripts released a report in August 2013 that summarized a research study in which they "paired an analysis of Express Scripts' prescription drug claims data with a telephone survey of more than 12,000 commercially-insured individuals ages 18 to 65. The data revealed that use of medications to treat conditions for which stress is the common denominator, including high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and ulcers, is higher among caregivers."

The study also found that caregivers rated themselves in poorer health in comparison to non-caregivers and a higher proportion of them report that they are unhappy. It's no wonder that so many of them are turning to anti-anxiety drugs.

For those of you out there who want to try to avoid using pharmaceuticals to manage your stress, here are some all-natural tips for getting back to a place of calm.

Time Management

You wear a lot of different hats when you are caring for an elderly parent or relative and it's easy for time to become your biggest enemy, which in turn, makes you feel stressed. You may never feel like you have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything, but the following tools might help you feel more relaxed:

  • Write out daily "To Do" lists. Knowing what's on your plate in advance can help you better plan out your days.
  • Prioritize. It's much easier to attack things on your list one at a time, then try to tackle them all at once.
  • Keep a notebook with you to give yourself reminders. Or download a record-keeping app on your phone (check out the Kaiser Permanente app) to jot down important notes and keep track of appointments.

Work/Life Balance

Nearly 25-35 percent of the workforce is now caring for a chronically ill or aging family member and this number is expected to increase 50 percent over the next five years. There are a few things you should know about how to handle your caregiving responsibilities while balancing your work schedule:

  • Learn your company policies. They might offer certain benefits, like an employee assistance program, or might even allow you to work from home a few days a week.
  • Utilize the Family Medical Leave Act. Under FMLA, eligible workers are entitled to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for family caregiving, without the loss of job security or health benefits.
  • Talk to your manager about what is going on at home. They may offer you some more flexibility, or suggestions about how to prioritize your workload.

Holistic Home Remedies

The definition of holistic health is "the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease." Creating an environment that stimulates the senses and triggers a relaxing emotional response can be just as effective as taking medicine. Here are a few suggestions to help you turn your house into a calming oasis:

  • Invest in scented candles. Lavender, Chamomile, Sandalwood, and Neroli are known to have calming effects on the nervous system and help promote restfulness and sleep. Many candle companies make candles with these scents and filling your home with them is bound to improve your mood.
  • Paint your walls. Color research has shown that certain colors can be more calming than others. For instance, shades of green and blue tend to help people relax, perhaps because they are colors often found in nature.
  • Turn on a noise machine. If you work or live in a city, the busy sounds of sirens, people, screeching tires, and buses can tend to wear down your nerves and make you feel tense. The sounds of nature, such as running water or crickets, can have a soothing effect.