I read an interesting article recently by Annika Martins on www.tinybuddha.com about being "addicted to helping," and it got me thinking about how helping others is often a trigger for anxious thoughts and feelings. As the article describes, most of us have an innate desire to help the ones we love, especially when they are hurting or vulnerable.
However, it is possible to devote too much time, energy, and emotion into helping others. Many long-term caregivers are familiar with this trap. Many people caring for an ailing parent or elderly loved one quickly realize that they cannot simply go into survival mode, dropping everything to help their loved one. Instead, they need to continue living their lives, giving time and energy to their own passions and pursuits as well as to their caregiving, otherwise they will burnout very quickly. This type of fatigue and anxiety can occur in much less drastic ways. Parents worry that they are not spending enough time with their children or that they are not doing a good enough job. Children worry that they don't get home to visit their parents enough. Spouses worry that they are too busy with work. In fact, many of my clients experience anxiety in part because of these types of worries.
We are human. It is in our nature to help those around us. In fact, many of us judge how "good" we are by how helpful we are to those around us. And yet, it is entirely possible to be too helpful. If we live and die by how helpful we are to our family and friends, we can quickly drown beneath those self-imposed burdens. It is important for all of us, especially those struggling with anxiety, to pay attention to how much pressure we put on ourselves to help others.