Ask Kari: How can I help my exhausted wife take better care of herself?

Dear Kari,

My wife recently thought that she was having a heart attack and ended up in the emergency room. She was told that she had an anxiety attack. She was told to de-stress her life, but she won’t do it. She is always doing too much for everyone. She is exhausting herself trying to keep up with all the tasks and committees she volunteers for. Plus, we have three teenagers in our home, and she works part-time. How can I make her take care of herself before everyone else?

--Loving Husband

Dear Loving Husband,

It sounds like you are attempting to be a good support for your wife by reminding her to take care of herself. Anxiety is often brought on by stress, fear, and feeling overwhelmed to the point that one loses their ability to function.  With your wife’s schedule, I could see how she could become overwhelmed. It would be important for her to look at what she truly needs to be doing in her daily life, and what can be cut to allow her more downtime for herself. She will have to do this on her own, as she is the one who volunteers and overcommits herself to a fault. Sometimes people who over-commit lack self-esteem and sign up for too much as a way to compensate for poor self-image, including the belief that they cannot say no to a request and take time for themselves. If she continues to struggle with anxiety, I recommend that she talk with her doctor and follow-up with a therapist for additional support.


As published in the February 2014 issue of Connections.

About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and the owner and Clinical Director of Issaquah Highlands Counseling Group (IHCG), which is now Kari O’Neill Counseling.

This column is for entertainment purposes only. If you are in crisis and in need of support please contact the Crisis Clinic at 866-427-4747.