Caregiving can be highly stressful, exhausting and isolating. It is also essential to the health and well-being of someone you love who needs care. Is it possible to manage stress while also juggling the other responsibilities of work and family? Yes, it is, and here are ten suggestions to manage caregiver stress.
1. Eat well: Good nutrition is your friend. Healthy, fresh foods will keep your energy high and your mind clear. A bit of chocolate here and there can be a good idea too, but for the most part you should avoid high fat, fried and processed foods. They may seem like a good idea but in the long run they will make you lethargic.
2. Sleep well: Slicing time off your sleep schedule to get things done is actually an exercise in diminishing returns. The less you sleep the less you will get done. Sleep benefits your health, allowing your brain and body to refresh and renew itself. Sleep well and you are more apt to work at maximum productivity during the day.
3. Take a walk: Even a brisk walk around the block will do you wonders. You don’t have to run a marathon or hike up a mountain. All you have to do is take a walk. If you can’t leave the house during the day, take a walk first thing in the morning. If you drive to your loved one’s house, park a block away and walk to the house. If you have to go to the supermarket, park at the end of the parking lot and walk as briskly as you can to the store. You will feel better as the oxygen pumps through your body to your brain.
4. Stay in touch with friends: There is nothing like good friends. You can commiserate with them, laugh with them and lean on them for support. Stay in close touch with your friends and remember that they want to help.
5. Acknowledge your feelings: There are good days and bad days as a caregiver. When you are tired you may feel resentful. You may wonder why you are the one who has to shoulder the caregiving burden. These feelings are natural. Acknowledge them, process them and then move on. Burying them in a corner of your mind will only increase your stress levels.
6. Schedule breaks: The only way to get a break as a caregiver may be to schedule it. Actually, write it on the calendar and make it non-negotiable. Call friends and family members and schedule them to serve as the caregiver during that time or hire a professional caregiver. They are experts at helping people manage caregiver stress. Don’t feel badly. You deserve it and taking a break will go a long way toward reducing your stress.
7. Organization is your friend: Lists, calendars, electronic and/or paper folders are important tools for you as a caregiver. Don’t add stress to your day by trying to remember important appointments. As your loved one’s health changes your responsibilities will increase. A binder filled with all the forms, lists of medications and doctor’s appointments will support you and make you feel more in control.
8. Take advantage of community resources: Most communities have a wide range of support services for seniors. Transportation, daily activities, hobby groups, and meals on wheels are just some of them. The following sources will help you to find community resources near you:
- Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
- National Institute on Aging website
- Family Care Navigator
- Your state government’s website, search for “elder care”, “senior care”, or “INSERT STATE NAME Executive Office of Elder Affairs.”
- Home Care agencies can also be a great resource for at-home caregiving support.
9. Incorporate new habits into your day: In the small moments of the day you can practice relaxation. Find what works for you. For example, while your loved one takes a nap, you can sit in a chair and practice deep breathing exercises or chair yoga. While your loved one is watching television, close your eyes and focus on breathing. These quick exercises are actually a form of meditation. They can calm you and reduce your stress.
10. Talk: If you keep your feelings inside it will increase your stress and may also cause physical ailments like high blood pressure. Find a way to talk about your feelings. You can talk to a friend, a close family member, a member of the clergy or a therapist. You can talk to your dog or cat. The important thing is to talk about your feelings and get them out of your mind and your body. Your stress levels will lower when you do.
Caregiver stress is very real challenge that plagues the industry. As a community, we need to work together to prevent caregiver burnout. If you know a caregiver struggling with stress or have recently suffered from burnout, there are a number of ways to ensure caregiver burnout recovery.