How to Prevent Caregiver Stress
The reality of caring for an older adult means an influx in demands and an increased level of stress. This piece will review why stress is so common amongst caregivers, the most common symptoms of caregiver stress, along with ways to relieve yourself of that stress.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Caregivers can get so wrapped up into looking out for their loved one that they lose track of of their own stress levels, and these increased levels of stress can begin to affect the caregiver physically. Weight fluctuation is a major sign of caregiver stress. If you find yourself losing or gaining an abnormal amount of weight, you need to evaluate your own nutrition. Food can prevent caregiver burnout by improving your health. Skipping meals is common amongst caregivers who are overwhelmed in the moment by the pressing needs of their care receiver. Before you know it, you’ve already missed breakfast or lunch, and therefore haven’t gotten the necessary energy to carry you throughout the day. Overeating is another unconscious thing many do when stressed, so large amounts of weight gain should be treated seriously as well.
Common symptoms of caregiver stress include: feeling tired, being in a constant state of worry, lacking interests outside of caregiving, sudden mood swings, the abuse of alcohol or drugs, and headaches. As a caregiver, it’s of utmost importance to find time to reflect on your own well-being. Being self-aware and acknowledging any challenges or struggles you’re facing is a necessary step toward managing and dissipating caregiver stress.
How to Prevent Caregiver Stress
Even though stress may be inevitable for some caregivers, there are ways to prevent caregiver stress before it starts. Stress often comes from a sense of being inundated by the problems around them; for instance, there may be so much on a caregiver’s plate that there’s no way they could possibly stay on top of everything. Being organized is a great strategy to avoid those negative feelings. Make a calendar with a full schedule of your care receiver’s doctor appointments. Set reminders on your phone or in a day planner with the times that your loved one needs to take medication. Creating a to-do list or checklist each day will help you keep everything in order and will better allow you dodge the feeling of caregiver stress.
Being healthy is another positive method of staving off the physical and mental strains of caregiving, as well as preventing caregiver burnout. If you didn’t practice the most healthy habits before you began your journey as a caregiver, changing your lifestyle for the better is more important now than ever. In addition to becoming more physically fit and therefore better equipped to deal with the pressures associated with caregiving, eating healthy can boost your energy when you’re experiencing caregiver burnout.The more positives there are in your life, especially ones that you’ve created for yourself and can control, the better you are able to manage your caregiver stress.
How to Cope with Caregiver Stress
Don’t be hesitant to ask for help or feel ashamed to do so. Feeling overwhelmed is a common emotion when experiencing caregiver stress and if you are feeling overwhelmed, seek support. Reach out to others to help you with care, like assisted care facilities or other family members, and contact people who can help your own wellbeing too. Support groups for caregivers are easier to come by than ever these days and take the form of hotlines, online chat rooms and in-person meetings.
Remaining in the moment can also help relieve stress. Rather than thinking of the subsequent challenges you’ll face in the future, focus on the task at hand and handle one thing at a time. Being present will help prevent negatives feelings overcome by the stresses of caregiving.
Entertaining yourself is another useful strategy for those suffering from the demands and pressures of providing care. Music is a great way to cope with caregiver stress. Playing your favorite songs or album while preparing a meal for your loved one can allow you to remain productive, while also giving your mind time to relax. Watching a TV show or a movie in the room with your loved one may not only entertain you, but can can also occupy the aging adult as well.
Many caregivers who experience large amounts of stress work around the clock. Sometimes it is difficult to balance various demands. If you need to take a break from work, and can afford to do so, there are options that protect you by law. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act can give employees up to three months a year of unpaid leave for caregiving. If you sense that you may be suffering from burnout, consider taking some time off to reset emotionally, mentally and physically.
How you Deal with Stress
Nearly 65 percent of caregivers experience levels of moderate to high stress. If you’re part of the 35 percent who are stress free, keep up the good work and continue to practice healthy habits. For caregivers, it’s typically not a question of if you will feel stress, but rather how you deal with the stress. We hope the above tips and information help you manage your caregiver stress and prevent you from developing caregiver burnout.