Being a caregiver is one of the biggest and most challenging jobs in the world. While it can be very rewarding to look after a family member or loved one in their time of need, it can also put a great deal of stress on any individual. As a caregiver, it is so important that you do what you can to take care of yourself. After all, taking care of yourself allows you to be the best caregiver possible and deliver the best care to those you are looking after.
Due to the demands of this job, there is no real way to avoid caregiver stress. There are, however, ways that you can reduce stress as a caregiver, whether this is a role you are taking on personally, or if it you are helping a caregiver you know manage the stress they are experiencing in their lives.
Here are simple, yet proven ways to help reduce caregiver stress.
Stay Connected to Others- It is very easy for caregivers to get caught up in their responsibilities as care providers that they start to isolate themselves. Perhaps they think no one else understands or perhaps they are too busy and tired to spend time socializing. Either way, it is important that caregivers stay connected with others. This can be as simple as going to coffee with a friend or talking to a therapist, or fellow caregiver, it is important to have human connection during this stressful time.
Get Help- Caregivers are used to taking care of others, making it difficult for them to seek out help for themselves. Every caregiver who is looking to manage their stress needs to know where to go for help, and they need to make sure that they receive that help. There are many online and in-person support networks, community resources and local groups that are designed with caregivers in mind.
Educate Yourself- So much of caregiver stress really comes from uncertainty and facing the unknown. Caregivers who educate themselves on aging, turn to disability resources and are aware of their loved one’s conditions and diseases deal with less uncertainty and can communicate more openly with doctors.
Consider Respite Care- Respite services are perhaps the most important type of care services available for full-time caregivers. These “fill in” care providers can give caregivers a break when they need it, whether it is for a few hours at a time or so caregivers can take a much-needed vacation. There are professional respite care services, or caregivers can rely on friends and family members for this type fill-in care.
Practice Self-Care- Caregivers need to be careful about losing their identity when they take on a caregiving role. Caregivers who become so engrossed in their responsibilities tend to lose sight of the things they enjoy the most. This is why it is so important for caregivers to practice self- care and to make sure that they are doing the hobbies and activities that they enjoy the most. Perhaps this is reading, exercising, or knitting. Whatever it is that makes you feel fulfilled, it is important to make time for it.
Get Exercise- Exercise is so important for you physically, but it is also important for you mentally, and to help you improve your mood and balance your stress. Daily exercise breaks can help give you the relief that you need during the day and help burn off some of that extra caregiver stress that may be getting you down.
Stay as Healthy as Possible- Many people, including caregivers, fail to keep their health in check when they are in a stressed state. This can mean not sleeping, over or under eating, increased alcohol consumption and more. This will only make stress work. Do your best to keep yourself in good health and you will see the impact it has.
Stay Positive- This can be easier said than done, but if you want to keep that caregiver stress at bay, you need to do your best to maintain a positive outlook. Whether you are writing in a gratitude journal or just making a real effort to put a positive spin on every situation, a good attitude can be your best friend when fighting back against stress.
Meditation- This is a great tool for any person battling any type of stress. A great deal of evidence has been done on mindful meditation and its ability to easy psychological stress. The simple, deep breaking exercises used with meditation can help relax the mind and body and help with anxiety and even depression.
Lori Thomas has over a decade of writing experience in the health, legal, and consulting industries. Her writing for SeniorAdvice.com is informed by years of research as well as hands-on family expertise. Lori has experience as a caregiver with her now late mother, who had chronic health issues for most of her life. She has a B.S. in Human and Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University. Lori lives in Austin, TX and enjoys traveling, yoga and spiritual exploration.