5 Ways Caregivers Can Manage Stress
Maybe you take care of a parent, who's in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Or you've been tending to the needs of your wife since she was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe your child was born with a lifelong condition requiring specialized care.
Whatever the situation, most family caregivers tend to have at least one thing in common: They forget to take care of themselves.
While caring for a loved one is gratifying, the demands can sometimes be difficult. The shift in roles combined with the extra demands on your time and energy can be quite stressful. Women who are caregivers are especially likely to experience stress.
Symptoms of stress include mood swings, social withdrawal, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Stress can lead to serious health risks, including high blood pressure and anxiety, and heart issues.
To be an effective caregiver, one must practice self-care.
Here are a few stress-management techniques you can use daily to lower your stress levels and take care of yourself,
- Get enough night-time rest.
Lying in bed awake at night, worrying about your loved one and tomorrow’s to-do list can cause stress and make falling asleep difficult.
For a good night’s sleep, it’s important to practice good “sleep hygiene.”
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
- Avoid caffeine after noon.
- Limit screen time, such as using tablets or watching television, a few hours before bed.
- Keep your bedroom dark at night.
- Spend a few minutes before bed journaling your thoughts.
Meditation, controlled breathing, and mindfulness may reduce stress by helping you organized scattered thoughts. Set aside time every day to practice slow, deep breathing. Concentrate on a single thing in the room, like a spot on the wall. You may also close your eyes.
- Be physically active.
When you’re mentally and physically exhausted, exercise is usually last thing on your mind. However, exercise can help reduce stress, boost your energy and improve your mood.Whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood, a water aerobics class, bicycling, or yoga, any type of exercise can help.
Schedule time on your calendar for exercise, and keep the appointment with yourself. Try to exercise most days of the week. If you do not exercise already, talk to your doctor about how to start. It’s important to start slow and gradually build up your fitness level
- Reach out to your social network.
We tend to isolate ourselves from others during difficult times, but it’s important to reach out for support. Stay in touch with family and friends. Maybe join a support group for caregivers. Grab some lunch or a coffee with a friend or call that friend that makes you laugh.
Realizing you’re not alone ore the only one dealing with the same issues can help you feel less isolated
- Seek assistance with care.
Everyone needs a break now and the, especially caregivers. You can ask a family member, friend or neighbor to take over caregiving duties for a few hours or days. Or look into arranging respite care services through a home care agency or nursing home.
A short-term respite stay at a senior living community or Assisted Living Facility can provide a loved one with an opportunity to socialize with others, while also giving the caregiver a break.
Supportive Services at Catholic Health Services
You can learn more about our Assisted Living Facilities and other supportive services and health care designed to meet the needs of those who need help with daily living activities. You can learn more about our respite care services here.
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver—itʼs an important part of the job. You are responsible for your own self-care. If you believe that stress is seriously affecting your health, talk about it with your physician.
If you are a caregiver, what are some of the ways you manage stress and prioritize self-care?