How to Reduce Caregiver Stress

November 14th, 2019 | For Family Members


As our population ages, providing care for aging parents is becoming more common by the day.

Over the past several years, we have seen a dramatic increase in adults providing care for their spouses or aging parents. While providing this service to your family can be rewarding, it can also take a toll on your personal life in the form of financial stress, having drastically less personal time, feeling drained and generally overwhelmed.

The holiday season is a particularly stressful time for caregivers. Providing care to your loved one, taking care of your own family and making time for yourself is a delicate balancing act that can all too quickly fall apart. It’s easy to dedicate too much time to the others while not enough for yourself, increasing the risk of burnout and fatigue. This type of caregiver stress can lead to a variety of personal complications such as:

  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Financial difficulties
  • Struggling to cope
  • Difficulty providing care due to advancing Alzheimer’s, reduced physical abilities and other senior related health issues.

When Caregiver Stress Becomes an Issue

Caregivers are often so focused on their loved ones that they forget to think about themselves and their own lives. This is detrimental in many ways, and can lead to declining health, anger or frustration, fatigue and even drug and alcohol abuse.

Over time, the effects of stress or caregiver fatigue have a huge effect on your overall wellbeing and health. On top of stress, fatigue, depression, or exhaustion, many caregivers do not get enough sleep, physical activity or proper nutrition because they are so busy dedicating their time to the care of someone else. This can even lead to a variety of future health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

8 Strategies to Reduce Caregiver Stress

While the emotional strain and physical stress associated with caregiving can be very taxing, simply taking advantage of the resources and tools available to you can help you provide better care for both your loved ones and yourself. It’s important to remember that if you aren’t taking care of yourself, your ability to take care of others suffers too.

Stay Connected with Others

Sharing and vocalizing experiences can help caregivers manage fatigue and stress. It’s important to realize that you can talk about your stressors with fellow caregivers, clergy, friends, and family.

Seek and Accept Help from Others

Often, when individuals truly need support or assistance in tough situations they withdraw rather than joining support networks to get the help they need. Don’t be afraid to reach out to these groups - they exist for a reason. Support networks come from the community, online support, local groups and other professionals.

Understand What the Future Looks Like for You and Your Loved One

Talking to medical staff about the available options during aging, declining health, and disease can make a lot of difference. You can also obtain support from Aging and Disability Resources Centers. Additionally, there are other programs in the community to talk to about aging adults and their caregivers. This will equip you with the information you need in order to fully understand your situation and caring requirements, and ultimately to provide more effective care.

Find Respite and Relaxation

Getting a break for a few hours or days is always beneficial - whether it be in a faith-based organization, a social group or health club. Don’t feel guilty about spending this time on yourself either. While it might seem that you need to spend all of your time with your loved one, taking time for yourself is absolutely crucial in order to rest and recover. The more time you spend on yourself, the better shape you will be in to care for others.

Practice Self-Care Regularly

Participate in enjoyable and relaxing activities. This could include social outings, hobbies, art or other creative endeavors. Sometimes reading, listening to music, watching a movie, or simply relaxing can drastically improve your state of mind. The activity itself doesn’t matter so much as the act of practicing self-care. Make it a habit; even 15 minutes per day will make a huge difference.

Exercise

Exercise is a miracle drug that can improve your mental and physical health in a big way. Being active improves your mood, reduces stress and minimizes your risk of contracting debilitating diseases. It’s a crucial tool for staying in shape and remaining level-headed. Exercise everyday if you can. And remember that anything is better than nothing - even a long walk once a day will do wonders for both your body and your mind.

Stay Healthy with a Regular Schedule

Stress is the mind-killer. It can cause people to lose sleep, overeat or under eat, drink excessively, smoke and consume drugs. Maintaining a regular schedule is one way to combat this. Ensure that you get enough sleep, get to bed around the same time every night, and eat healthily. Maintaining a regular schedule will give your days a sense of structure and help you to remain grounded and healthy.

Keep a Positive Perspective with Meditation and Other Tactics

Sometimes it can be tough to keep a positive outlook. That being said, there are tools such as meditation, conscious breathing and journaling that can be used to help reduce stress and encourage positivity. These techniques also help to reduce negative and fatalistic thoughts while also fostering feelings of gratefulness.

 

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