Four Tips to Deal with Caregiver Stress
Being a caregiver for a senior loved one can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It may become a full-time job and the change into this role can lead to depression and stress. While the health and happiness of a loved one are of the utmost importance, it is also important to take care of your own needs to avoid caregiver burnout. As the very wise adage goes, “You can’t pour from any empty cup.”
Here are four tips to reduce caregiver stress:
- Take Time for Yourself: The job of a caregiver can be very demanding and time-consuming, and you may feel like you are losing a sense of self. Be sure to make time for friends, family, and others who are important in your life. These bonds can help you during difficult periods. Remember to stay active with your hobbies, keep up on your reading list, and stay up to date with your favorite TV shows. Small mental vacations are important for your overall mental wellbeing. A simple walk around the neighborhood can give you some much needed alone time and allow you to get out of the house. On busier days when you have little or no time to get away, take a few moments to meditate or breathe slowly. These actions can lower your heart rate and help relieve some stress.
- Ask for Help: Trying to do everything alone can cause extra stress and make you feel isolated from the rest of the world. Remember it is not only okay to ask for help, but it is also very important. Set up a schedule with family members and friends to help look after your loved one and lighten your load. You should also seek caregiver resources in the community. Most areas have adult day care facilities that can be used for both long-term and short-term stays. Caregiver support groups in your area, or even online, are great resources. These people know what you are dealing with and can offer their own insights on what to do. Support groups are great for offering tips, guidance, and support during the most difficult periods. Knowing you are not the only one in this situation can help you feel less isolated.
- Remember to Stay Healthy: When you are giving constant care to a loved one, it is easy to forget about your own health. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, caregivers report higher levels of heart disease and diabetes than the population at large. They are also more likely to catch a cold or the flu. So make sure to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and keep up with your doctor's appointments. It is also important to stay active. Make physical fitness a priority and find time to workout throughout the week. If you are having a particularly busy day and cannot get away, do simple exercises at home like push ups and sit ups.
- Set a Schedule and Plan Ahead: Taking the unknown out of your everyday life can help lower stress and make your days run smoother. By staying ahead of the curve and anticipating any surprises, you can eliminate any extra stress on a day-to-day basis. Make a to-do list at night of the things you need to accomplish the next day. Plan ahead for meals, appointments, or visits. This will allow you to visualize what needs to be done and allow you to find times during the day to make it happen.