As a caregiver, you have many responsibilities and challenges to juggle, and stress can be a common reaction to your lifestyle. No one can simply banish stress; the key is to manage stress, which may require tweaking your lifestyle and your schedule. You’ll recognize many of the symptoms of stress, and you’ll find practical tips below for managing stress and being good to yourself.
Top Cause of Caregiver Stress
Research conducted at Northwestern University revealed that “a lack of understanding and help from friends and relatives causes the most stress and the greatest threat to a caregiver’s own health and well-being.” They’re on the outside looking in, and it can be hard for them to fully understand or appreciate your situation.
Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
You’re probably intimately familiar with some of the symptoms of caregiver stress as defined by the Alzheimer’s Association. Most of these symptoms apply to all caregivers, not just those caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, and include symptoms such as feelings of anger or denial about your loved one’s condition, anxiety or depression, withdrawal from friends and family, exhaustion, and problems concentrating.
How to Manage Caregiver Stress
One of the best ways to prevent stress is to live a balanced life. The tips below will help you find some balance and help prevent or manage stress. If you can’t manage a complete overhaul, incorporate a few of the tips until you’re comfortable, and then keep adding a few at a time.
- Eat Right: Swear off empty calories and junk food and eat proper meals at the table. Limit alcohol, coffee, tea, and sodas, and drink plenty of water.
- Exercise: Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University says that short bursts of walking through house 10 minutes at a time can be effective if you can squeeze in a total of 20-30 minutes a day, three times a week.
- Get Restful Sleep: Create a restful environment in your bedroom, turn off the TV, and make time to wind down before going to bed.
- Play With Your Pets: Missouri Western University presents research that confirms pets not only reduce stress but also can have a positive effect on physical health.
- Get Social: Reconnect with your friends.
- Acknowledge Success: You’re doing all you can. Be proud of what you have accomplished and accept things over which you have no control.
- Get Quiet: Allow yourself some quiet time for relaxation — meditation, yoga, or whatever you find relaxing and rejuvenating.
- Treat Yourself Occasionally: Get a makeover, buy a new outfit, get a massage — whatever makes you feel special.
- Learn to Say No: You can only do so much.
- Ask for Help: Make your requests specific.
- Laugh: YouTube is full of hilarious videos, so take a quick laugh break as often as you can.
- Fire Up Your Browser: Rush University Medical Center has a full resource center devoted to relieving caregiver stress.
- Get Help: If the stress becomes too much for you to handle, seek professional help from your doctor.
You have a very good excuse for being under stress, but you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Your efforts at managing caregiver stress will be rewarded with an increase in your physical and emotional well-being.