5 Ways to Relieve Caregiver Stress
Being the primary caregiver for a loved one is an honorable undertaking that can be very rewarding. It is comforting knowing your friend or family member is being cared for by someone who knows and loves them. Unlike professional Care Providers who are trained to provide expert care, caregivers are often family members who take on this enormous responsibility themselves. Even if you enter this situation with the best intentions, caregiver stress and burnout can become overwhelming.
Causes of Caregiver Stress
Being a caregiver takes time out of your day and uses mental and physical energy that you then can’t put towards your other activities and responsibilities. In addition to these causes of caregiver stress, caring for an elderly loved one can also be physically and mentally taxing, so it can wear you out both mentally and physically, as well.
Caregiver stress symptoms are outlined below:
Feeling overwhelmed or worried
Many caregivers not only provide care for their elderly loved ones, but they also have additional responsibilities such as a job, caring for their own children and families, and involvement in additional, extracurricular activities. These typical life stresses combined with elderly caregiver stress can quickly cause people to feel overwhelmed.
The caregivers may also worry about how their loved one will fare if something happens to them. You may also struggle to get a good night’s sleep due to worrying about how you will manage the care of your loved one and your additional responsibilities.
Being tired, regardless of amount of sleep
This is another symptom of caregiver stress and burnout. Stress can cause us to worry, which can make sleeping difficult. In addition, you may feel exhausted due to the increased mental and physical strain of caregiving.
Weight gain or loss
Weight changes can be caused by not eating full meals, not eating on a regular schedule, by eating too much, by eating too often, or by eating unhealthy food (it is common to crave junk and/or comfort food when you are stressed. Stress also causes some people to lose their appetite). The strain of caregiving may mean you don’t find time for regular exercise, which can contribute to weight gain, as well.
Frequent headaches and other physical pains/discomfort
Elderly caregiver stress can lead to headaches, while other body aches can be caused by tight muscles resulting from tension. Also, these factors can contribute to a higher likelihood of injury if you were to twist badly, fall, or lift something incorrectly.
Depression can result from the strain of the burden of caring for a loved one. You may feel like you aren’t doing enough for the person you provide care for. This may be combined with guilt if you feel like you are spending too much time caring for your elderly loved one and not enough time with your own family/other responsibilities (or vice versa).
Irritability or anger
These feelings can result from a compilation of the caregiver stress symptoms mentioned above. They can also be caused by the exhaustion and worry that can accompany the responsibility of caregiving, as well as the physical and mental health strain you may find yourself feeling.
Click here for more information on what stress is and how to cope with it!
How to Cope with Caregiver Stress
Prolonged periods of stress can cause physical damage to your body. It is vital that you make time to take care of yourself, or you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. Below are five tips for how to cope with caregiver stress:
DEEP BREATHING TO REDUCE CAREGIVER STRESS
When you start to feel your stress level rise, find a quiet place and practice slow, controlled breathing. Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold the breath for a few seconds, and then release it slowly through your mouth. Deep breaths increase the amount of oxygen in your blood, which will instantly help to calm you. Repeat this technique as many times and as often as necessary to help calm yourself.
REDUCE STRESS BY ENGAGING IN ACTIVITIES YOU ENJOY
In all the busyness of providing round-the-clock care, it can feel as if you don’t have time for the things you used to do. Find some opportunities to partake in relaxing hobbies that you enjoy. Read a book, go for a hike, go see a movie, or do something creative! Regularly scheduled self-care is essential to your mental health. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you become more prone to illness, injury, or burnout, meaning you’ll be less capable of taking care of your loved one.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT YOUR STRESS SYMPTOMS
It is important that you keep up on all of your own regularly scheduled appointments. Be open with your doctor about any symptoms of elderly caregiver stress you may be experiencing. Your practitioner will be able to suggest ways to help you manage your stress and any physical side effects you are noticing.
TALK WITH OTHER CAREGIVERS ABOUT YOUR STRESS
Being a caregiver can be isolating, but sharing your experience with others who understand can make it less so. Find someone you can talk to about what you are going through, whether that is a therapist, a friend, or a family member. You can also look for a caregiver support group that meets regularly in your local area or online. Meeting with other caregivers will help you realize you are not alone, and you can exchange tips for care.
ACCEPT HELP WHEN YOU ARE STRESSED
Many times, the flood of people offering to help you can seem overwhelming. You may also feel that you don’t want to inconvenience or burden others. Take some time to sit down and make a list of ways others can help to ease your stress load. This can include transporting the person under your care to appointments, preparing meals, doing laundry, or they can just stay with your loved one temporarily to give you a short break. Present this list to those who are offering to help and allow them to choose which tasks they want to assist with.
If you do not have friends and family who are able to assist, you may be able to find respite services through agencies and organizations outside of the home. There are many different options that are provided by community or faith-based organizations and healthcare facilities. Many times, insurance can help to pay for at least part of these services. Call the insurance company to find out what exactly is covered.
Click here for more ways to handle caregiver stress!
Find Help to Cope with Caregiver Stress Today
If you are a caregiver who is experiencing stress symptoms, we can help! If you live in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area, including Maryland and Virginia, contact Advanced Nursing & Home Support. We provide a wide range of services including in-home care, transportation, and respite care. Our skilled and compassionate staff is here for you if you’re experiencing caregiver stress and burnout.
Contact us online or by phone at 240-414-4147 to request more information.