How Can a Caregiver Manage Stress?
A caregiver is anyone who provides assistance to another person in need, whether it is a family member or a stranger. No matter how resilient or sturdy you are, caring for a loved one or another adult can be physically and mentally draining because the emotional and physical demands of caregiving are often overwhelming.
If you are a caregiver, you need to learn strategies to cope with stress and preserve your health and wellbeing. The first step in boosting your resilience is to recognize and acknowledge the symptoms of stress.
Signs of Stress in a Caregiver
Caring for a loved one with dementia or other disabling condition may cause you to neglect your own wellbeing. As a caregiver, you may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. Here are some of the most common symptoms of caregiver stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Constant worry and fear
- Feeling sad and hopeless
- Sleep problems
- Frequent headaches or other bodily pains and aches
- A lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Angry outbursts
- Eating problems (losing or gaining excessive weight)
- Alcohol and drug abuse
Ongoing or excessive stress can seriously harm your health to the point where you will not able to take care of yourself, let alone another person.
Here are helpful tips on how to manage caregiver stress.
1. Get Informed
Learn about your loved one’s condition. This will help you better understand their needs and clarify expectations. Find about caregiving resources in your community (housekeeping, transportation, grocery delivery) as these can help ease the burden of your day to day duties.
2. Take Care of Yourself
While caregiving duties may occupy most of your time, try not to neglect your own needs and health. Do something good for yourself and try to relax as much as possible. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, as physical activity can boost your mood, help clear your thoughts, and increase energy levels.
Practice mindfulness meditation and relaxation, to calm your mind and body. Studies show that practicing mindfulness allows you to stay focused on a present moment, which helps ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, improves self-esteem, and increases optimism.
3. Stay Socially Active
Don’t withdraw from social circles and isolate yourself from your family and friends. People who you can trust such as close friends and family members are an important source of support, so set aside time for socializing, even if it’s just a short walk with your sister or a weekly brunch with a friend.
4. Join a Support Group
Support groups for caregivers can provide encouragement and understanding. Also, these groups are a valuable source of useful problem-solving strategies when it comes to handling difficult situations each caregiver encounters sooner or later. Finally, support groups are a great place to socialize and share experiences with other caregivers.
Self-care and social support can boost your mood, increase optimism, improve self-esteem, raise resilience, and help you cope with stress.
However, no matter how close you and the person you care for are, you cannot and should not bear the weight of the loved one’s illness. So, be aware of your limits and seek professional help for yourself if needed.