Welcome back to the third (and final) episode of our three-part blog mini-series covering the subject of “Caregiver Stress”. We looked back on the calendar year 2022 to date and discovered that issues related to caregiver stress was a regular and recurring subject that those self-managing assisted living services at home and also memory care services at home.
Below we link to the prior two blog posts on this subject. Here are the three different topics that we are covering:
- What is Caregiver Stress
- What are the Causes of Caregiver Stress
- What Can You do to Manage Caregiver Stress
If you are new here to our The Birches at Villa Rica Assisted Living and Memory Care Blog, you’ll soon discover our blog to be a fantastic free resource on ways to learn about assisted living care and memory care and help you both provide your loved one with quality care while helping maximize your quality of life along your loving journey.
So now, onto the ways to manage caregiver stress.
Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress
The feelings of tension you may feel as a caregiver can frustrate and exhaust you. Fortunately, there are plenty of helpful techniques you can use to manage your stress. We took to social media and got feedback from real caregivers on how they manage the pressure. Here are our favorite tips from fellow caregivers and thought leaders on how to deal with caregiver stress:
Complete Small Tasks to Regain Control
When dealing with another person’s fluctuating health, it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed and out of control. If this describes you, try this caregiver’s simple, helpful tip.
1. Eat Right
What we put into our bodies is what we get out of them. Proper nutrition is crucial self-care that can be left to the wayside when under a lot of stress. However, stressful times are when your body needs healthy fuel the most. Avoid skipping meals, snacks or overindulging in alcohol. Instead, set aside regular times each day to enjoy a balanced breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner.
2. Get Enough Sleep
When your mind is racing around a track with a million things to do on it, it’s only natural that your sleep may suffer. But you can’t avoid it: your body and brain unquestionably need time to recharge. Amazing things happen when you sleep, like muscle relaxation, tissue growth and repair and energy restoration. How well you sleep affects nearly every aspect of what happens in your waking hours, so make sure to get those quality ZZZs. Aim for 7-9 hours each night, preferably at consistent times.
If you are physically capable, getting your body moving and your blood pumping is an almost guaranteed way to relieve tension. Physical activity pumps up your “feel-good” endorphins and refocuses your mind on your body’s movements, releasing stress and improving your mood. Physically, exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and can even regulate your sleep cycle by making it easier to fall (and stay) asleep.
Virtually any physical activity works: walking, jogging, gardening, housecleaning, biking, swimming or anything else that gets you moving. Find time, even if it means asking someone else to provide care while you take a break.
4. Try Meditation
Meditation creates a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both mind and body, and it encourages the use of breathing to get through stress. You’ll focus your attention on the sensations you experience, squeezing out anxious thoughts. The best part? You can meditate almost anywhere, from a doctor’s office to a bus ride.
5. Do a Little Coloring (Really!)
Think coloring books are just for kids? Think again. Adult coloring books have become an increasingly popular way to decrease stress through mindfulness, the act of focusing on being in the present moment.
6. Have a Healthy Dose of Laughter
Did you know that laughter lightens your emotional load and actually causes physical changes in your body? Laughter enhances your oxygen intake, relieves mental stress and soothes physical tension. Try switching up the nightly news with a favorite comedian’s stand-up or a classic rom-com or call your funniest friend. And speaking of friends…
7. Get Social
Spending quality time with friends and family has long been a stress relief tactic used across many cultures and time periods. When you spend time with your social circle, you experience better mental health, a stronger immune system and can even lower your risk of dementia!
If you don’t have much time to meet up out of the house, or your friends and family are long-distance, don’t worry: video chatting and phone calls can provide many of the same positive effects as face-to-face socializing.
8. Start Journaling
Putting your thoughts and feelings into written words can be a good release for pent-up emotions. Writing often provides perspective that thinking, or even talking, cannot always give. In addition to venting out your worries, journaling is also a good place to list out all the positives in your life that you’re grateful for.
9. Don’t Go Through Your Health Journey Alone
You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.
10. Get a Pet
Therapy animals are around for a reason. Our favorite furry friends provide many stress-relieving benefits when they cuddle us, learn a new trick or simply just look adorable. Whether you prefer a dog, cat, parakeet or fish, owning and loving a pet can be enormously beneficial. And if you’re thinking that you can’t take care of yet another thing, not to fear: these low-maintenance pets might change your mind.
11. Just Say ‘No’
Yep, you read that right. You are more than allowed to turn requests down if you feel that you’re getting overwhelmed with responsibilities and places you just have to be. When you say ‘no’ to adding another “to-do” on your list, you’re opening up an opportunity to have very important time for yourself. You are a priority, too!
12. Reclaim Your Identity
Spending time on your passions will help remind you that you are more than a caregiver. Try to take time at least once a day to engage in an activity that makes you feel most like yourself outside of your caregiving role. It can feel like you don’t even have time to wash your face at the end of a long day, much less take 30 minutes to yourself. But there are opportunities to carve out you-time every single day. If you leave for work, use your lunch hour to go outside and read a book or magazine. If you stay home, take time to play your favorite music or make dinnertime exciting by cooking a fun, new recipe. It’s the little things that make us who we are and it’s important not to forget about them.
13. Prioritize Your Own Medical Needs
Caregivers still have regular checkups and dentist appointments, just like anyone else. It can be easy to get so caught up in the medical treatment of your loved one that you forget that you actually share some of the same needs. Take note of any appointments you’ve missed or may need in the next few months, and if necessary, start enlisting help so that you can make your appointments without a hitch.
Also, don’t forget about therapy. It might not be for everyone, but therapy is a tool that’s definitely worth considering. Many therapists specialize in the managing and relieving of stress through means such as Progressive Relaxation Training, mindfulness-based techniques and more. To find out about the different types of therapy and which one might be right for you, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and discuss getting a referral.
14. Ask for (and Accept) Help
It’s ironic that the people who spend so much of their time and energy helping others often find it incredibly difficult to accept help themselves. Here’s what a couple caregivers said helped them with this:
Some other ideas on this: Make a to-do list and recruit others to pitch in to help with meal planning, trips to the pharmacy, walking the dog, watering plants… everything that goes with your caregiver role.
Home care providers, we hope this mini-series proved to be helpful. Until next time, know that we are your biggest fans and stand ready to assist in any way we can. Very warm best wishes from all of us here at The Birches Assisted Living & Memory Care!