8 Ways to Deal with Caregiver Stress

It can be overwhelming to take care of a loved one who is aging or one living with cognitive problems or a disability. Too much stress can be harmful to you and to the one in your care. It’s important to recognize the signs of caregiver stress and to put actions in place to manage and reduce your stress and anxiety levels. 

Signs of caregiver stress
As a caregiver, you are “on call” almost all the time. This ongoing demand can make you become so focused on the loved one in your care, that you forget about yourself. It’s important to keep watch for these signs of caregiver stress:

•    Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
•    Feeling tired fairly often
•    Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
•    Gaining or losing weight
•    Becoming easily irritated or angry
•    Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
•    Feeling sad
•    Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
•    Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

Ways to manage and reduce caregiver stress
1. Accept help. Make a list of the ways family and friends can help you and let them choose what they would like to do. Be specific and let them know the days and times that you could use their help. 

2. Set daily goals. Having a laundry list of tasks that must get done each week can be overwhelming. Breakdown your week into daily goals and then prioritize and establish a daily routine. 

3. Exercise regularly. Schedule time each day to do some type of physical activity. Not only will it help you stay fit, exercise is a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.

4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Unhealthy eating patterns can cause stress levels to skyrocket and potentially increase your risk of health problems in the future. Being stressed can increase your needs for certain nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin, B, selenium (an antioxidant that fights oxidative stress and helps defend the body from chronic diseases), and magnesium.  A well-balanced and nutritious diet is one of the most important ingredients for good health.

5. Get plenty of sleep. Not getting quality sleep over a long period of time can cause health issues. If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor.

6. Join a support group. If you’re feeling alone and overwhelmed, finding a local support group can provide connection and interaction, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. The people in support groups will be nonjudgmental to your situation. They understand what you may be going through and can provide counsel, support, and even friendship. 

7. Take a well-deserved break. Everyone needs time away to relieve stress and restore energy. And, let’s face it…taking personal time for yourself can do a world of good! Hiring an outside source to offer support with respite care – from a few hours each week to several days – can allow family caregivers to step away from caregiving responsibilities and take care of themselves. Respite care is an essential part of being a caregiver.

8. Keep your doctor appointments. Studies have shown that caregivers are likely to suffer from several health problems. Make it a priority to see your doctor regularly to discuss any concerns or symptoms you have. Stress from caregiving can sneak up on you. Don’t put your own health and well-being on the backburner while taking care of someone else.

This article is provided by Dr. Deborah Moerland, Owner, FirstLight Home Care of Greater Lansing, MI. For more information, visit us online at Lansing.FirstLightHomeCare.com or call us at 517-483-2784.