Anyone who has ever been a caregiver knows that it is a stressful job. Women who are caregivers are especially likely to experience stress.
Symptoms of stress include mood swings, social withdrawal, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. And stress can lead to serious health risks, including high blood pressure and anxiety.
Here are a few natural stress-management techniques you can use to lower the amount of stress in your daily life.
5 Ways to Manage Caregiver Stress
- Get enough sleep at night.
The stress of caregiving may cause you to lie awake at night worrying about your loved one and your to-do list. Unfortunately, this only increases stress and fatigue.
For a good night’s sleep, it’s important to practice good “sleep hygiene.”
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Avoid caffeine after noon.
- Limit screen time, such as using tablets or watching television, beginning a few hours before bed.
- Get plenty of natural light during the day and keep your bedroom dark at night.
- Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Many people find that journaling also helps with the anxious thoughts that keep them awake.
- Practice thoughtful stress management.
Meditation, controlled breathing, and mindfulness may reduce stress by helping you focus scattered thoughts. These activities also can reduce certain symptoms of stress, such as rapid heart rate and muscle tension.
Set aside time every day to practice slow, deep breathing. Concentrate on a single thing in the room, like a spot on the wall. You might also close your eyes and focus on a sensation in your body, such as your feet against the floor.
You can also try one of the many free apps that can help guide you through relaxation techniques.
- Incorporate exercise into your routine.
When you’re mentally and physically exhausted from caregiving, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. However, exercise can help reduce stress, improve mood, and even boost your energy.
Just about any type of exercise can help, whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood, a water aerobics class, bicycling, or yoga. If you do not exercise already, talk to your doctor about how to start. It’s important to start slow and gradually build up your fitness level.
- Build a social network.
We tend to isolate ourselves from others during difficult times, but it’s important to reach out for support. Not only can you ask others to help care for your loved one, but social contact itself can relieve stress.
Calling a relative or going out for coffee with a friend can distract you from the things that cause stress and give you the support you need. If you can laugh about something together, even better—laughter also helps reduce stress.
- Take advantage of respite care.
A short-term respite stay at a senior living community can provide a loved one with an opportunity for socialization, while also giving the caregiver a break. Most senior living communities welcome respite stays of a few days or a few weeks.
There is help for caregiver stress.
When managing the stress of caring for a loved one, it is important not to neglect your own needs. If you believe that stress is seriously affecting your health, talk about it with your physician. He or she can help you find other ways to manage stress and stay healthy.