Being the primary caregiver for a sick or dying loved one can exact a steep emotional toll. About one in three caregivers rate their stress level as high. Sometimes the pressure of caring a loved one can lead to high stress and even caregiver burnout. You may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. It is very important for you to learn how to deal with this stress, which can affect your body in physical, mental, and emotional ways.
When you are caring for others it is critical that you first take care of yourself. By not caring for yourself, you are at risk of exhaustion, health problems, and even total burnout. Here are some tips that can help you make sure you keep your stress levels in check.
- Put your physical needs first: Make sure you are eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, and having regular medical checkups. Find time to exercise. If you feel you might be experiencing depression talk to a medical professional.
- Accept help and ask for help: Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you (e.g. pick up groceries, go on a walk a few times a week with your loved one, take a full day of your responsibilities, etc). Do not be afraid to ask others to pitch in and gladly accept the help when they offer.
- Stay connected: Isolation can increase stress. It is important to get together regularly with relatives and friends and get out of the house. Times of fellowship with others can help keep your negative emotions away. You might want to join a support group to get encouragement from others in similar situation and make new friends.
- Call on community resources: Consider asking a geriatric care manager to coordinate aspects of care for your loved one. Oftentimes volunteers or staff from faith-based organizations or civic groups might pitch in to help with some of the responsibilities. Look for organizations like the Red Cross or the Alzeheimer’s Association that offer courses on care giving. Check your local hospital for classes as well.
- Find time to relax: Do something you enjoy doing to recharge you. Don’t be afraid to take breaks every once in a while. Look into getting a senior home care provider for a period of time. Sometimes assisted living facilities will accept short-term residents.
- Don’t give in to guilt: Do not be afraid to say “no.” Accept the fact that you simply cannot do everything. Resist the urge to take on more responsibilities and do not let yourself feel guilty about saying no.
- Deal with your feeling: Do not bottle up your emotions because this can take a toll on your physical well being. Share your feelings of frustration with friends and family. Consider talking with a professional counselor to help you keep your emotions healthy.
- Look for ways to ease financial burdens: Read Are You Eligible for Payment for Family Caregiving? This article will give you advice on receiving payment for your work as a caregiver, which may help alleviate some financial burdens that are contributing to stress levels.
- Get organized: Use simple tools like calendars and to-do lists so that you can prioritize your responsibilities. Make sure to take on the most important tasks first. Do not worry if you cannot manage everything. Look for ways to cut out less important responsibilities.
- Stay positive: Do your best to avoid being negative. Get help in resolving any family conflicts. Do not dwell on what you cannot do, but focus on all that you are doing. Focus on the rewards of caring for your loved one.
Following these tips can help you stay healthy and maintain low levels of stress as a caregiver. Remember that the better your physical and emotional health, the better caregiver you will be for your loved one.