Family Caregivers are real heroes in the lives of those for whom they care! They juggle busy schedules, manage any number of challenges every day, and handle whatever comes their way. If you care for someone full-time, or if you oversee the care from a distance, you are going to have stress in your life.
Family Caregivers experience stress in a variety of ways; your success in managing your stress level will have a direct impact on your health and your ability to care for others. Family Caregivers report stress as a loss of sleep, poor eating habits, elevated blood sugar and blood pressure, limited physical activity, and a frequent or constant sense of anxiety or failure. These issues can lead to chronic health problems that will hinder, or even prevent, your ability to provide continued care to aging loved ones.
Some things I’ve learned over the years that help me manage my stress include: regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, limiting caffeine, eating lots of fruits and veggies, and getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. When I go to bed at the same time each night, walk while my mom is still sleeping, and keep a water bottle going all day long, I am more patient and calm. If my mom says or does something that might get under my skin, it’s easier to take a deep breath and remember that she didn’t mean to be hurtful. I am stronger as a person and as a Family Caregiver when I am more centered and focused.
Likewise, when I’m not doing these things, I am out of balance as a person and as a caregiver. I’m more tired, less creative, and quicker to react in anger or frustration. My response time is lagging, and my productivity in all areas of my life suffers. It’s just not a pretty picture!
To best manage my stress levels, I also have to assess what I do during my day, determine what I’m good at and what I hate doing so I can find ways to take the latter off my plate. For example, I love to cook, but I hate menu-planning and shopping. I can utilize resources that will plan my menus for me, and some will even do the grocery shopping and deliver to my home. I avoid pushing the shopping cart through the crowded aisles and blissfully chop carrots and onions in the comfort of my own kitchen.
To successfully manage the stress in your own life, you need first to assess how much stress you are feeling. Here’s a link to a Family Caregiver Stress Assessment Tool: https://www.caregiverstress.com/stress-management/family-caregiver-stress/stress-assessment/
Once you’ve taken the assessment, you should have a good idea of how stressed you really feel. You can then develop a plan to help you manage your stress and regain a sense of balance and control in your life.
Also, remember that the person you are caring for similarly has stress in their life. Their stress might be caused by loss of independence, loss of ability, loss of a sense of self-worth, loss of life as they once knew it, or even loss of memories. It is your job as a Family Caregiver to recognize your loved one’s losses and try to ease their sorrow or pain. You can even help them forget their losses for a time, or enable them to discover new abilities in this time of their life. But to find these new paths, to bring light to another’s darkness, you must be at your best. When you get a handle on your own stress and develop strategies that manage or alleviate that burden, you can feel great about putting on your Superhero cape and being a hero for someone special in your life!