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10 tips to stress less as a caregiver
Stress can cause physical changes in the body, these changes are designed to help us take on threats or challenges. You may notice that your heart pounds, your muscles tense, and your breathing quickens.
This response is referred to as fight or flight. These effects usually subside once the threat passes, however if you’re constantly stressed, your body will remain on high alert.
We’ve all had to, or will, care for someone that we love at some point in life, and it can be stressful. Whether you’re caring for an elderly relative or younger children, feeling fatigued is almost inevitable.
Feeling powerless is the number one contributor to stress and it can result in fatigue and depression if not dealt with properly. No matter the situation, you aren’t powerless. This is especially true when it comes to your state of mind. Here are some tips to maintaining a stress-free zone as a caregiver.
If you’re a caregiver, it’s likely you’ll often be under pressure. Meditation is perfect as it’s free, can be done anywhere at any time, and is proven to reduce stress.
Studies have shown that meditation lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and can even improve your ability to concentrate – which is crucial when caring for someone.
You don’t have to dedicate a lot of time to it – just a few minutes a day and you’ll reap the rewards. Activities such as yoga, even just closing your eyes and being with your thoughts are forms of meditation that you can try.
2. Breathing Techniques
As a caregiver, there are moments where your frustration, powerlessness, or anxiety will rise to high levels. Simply breathing deeply can be a brilliant coping mechanism.
It forces you to pause, calm down, and regain composure so you can better deal with the situation at hand. In the army they use deep breathing techniques in combat, if it works for them, it can definitely work for you.
3. Reach out
Having a support system of family, friends or other care professionals to lean on is an effective way to reduce stress. Everyone needs to vent, hear a friendly voice, or take a break from responsibilities for a while.
Whether you’re connected in person, on video chat, on the phone or in an online group chat, the point is to reach out to people who are there for you and can help you feel better, especially when you’re down.
As the saying goes, “if you don’t laugh then you’ll cry.” Acknowledging funny moments while caregiving helps lighten the mood and reduce stress for both you and your care recipient.
Activities such as watching comedies, or playing games such as Jenga or Operation are sure to lighten the mood.
5. Listen to music
The effects of music on the human body have long been used to help us shift into a happier, more relaxed mindset. So it won’t come as a surprise that music lifts mood, which lowers blood pressure, and reduces anxiety. Play your favorite tunes and dance next time you’re feeling stressed.
Music therapy may also be good for the person you’re caring for, especially if they’re living with dementia.
6. Accept that you can’t control everything
By caring for someone and helping live their best possible life, you’re doing an incredible thing. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You can only do your best. There’s a lot that’s not within your power to control.
You can’t control their decisions, cure diseases, or stop them from aging. Negative things happen despite all our best efforts. Be kind to yourself and take comfort in the fact you’ve done all you can.
7. Stay positive
Positivity is infectious and can also work wonders for your mental health. Repeating supportive and encouraging words to yourself is more calming and pleasant than a stream of negativity.
Other ways to stay positive are creating a routine that works leaving less room for errors making tasks feel more manageable, and setting personal goals, this is important as you will feel accomplished when meeting your targets leaving you with a sense of self fulfilment.
8. Celebrate even the small victories.
Feeling discouraged is normal and happens to many of us, it’s important to keep in mind that your efforts matter. You are only human – you are only human – you don’t have to cure your loved ones illness to make a difference. Never underestimate the power of making them feel loved and safe. Restoring their confidence to do things such as walking, and even making them laugh or smile in times of difficulty are victories not to go unrecognised.
9. Do something fun
Taking breaks regularly and making time for yourself is a must when it comes to managing stress as a caregiver. Even if it’s as little as five minutes at a time, use it to do something that you enjoy. Listening to music, browsing the internet or even reading…anything you like.
10. Embrace your caregiving choice
It’s important to acknowledge that, despite any resentments or burdens you feel, you’re making a positive impact on someone’s life by providing care. Focus on the optimistic reasons behind that choice.
Perhaps you’re caring for a loved one to make up for lost time. Perhaps it’s about cherishing the time that you have left together. Or, maybe you’re showing your gratitude for the way they looked after you in your younger years. These deep, meaningful motivations can help sustain you through difficult times.
These ten points are only suggestions. It’s worth giving them a try to see whether they work for you. But remember, not everyone is the same. It’s important to find the coping mechanism that suits you best.
You may have already found a method of dealing with stress that has worked for you, that hasn’t made it onto our list. Anything we’ve missed? Let us know by commenting on the Facebook post.
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