Being a caregiver to someone you love can be so rewarding, but it can also be stressful. And too often, those in the caregiver’s circle may not quite understand the stresses that caregivers face.
Many caregivers turn to respite to take time for themselves or to complete other necessary chores. But scheduling these ‘breaks’ can be complicated. There are many moving pieces, and paid help is often out of reach and unsustainable for most caregivers. But there are other methods that you, as a caregiver, can do to help reduce your stress.
Chores can be overwhelming, but they can often wait. Set aside 30 minutes for yourself every day and find a way to disconnect from caregiving and household duties. Go for a walk, read a book, or do some stretching exercises. A little bit of self-care can do wonders. Check out this 9-minute YouTube Video on stretches for your neck and shoulders to relieve stress and tension:
Talk To Someone
Talking to a willing and understanding listener can help reduce stress. If you are worried about oversharing or burdening others, you can always ask them if they have a moment to listen. You can also reach out to people outside your normal social network, such as your doctors, local support groups, and even social media.
Social media groups can be a great place to find people who are going through similar experiences and can give empathy, advice, and resources. However, be cautious with social media as it can also cause stress and anxiety. Consider your comfort levels around personal privacy and take social media breaks when needed. Check out this resource for more information on social media and mental health: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm
Do you ever have a hard time going to sleep because you keep thinking about everything? If this sounds familiar, try this: Keep a pen, paper, and small light by your bed.
When your thoughts don't let you rest, write them down. Putting your thoughts onto paper gives you the freedom to stop worrying because you know that you can address them the next day. Although you might be tempted to write them down on your phone, its bright screen can keep you awake and lead to mindless scrolling –and keeping you awake even longer. Avoid the temptation and use the pen and paper to have a restful night.
Just Say No.
Although meeting with a friend or a group can be a nice break, it can also be a source of stress. Consider how you're feeling and do what's best for you - even if that means staying home or doing less for others. It's important to remember that you don't have to say yes to everything and don't need to accommodate everyone. Even if your family loves the salad you bring to gatherings, it's okay to say no if you don't have the time or energy to make it. You can say:
"Sorry, I can't bring anything this time. I have too much on my plate right now," or "Sorry, I can't come. I have too much on my plate right now."
If someone insists, this is a great opportunity to ask for help. Remember to prioritize yourself, and don't feel guilty about it.
It is easy for someone to say, "just ask for help." But it's not that simple. It takes a lot of mental effort to prepare everything for someone else to help out. You might need to:
Think about everything on your to-do list
Consider all the details of each task
Consider what you can ask of that particular person
Share all the information with them
This can be overwhelming, especially when also managing complex medical situations.
To make it easier for others and to avoid any confusion about your needs, you can keep a list of generic tasks in an easily accessible location, like on the fridge, to share when someone offers help or when you need to ask for it. If the person is willing to help, allowing them to choose from the list can alleviate some potential frustrations.
To help, we created a free, printable .pdf where you can list tasks and related notes. You can also use this document to share when a new personal support or home care worker visits.
You can store this document in LCO's document section. Additionally, you can collaborate with the team by adding members, raising your hand for help, and tagging others to specific tasks. LCO makes it easy to access important information such as details, timelines, and critical documents. To learn more about LCO, visit our platform's web page.
Remember, take care of yourself and put your mask on first.
Being a caregiver is a tough job. You may find yourself in situations where you have to put your own needs or wants aside, but if you don’t take time to care for yourself, you won't be able to provide support. You can reduce caregiver stress and anxiety by taking 30-minute breaks, talking to others, journaling, and asking for help aren’t guilty pleasures – they’re sustainable care!
If you are looking to discover ways to help a caregiver you know, check out our blog: https://www.lifecourseonline.com/post/5-ways-to-support-the-caregivers-you-know
Smith, J. (2021, September 20). Strategies for Coping with Caregiver Stress. AgingCare.com. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/strategies-for-coping-with-caregiver-stress-135916.htm