5 Surefire Ways to Reduce (Caregiver) Stress
5 Surefire Ways to Reduce (Caregiver) Stress
It’s Stress Awareness Month! Do you ever feel like you’re so stressed you don’t even know what it’s like to feel at ease or calm? If you’re under a constant barrage of demands and tasks, aren’t sleeping and your to do list (for others) is a mile long, chances are you’re a caregiver.
Caregivers can be obvious, the person caring for an ill relative or friend, but caregivers are also people in caregiving professions like doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, psychologists, or counselors, people caring for someone with addiction or mental health illness, teachers caring for students, or parents caring for their children.
We often come into the role of caregiver naturally through our early relationships and family structure. This can continue into adulthood through the roles we play in our work and family lives. Others come into a caregiving role by choice or function. Regardless of your entrance into being a caregiver, stress tops the list of challenges for caregivers. We feel stressed when our coping strategies aren’t enough to cope with everything on our plate. This can happen suddenly or over a long period of time as we take on more and more responsibilities both as a caregiver and in our own lives and families.
Try these 5 ways to reduce your stress:
Acknowledge that you’re stressed or becoming stressed.
To resolve a problem we first have to identify that there is a problem. It can be uncomfortable to admit you can’t or don’t want to handle everything. Doing so may cause guilt or shame, but not acknowledging and tending to your stress may lead you down a path of worsening health and anxiety, deteriorating relationships, and difficulty functioning in your own life.
Determine what would be helpful.
Stress reduction isn’t about just removing things from your plate. What causes one person stress might bring another person joy. Be selective. Really think about the most draining parts of your day. You know, the ones you dread doing and continue to put off. Then decide what someone else can do and who can do it - ask for help. If asking for help is hard for you, consider it delegating.
I know - it sounds ridiculous. How in the world can taking a deep breath help? Pausing for 10 seconds to take a breath that is a 5 second inhale and a 5 second exhale is a way to start bringing down your body’s reactivity. Taking just one breath reminds us of the present moment, grounds us, and gives us a break from our daily chaos. It is a way to pay attention to yourself, get perspective, and to check in with what you need. If I said meditate for 15 minutes, I’m fairly certain that everyone reading would skip over that and very quickly decide there isn’t time for it. BUT, one breath is manageable, one breath is easy, one breath is something you can add in to any part of your day. Tie it to something you already do, getting in and out of the car, brushing your teeth, checking your email. You get the idea. When we connect something we want to do, to something we already do, it serves as an anchor for that behavior making it more likely that we’ll actually be successful.
Prioritize time for sleep.
Set aside 7 or 8 dedicated hours for sleep. No TV, no electronics, no books. Make your bed inviting with soft sheets, comfy blankets and pillows and no distractions. Pick a dedicated bedtime (set your phone if you have to) and start winding down an hour or so before hand. Review your priorities for tomorrow, decide what you can delegate and remind yourself being in bed is a time to relax and restore. Taking a deep breath or 2 or 3 at this time can be helpful in eliciting your body’s relaxation response.
Support comes in all shapes and sizes and your needs may change based on your responsibilities. Support can be sharing your feelings with a friend over lunch, joining an online support group, or seeing a therapist regularly. If you’ve been getting support from a friend or group, but you feel like your stress level is increasing, you’re feeling more and more overwhelmed, or your physical health is suffering it may be time to reach out to a therapist or counselor. See my blog series about finding a therapist in Alpharetta for more information.
Reducing your stress is possible.
You don’t have to run yourself into the ground regardless of what the voice in your head keeps telling you! We don’t always choose to be a caregiver, but we can choose how we take care of ourselves. Visit my website to learn more about stress reduction, mindfulness and caregiving.