Being a caregiver is hard work. The devotion and sacrifice you bring to care for your loved ones in need is rewarding, but you can also experience stress and perhaps even some burnout.
So how do you cope?
Here are some ways caregivers can deal with burnout, stress and anxiety and also some tips for those who want to show some kindness to the caregivers in their lives.
You’d be surprised what thoughtful breathing can do for your mental, physical and emotional health. When you feel yourself reaching a breaking point, take a moment to simply breathe. Not sure what stress-reducing breathing exercises look like? These techniques are a good place to start.
Eat relaxing foods
Did you know your diet can directly impact your stress level, just as much as your stress level can impact your diet choices? Foods rich in Vitamin C – like oranges – have been proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Other stress-reducing foods include avocados, nuts, salmon and oatmeal. Proactively making these part of your diet may help you avoid reactively “stress eating.”
Listen to music
Studies show that listening to 30 minutes of music a day – in any genre and not necessarily consecutively – can have significant calming effects. And, unlike other coping strategies, you can take music with you wherever you go. Cooking a meal for the family? Turn on your favorite classical station. Driving your loved one to another medical appointment? Play some energizing tunes. Music helps clear your mind and remind you what’s important.
Share the load
Don't be afraid to admit when you need a little extra help. Reach out to relatives and close friends and ask for some help with the daily caregiving tasks. Allowing others to care for your loved one provides them an opportunity to make memories with that loved one too, while also giving you the opportunity to take a break.
Most health studies suggest that 30 minutes of physical activity a day can help reduce stress. However, for many caregivers, devoting this extended amount of time to yourself is often unrealistic. Instead of giving up on your own physical health because you don’t have time to visit the gym, take just five minutes to walk around the block by yourself. The fresh air and physical movement will clear your mind and give you renewed perspective.
As a faith-based nonprofit senior living provider, prayer is the coping strategy we find most effective for caregivers. Pray with family, with your friends or by yourself. Pray for strength and peace.
Not a caregiver yourself, but want to help those who are?
Today is National Caregivers Day, which is the perfect time to thank a caregiver close to you.
Here are some ways you can show your appreciation and remind caregivers they are not alone.
- Provide a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant
- Stop by with some baked goods or with dinner
- Put together a self-care basket with hand lotions and creams and/or aromatherapy candles or diffuser
- If the caregiver loves to read, offer to pick up the latest best seller for them or if movies are more their thing, deliver a DVD of a new release
- Write a letter or send a card with an encouraging thought and telling them how much you appreciate their service