When caregiving work exceeds your abilities and leads to excessive stress, you may experience the following symptoms:
– You feel overwhelmed or worried all the time
– You often feel tired
– You get too much or too little sleep
– You gain or lose weight
– You become easily irritable or angry
– You lose interest in activities you used to enjoy
– Feel sad
– Frequent headaches, body aches, or other physical problems
– Abuse alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Here is how to cope with caregiver stress:
- Accept help. Prepare a list of ways others can help, and then have each person choose what they would like to do. For example, a friend might agree to walk with the person being cared for a few times a week. You could also ask a friend or family member to help with housework, shopping, or cooking.
- Pay attention to what you can accomplish. While it’s normal to feel guilty at times, remember that no caregiver is “perfect.” Acknowledge that you are always doing your best and making the best decisions possible.
- Set attainable goals for yourself. Break down difficult activities into manageable, individual steps. Make lists, set priorities, and create a daily schedule. Start turning down offers that make you uncomfortable, such as an invitation to dinner during a vacation.
- Make contacts. Find out what support programs are available in your area for family caregivers. Your loved one’s illness is specifically addressed in several community events. There may be options for caregiving services, such as home help, meal delivery, or driving services.
- Participate in a support group. A support group can offer you comfort, inspiration, and problem-solving techniques for difficult situations. Members of a support group can relate to what you may be going through. You can also make lasting friendships in a support group.
- Seek out social support. Try to build close relationships with loved ones and close friends who can offer unbiased emotional support. Even if it’s just a walk with a friend, schedule time for each other each week.
- Set goals for your own health. For example, schedule time to exercise most days of the week, eat a nutritious diet, and drink plenty of water.
Many family caregivers suffer from sleep problems. Long-term health problems can result from not getting enough sleep. See your doctor if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.
- See your doctor. Get the recommended immunizations and tests. Tell your doctor about your role as a caregiver. Any concerns or symptoms you have should be mentioned without hesitation.
- Practise mindfulness meditation. For family caregivers, mindfulness meditation is a very useful and relaxing practice. In this exercise, you take the time to slow down and pay close attention to your thoughts and sensations, almost as if you were an outside observer.
There is growing evidence that something as basic as mindfulness meditation can relieve tension and reduce stress, as scientists learn more and more about how closely our thoughts and our bodies are intertwined.
As a family caregiver, you can feel helpless and overwhelmed. Mindfulness meditation can help you get in touch with yourself and improve your own well-being. In other words, you can take advantage of a rare opportunity to relax while enhancing your emotional and mental well-being.
Credit: Mayoclinic.org & Training.mmlearn.org