Top 10 Ways To Relieve Caregiver Stress
Love, obligation, or maybe out of doing what’s right, you may be one of more than 40 million adults taking care of an elderly, chronically ill, or a disabled loved one with caregiver burnout, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.
As a senior advisor at North Star Senior Advisors, I have met and spoke to numerous individuals struggling to care for a family member looking to relieve caregiver stress. Several times a day, we hear the sacrifice they endure, and while it is a wonderful thing to be able to help care for mom or dad at home where they feel most comfortable, in some cases, this can become strenuous on the family caregiver as they may get pulled away from other responsibilities.
You may be on the road to caregiver burnout. It’s not taken lightly as psychologists define it as “a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved stress.” By the time most caregivers suspect burnout, they’re already suffering myriad symptoms.
In addition to coping with a loved one’s illness, you may also deal with financial pressures, changes in family dynamics, and general disruption in family life. It’s a recipe for caregiver burnout that would negatively affect anyone’s ability to provide good care and potentially place the caregiver’s health at risk.
What can you do to relieve caregiver stress? Use these top 10 Stress-relievers to not only relieve stress but help you prevent caregiver burnout.
- Breathe Deeply
Big deep breaths can make a whirl of a difference. When you feel stressed, put your hand near your belly button. Inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly expands. There is also a trick I learned called the 8-7-6. Breathe deeply for 8 seconds, then hold your breath for 6 seconds, and exhale slowly for 6 seconds. Repeat several times and you will notice your body start to relax and come to a calming state. It has also helped me during situations where I was feeling extremely anxious or nervous.
- Visualize calm
When you feel tense and stressed, imagine yourself in a calm, relaxing situation. Use the breathing techniques from above and think about the details – how it looks, sounds, and smells.
For example, walking on a warm beach, listening to the crashing waves, smelling the salt air, and watching a beautiful sunset. Or, what really calms me is watching a familiar and comforting show while resting on the couch.
- Make time for a mini self-massage or if you’re able to book a professional one
A full-on massage in a spa would be ideal, but that may not always be possible. Check with your local massage parlors and see if they offer a discounted rate for a monthly membership. When that’s not possible, a mini self-massage is still a great way to cope with caregiver stress. Use circular motions or purchase a massager from Amazon!
- Meditate or Try Yoga
Sometimes, it’s hard to have moments to yourself. If you are able to help your loved one to bed or get up before they wake, try to take a few moments and meditate in a quiet calming place in your home. You can also lookup YouTube videos of Meditate or Yoga to follow along.
- Put it on paper or keep a diary
Writing down your thoughts helps get them out of your head and gives you a better perspective on the things that are bothering you. A helpful exercise is to divide a piece of paper or diary into two parts. On one side, write down things you might be able to change, like finding caregiving help from home care services to come in or respite stays at assisted living communities to give you a break. On the other, write down the things you can’t change, like being the primary caregiver. Focus on the things you can change or control because stressing over things you can’t change only makes it worse.
- Try aromatherapy
Using oil diffusers is a great way to feel more relaxed like lavender, peppermint, rose, and eucalyptus. These scents can be both soothing and relaxing for not only you as the caregiver but also for your loved one. You can buy different diffusers from Amazon along with the oils or you can make a simple scent diffuser by putting a few pieces of rock salt in a small container and add a few drops of essential oils.
- Move your body or Go for a walk in nature.
Getting up and moving around helps you breathe more deeply and increases circulation. If you can, go outside for a brief walk. It’s vital to get out of the house even if it is just for 15 minutes as it can really make a difference in your mood. Surrounding yourself in nature allows you to feel connected with the planet. If you are able to bring your loved one with you, that is wonderful as this is just as beneficial for them as well. If not, it’s still vital to take a brisk walk even around the house to get the blood flowing and ease your mind.
- Take a warm bath
When you get a chance to take a break, take a hot bath or shower. Soaking helps your body relax and releases tension. Add aromatherapy oils or candles from above and you can really submerge into a relaxing oasis. If you don’t have time for a bath, still try to wash your face, hands, or arms with warm or hot water. At least while rubbing a warm washcloth over your face, you can feel the warmness wash over you.
- Adult Coloring Books
Coloring can actually help to take away the stress and provide calming emotions. If you don’t like to color, then of course this may not help but if you haven’t tried in a while, I highly suggest adult coloring books or anything you like. Painting, drawing, or something similar may be a great alternative.
You may already do this daily and take care of the indoor and outdoor plants but I suggest looking into other plants you do not have like growing real food in a garden. You can have ready-to-eat tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, and more right from your backyard if possible which will not only improve your diet but give you a sense of purpose. You can also have your loved one help you care for the plants and give them something to do as well.
It’s important to know these tips will definitely help but will not always prevent caregiver burn-out as you may get to a point that those tips no longer work. You don’t want to resent your elderly loved one or cause added health issues for yourself. Consider joining a support group or contact us to discuss options! If you’re not ready to relocate your loved one to a senior living community, you can consider other resources such as adult daycare, a senior center, private duty in-home care or respite stays at an assisted living communities. Caregivers should not get to a point of no return or have that terrible burnout feeling.
Guilt can be very overwhelming for a family member, but never feel guilty if you’re considering short-term stays or long-term in assisted living for your loved one’s best interest. It’s essential for caregivers to not feel alone and know that may be a great decision for not only their loved ones but for themselves. Listening and guiding is what we do!
Visit northstarsa.com for more information or call us at 407-796-1582 to speak with an experienced senior advisor today. We are here for you every step of the way.