Stress often sneaks up on us from caregiving for loved ones. When you are feeling overwhelmed, consider trying a few of these techniques to lift yourself out of that funk.

According to research from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP in 2015, over 34.2 million American provide unpaid care to those over the age of 50. Nearly 1 in 4 caregivers spends 41 hours a week or more providing care and the average duration for caregiving is 4 years [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2015)]. It is no wonder that caregivers face a lot of stress as they balance family, caregiving, and work.

Symptoms of Caregiver Stress Include:

  • Turning to unhealthy behaviors like overeating and smoking
  • Making mistakes giving medicine
  • Increasing frustration and anger levels
  • Feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or tired
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Withdrawing from friends and social activities

Here are 7 tips on alleviating caregiving stress:

1. Ask and accept help

Caregiving is constant and everyone deserves a break. Consider:

  • Having friends or professionals come help a few times a month
  • Adult day care options
  • Short-term respite care
  • Local Communities for Personal Care, Assisted Living and Long-Term Nursing Care.

2. Join a support group for caregivers either online or in person

You are not alone. A support group allows you to share stories, get caregiving tips, and just have encouragement from others who face similar challenges.

3. Find time for yourself

Remember those activities that you enjoyed, it is time to start doing them again whether it is craft project or reconnecting with friends.

4. Take care of your health

If your health starts to falter, you won’t be able to care for someone else. So, make sure you are eating right, getting to the doctor, taking your medication, and exercising. Set goals to help make sure that you are meeting your own health needs. Time is always a concern so try one of these quick actions below when you feel overwhelmed.

Try deep breathing

Taking deep breaths increases the amount of oxygen in your blood which helps you relax. Take it one step further, sit down on the floor or in a chair, keep you back straight, bring your hands together in front of your heart, close your eyes and then take slow deep breaths in and out for a minute. Not ready to breath? Then just try counting to 10 first.

Visualize calm or create a mantra

When you feel tension start to rise in you, close your eyes and think of a place that relaxes you and visualize being there. This could be the beach, a bath or just watching the sunset – whatever makes you happy and calm. Not working? Consider a “chant” that you can do in your head or say softly, like “I feel calm and I can handle this” and repeat it at least 10 times.

Give yourself a massage

Although going to the spa is lovely, consider a home foot massager or just rubbing your earlobes.

Smile

…often by putting on a positive attitude, our bodies will respond in kind.

Write it down or talk to someone

Getting out how you are feeling by talking or writing on paper helps you release your pent-up feelings. It also gives you perspective on what is bothering you so you can address those concerns.

Test out a diffuser

Aromatherapy has been shown to help folks relax. Consider essential oils like lavender, peppermint, rose, and eucalyptus.

Shake it off or just dance to a little music

We carry a lot of our stress in our neck and shoulders, just shake out our neck and arms can help reduce physical tightness. Take it a step further and consider yoga, gentle stretching, or tai chi. Just 10 minutes of exercise each day can help.

5. Get organized

Make sure you have systems for keeping tracking of appointments, a daily routine and reducing clutter. By being proactive about your situation and looking for ways to improve it, you will feel more in control, which will reduce the stress you feel.

6. Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Hosting a family meal or taking on a big volunteer project might just be too much right now. Also, focus on what you provide best and look to get outside assistance for the other areas.

7. Find helpful resources

Lancaster Office of Aging

Alzheimer’s Association Navigator Tool

It does happen that it may become too much to be a caregiver even with support of in-home health services. Keep in mind that United Zion provides various care services in our Lititz, PA retirement community, including: long-term skilled nursing care servicesshort-term rehabilitation care, respite care and personal care services.

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