If you’ve ever taken care of a child you know how stressful it can be. That same stress can become a factor in your life when you are caring for a family member who can’t care for him or herself.
When we take care of our kids, the stress has nothing to do with how much we love them. You can love someone and still be aware of frazzled nerves. When you are the caregiver for a loved one who can no longer care for herself, that stress can be even more pronounced. If the care is amplified by a traumatic injury or illness, the added responsibility can bring your daily life to a halt. This shift from a normal life to the life as a caregiver can result in severe stress.
Recognizing Caregiver Stress
The key to staying as stress-free as possible is to recognize when it is trying to creep into your life. Signs include:
- Being short tempered
- Being tired all the time
- Increased incidence of illness
- Weight gain or loss
- Depression or anxiety
When you show signs of stress, get the help that you need. Stress is a part of every life, but how much depends on your coping mechanisms. And if anyone ever needed good coping mechanisms it would be a caregiver. Consider some of the following ideas for ways to give yourself a break:
Ask for Help – Consult other family members to pitch in when you need a break.
Take a Trip – Coordinate care of your loved one with another trustworthy person so you can take a weekend getaway or a few hours of rest to rejuvenate.
Stay Physically Active – Stress can weaken your immune system. Keep your immune system strong by staying active. Activity increases endorphin production, which gives you a sense of positive well-being.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate – If the work gets to be too much for you, don’t quit. Instead, find ways to outsource certain tasks to lighten your load. Consider using Meals-on-Wheels, nursing care for bathing and medical issues, or adult daycare to give you a break during the day. Affordable housekeeping services as needed can also help lighten your load.
Join a Support Group – Just being with others who understand what you are going through can help you breathe a sigh of relief. They may be able to offer suggestions you hadn’t thought of to decrease stress and increase the enjoyment of providing care for your loved one.
It’s a given that caregivers are prone to stress in their lives. If you think that this is happening to you, use these suggestions to relieve the stress and gain control of your life again.