Recognizing and Managing Caregiver Stress
Becoming a caregiver can be very stressful, so it is important to learn how to recognize possible warning signs and manage stress properly. Caring for close family members, loved ones or clients is often very rewarding and fulfilling work but even the most important jobs can sometimes leave people feeling empty and worn.
Stress manifests itself in a variety of different ways, making it challenging to identify and treat it. Once you learn how to identify signs of stress, you can proactively watch for it and take steps to reduce the impacts of stress in your work and in your life.
Causes of Stress
Many aspects of caregiving can contribute to stress. Caregivers may work long hours, may not have strong social support, and often feel emotionally drained. They may forget to take adequate care of themselves while they care for others. In a nutshell, many caregivers feel like they have too much on their plates and not enough relief from responsibility. Eventually, some caregivers grow to resent caregiving.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Stress can cause visible as well as hidden symptoms. These can be psychological, medical, emotional or all the above. As a caregiver, your symptoms may not be obvious right away or they may look like something else.
To help you find out what's causing your stress, here's a brief guide with some questions to ask yourself. If you have any of these signs of stress, you may want to try some stress relief strategies.
- Are you feeling forgetful?
- Do you skip meals, forget to take breaks or neglect your own needs?
- Are you experiencing unexplained weight gain or loss?
- Are you using alcohol or drugs to help you cope?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Do you feel so exhausted from caregiving that you feel like giving up?
Emotional and Psychological Wellbeing
- Do you ever feel resentful of your caregiving responsibilities?
- Do you feel unsupported and discouraged?
- Do you ever find yourself feeling angrier, more impatient or easily frustrated than before?
Think you might be stressed out? You may need to find ways to relieve your stress so you can stay healthy, improve your wellbeing and continue providing great care.
Stress Relief Ideas for Caregivers
You may relieve your stress with lifestyle changes and coping strategies. Consider trying some or all of these approaches to help you reduce your stress:
- Practice self-care. It is usually true that the most effective caregivers take great care of their health, wellbeing and personal lives. Sometimes, though, it's easy to fall behind. You may need to make your own self-care a higher priority by making sure you are sleeping well, eating the right foods, exercising and using relaxation techniques.
- Find a support network. If you aren't socializing as much now that you're a caregiver, you may need to spend more quality time with friends and family. Or, you may need to build a support network of other caregivers. Connecting with people who deal with similar issues and face the same challenges can be a rewarding and de-stressing experience.
- De-stress with breathing techniques, meditation, prayer or quiet reflection whenever you can. Even taking just a couple minutes now and then to sit somewhere quiet and clear your head may do wonders for your stress levels. Deep breathing, learning how to meditate, doing yoga or spending time in nature can also be very helpful.
- Learn more about caregiving. If you're caring for a loved one, learning about their disease or how to help someone with their health status may be very useful. You'll know what to expect if something changes and you may learn helpful ideas that make caregiving easier. You may also want to take classes, find a community of caregivers online or offline, read books or check out online resources.
- Invest in a medical alert system. Medical alert systems help people stay independent longer, making your job as a caregiver easier. Finding the system may reduce your stress by ensuring that you are only alerted if the person you're caring for truly needs help. Best Company has a ranked list of the 2017's best medical alert systems, along with reviews and information to help you choose.
Manage Your Stress
If you carefully manage your stress, you may improve your well being and you might even become a better caregiver. Health and wellness are important–taking care of yourself can help you as you take care of others.