Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

Managing Caregiver StressThere’s no doubt about it – it can be stressful caring for an older adult. Feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, and exhausted are common – and understandable.

To combat caregiver burnout, having a list of go-to coping activities or stress relief ideas is helpful, with enough choices to pick which is most valuable or realistic for your current situation.

Here are some great places to start:

  1. Breathe deeply and slowly. This shifts your body from stress mode, calming you down and relieving anxiety. If possible, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to get more oxygen into your blood and give you something on which to focus.
  2. Use aromatherapy. Smells instantly and effectively affect the body’s nervous system and trigger significant memories. Using lavender essential oil can be as calming to an individual as anti-anxiety medications. Here are a few suggestions: use a diffuser to scent the air with a relaxing essential oil; rub essential oil on your palms and then cup them to your face and inhale; or put drops of essential oil on cotton balls in a dish to diffuse the scent.
  3. Drink calming herbal tea. This activity doubles as rehydration and allows you to take a break. If your tea uses herbs such as mint, lemon, or ginger, they also provide aromatherapeutic benefits.
  4. Pray or meditate. Both activities reduce blood pressure, improve immune function, and increase the ability to concentrate…in just minutes!
  5. Exercise. Moving your body is a great way to relieve tension, boost mood, and improve physical and mental health. Additionally, it allows you to focus on something positive and even sleep better. If you can’t fit in an entire hour, just five minutes can make a difference.
  6. Connect with a trusted friend. Confiding in supportive people allows you to vent your frustrations and reassures you that you’re not alone. It also allows you to think and talk about something other than the person for whom you provide care. Even if you can’t meet in person, it can be helpful to video chat, talk on the phone, or text. Connection is key!
  7. Practice an attitude of gratitude. Take time to notice the good things in your life, big or small. There’s always something negative to focus on, so instead, consciously look on the bright side. This may not change your circumstances, but it will alter your perspective.
  8. Listen to music. Good tunes help you de-stress and improve your mood. Create a free playlist of music that suits your style, whether you prefer dancing along to energetic songs or relaxing with soothing classical music.
  9. Spend time in nature. Breathing fresh air and looking at outdoor scenery reduces stress hormones, lowers anxiety and depression, and boosts the immune system. This is a simple yet very effective way to combat caregiver stress.
  10. Massage tired muscles. If you can’t afford to get a massage from a professional, you can use a foam roller, massage therapy ball, or even a tennis ball to massage knots out of tense neck and shoulder muscles.
  11. Stretch or do yoga. You can relieve tension by taking a stretching break one or two times a day. This can be as simple as taking five minutes to stretch at your desk.
  12. Focus on a creative project. Picking up a hobby like painting, writing, photography, gardening, cooking, coloring, crafting, or knitting lets you take a break from reality for a bit. Instead of thinking about caregiving, you can direct your energy toward something fun.
  13. Do a brain dump. By spinning everything around in your mind on paper, you won’t have to worry about the mental juggle of reminders, errands, or to-dos anymore.
  14. Laugh. Find something to watch or read that you find to be humorous. Laughing lightens your burdens and cheers up your mood.
  15. Take a bath or shower. Whether you prefer a refreshing hot shower at the beginning of the day or a soothing bath at night to unwind, treat yourself to a spa-like experience. This can help reduce stress, improve circulation, and soothe sore muscles.

Pick whichever activities best suit your personality, lifestyle, and needs, but prioritize focusing on some “you time” this year. By keeping yourself healthy mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, you’ll be a much better caregiver to your older adult.