I recently read a great article about reducing stress as a caregiver. In the post, the author discusses, among other things, the importance of learning to channel your stress (since caregiving is an immensely stressful occupation) and talking to your patient/loved one about what they are wanting out of your care. Caregiving for a child, parent, or loved one isn’t easy…especially as a young adult with way more than enough already on your plate. Reach out to those around you for help when you need it and listen to your own body. Do you need a night to yourself?…take it! Could you really use a bubble bath right now?…start running the water! Needing some time with friends?…make some calls and arrange a get together! You are your own best advocate and only you know exactly how you need to be cared for.
Just in case you are feeling a little overwhelmed with how to start your own stress reducing check list, I decided to share mine below. Please remember though, these steps work for me and you might have to tweak them or add completely different steps to reduce your own stress 🙂
- listen to your body. Like I said above, you are the best advocate for your own body. If you need to take an hour to yourself, try and arrange to do so. If you really could use some time for a good book over the weekend, make sure there is time in your schedule for it. If you are taken care of, only then can you hope to take care of someone else.
- reach out when you need help. Like I described here, when my father and I were caregiving for my mother, we used an agency called Visiting Angels to ease the load of being full-time caregivers. If you have other friends or family who could step in and help out, ask them. Often, friends and family want to help but they are unsure how to do so. If you ask a friend to make a grocery store trip for you and they seem really eager and willing, there is no reason to worry that you are being a burden. Maybe another friend offered to do some dishes? Let her! 🙂 By asking for help when you need it (and letting others step in to help), you reduce the risk of becoming too overloaded, overwhelmed, and even sick.
- do something calming each day. For me, this means exercising (or even just taking a walk outside) and then taking a shower. I’ll admit that sometimes showers are one of the first things to be forgotten off of my daily list if I don’t feel like I really need one. Don’t get me wrong, I try and shower every other day if I don’t do so each day. What I mean though, is that I find a shower to be immensely calming and soothing yet I also think I can skip it if I “have to.” Choose one thing (or two!) that help you feel calmer every day and do it!
- take the time to eat well. When I am really stressed, I often don’t feel like eating. This means that when I do feel hungry, I just grab whatever is closest to me. If I prepare a little bit ahead of time (or ask a friend to do a grocery store trip with a list that you make!), I can make sure that whatever is easiest to grab is also nutritious. Feeling energized by a healthy diet is an easy way to keep yourself healthy, even with a heavy caregiving load.
My list really isn’t that long but it includes things like finding space for calm activities, exercising (at least a little), asking for help, and eating properly. For me, these little steps for stress release and self-care can go a long way. How do you reduce your stress as a caregiver? Let us know and we’ll add to the list!