Tips to Manage Caregiver Stress
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is an enormous responsibility. Learn more about some ways you can reduce your stress so you can remain strong and be a better caregiver.
The role of caregivers is both physically and emotionally exhausting. There are some tried-and-true techniques that won’t completely eliminate your stress but can help you manage and reduce it. These techniques involve both softening the impact of stressors in your life and building up your capacity to cope with them. If you can adopt even two or three of the following suggestions, you may feel less stressed and more in control of your life.
Take time out to meditate or reflect.
Spending 10 to 20 minutes twice a day to “clear your head” can work wonders when you’re feeling overburdened or overwhelmed. Some caregivers learn meditation techniques from classes, tapes, DVDs, or books on the subject, while others simply take time out to quietly reflect. Whichever way you choose, it’s important that you slow down and focus on clearing your mind of all the racing thoughts that may be increasing your anxiety.
Exercising is another good way to heal mind and body.
It’s one of the best-known techniques for reducing stress, revitalizing energy, and maintaining your health. A brisk walk several times each week gives you significant health benefits. There are many good indoor choices, too, from walking in place to yoga or tai chi. Your library may offer exercise DVDs. Invite a friend over to join you.
Care for yourself by having regular medical check-ups.
Take medications as directed, and eat healthy meals. Taking care of your body improves your emotional outlook and wellbeing.
Try to do something you enjoy every day.
Nurturing a garden, watching a favorite TV show, reading an article that interests you, or engaging in a favorite hobby can help “center” you and remind you that you still have a life outside of caregiving. Create a sanctuary by turning a room or part of a room into your cozy spot that reminds you to relax and enjoy. You must make some time—even for 10 or 15 minutes—to take care of yourself.
Make lists of things that need to be done.
Trying to keep all of your caregiving tasks in your head will leave you worrying about what you might have forgotten. Calendars and planners can also help you prioritize and keep track of your responsibilities.
Do one thing at a time.
Juggling tasks like talking on the phone, opening the mail, and cooking a meal all at the same time only adds to your stress level. Focus on one thing at a time. When one task is completed, move on to the next one.
Set limits on what you can accomplish, and learn to say “no” more often.
If you feel exhausted, lower your expectations and reexamine your priorities. You can’t do everything. No one can.
Don’t try to cope alone.
Maintain friendships and family relationships even if all you have time for is a weekly phone call. Join a support group where you can share experiences, or talk with a counselor. Don’t think you can “go it alone” in your caregiving role. Sometimes, talking about your worries can help you sort them out.
Use a computer to connect with friends and the outside world.
If you don’t have one at home, check out your public library for access to computers and the Internet. If you are unfamiliar with how to use a computer, ask the library staff for assistance.
Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.
Many caregivers have found that writing their thoughts down gives them an emotional outlet and helps them find clarity in the midst of confusion.
Maintain your sense of humor.
Sometimes there is nothing left to do but laugh, and laughter is great for your mental and physical health. Seek out light-hearted or humorous books and movies. Funny things can happen even on your worst days. Try to appreciate them!
Don’t shut out the good moments.
Stay open to the times when you can still enjoy certain things with or without the person you care for, such as a walk in the park or playing with grandchildren or pets. A life devoid of pleasure just drains you further and makes you more vulnerable to stress. This is a vicious cycle you can avoid.
Give yourself credit.
As a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you are doing the best you can. Be sure to acknowledge to yourself all the difficult things you do and let yourself feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Ask yourself, “What am I learning from this?”
Chances are that in your caregiving journey, you have changed and developed new skills. You have crossed hurdles you thought you would never overcome. Applaud yourself for that growth.
Stress that is sustained over a long period of time can take a major toll on your well-being. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. It’s important to take the time you need for care for yourself so you can remain a strong and confident caregiver.