April is Stress Awareness Month. As a caregiver, stress is often a part of everyday life as you care for your loved one, and the demands can take a toll on you physically and emotionally. Identifying ways to reduce stress and find a balance as a caregiver can be difficult; however, this is vital and can ultimately affect your health and your ability to provide that much needed care to your loved one.
Let’s get back to the basics. What is the definition of stress? Stress is a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc. and something that causes strong feelings of worry and anxiety. Sound familiar? Caring for a loved one is incredibly rewarding, but is also very stressful as it is often long-term and you may have periods of feeling alone, anxious and exhausted.
Managing the stress in your life as a caregiver is just as important as making sure your family member gets to his doctor’s appointment or takes her medication on time. Taking time to focus on yourself ultimately provides you with rejuvenated energy you need to care for your loved one.
Let’s take a look at signs of caregiver stress. The Mayo Clinic provides the following list of signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
If you are experiencing caregiver stress, you are not alone. To help manage caregiver stress, consider attending a caregiver support group meeting. These forums are a great way to hear what other caregivers are experiencing, share common concerns and worries and to serve as a reminder that you are not alone. There are also online groups and forums if you are unable to attend an in-person meeting.
Asking for help, connecting with other caregivers who are going through the same thing as you and seeking out respite care can provide you with that break you need to go for a walk, run to the grocery store, go to church or to go to your own doctor’s appointments. When was the last time you took a long bath, took a walk in the park, or met a friend for coffee?