Recognize Physical Signs Of Stress And Find Ways To Cope
Caregivers play a vital role in today’s society by serving others with health impairments related to old age, disability, disease or mental disorder. They handle various tasks based on the needs of the individual, which include assistance with chores and meals, bathing and getting dressed, and managing medications.
As large numbers of baby boomers reach retirement age in the near future, the demand for more caregivers will continue to increase in order to meet the needs of our aging population. According to the family caregiving fact sheet on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, over 80% of long term care in the United States is provided by unpaid or informal caregivers such as family members, friends, and neighbors.
Although stress can affect anyone providing care, family caregivers face difficulties finding time for themselves and balancing work and family responsibilities. Out-of-pocket costs can add further stress by creating financial strain, which is especially true for the “Sandwich Generation” who care for an aging parent while also raising their own children because they often reduce their work hours or leave their jobs altogether.
For family caregivers, an important part in relieving stress is to become more conscious of personal health, since they often put the care recipient’s needs ahead of their own. Stress symptoms can manifest in the body, so paying attention to what the body is saying can help. Common signs of stress in the body are headaches, muscle tension or pain, fatigue, upset stomach, or sleep issues. Bad moods and negative behaviors can also be caused by stress.
Once recognized, the first thing to consider is whether there is an underlying cause for the stress. A great place to start would be to consult with a health care provider. After illness and disease are ruled out, taking steps to promote overall health and minimize stress is key. Begin with the basics: eat nutritious foods, drink plenty of water, exercise daily, and get the proper amount of sleep. In addition to making these healthy choices, utilizing various coping methods on a consistent basis can also bring about a sense of relief from the burdens of stress.
Relaxation techniques are a great way to manage stress. In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing attention on something calming and increasing awareness of the body. One example of a relaxation technique is progressive muscle relaxation, which is done by slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. Focusing on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation increases body awareness. Visualization is another technique where one forms mental images to take a visual journal to a peaceful and calming place or situation. Other relaxation techniques include deep breathing, massage, meditation, and yoga.
Religious activities are beneficial for many people. A survey conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP found that 73% of surveyed caregivers said that praying helps them cope with caregiving stress. Guidance from a minister, chaplain, or other church leaders can also provide spiritual support.
When high levels of stress are maintained over a long period of time as a result of caregiving, it may be appropriate to reevaluate the care situation. Perhaps outside help is necessary in order to avoid burnout. Home Health Care is a great option to consider. Depending on the needs and medical diagnosis, Home Health Care providers offer a wide range of services. These could include nursing, home health aides, and medical social work as well as physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Home Health Care can help individuals remain in the comfort of their own home by providing quality services as safely and economically as needed.
Above all, taking breaks and making personal time a priority as a caregiver will help relieve stress. However, if coping with stress starts to feel overwhelming, caregivers may wish to seek counseling or join a support group.