Caregiving challenges alter during the day, week, month and years. Caregiving is primarily organised to address the needs of a supported individual interfaced with work, family and life. Caregiving is unique but one thing all carers experience is stress and little time for themselves. Here are some tips on how to reduce stress in caregiving and ensure some time for self-care.
Stress in caregiving
Caregiving often lead to stress, which, may lead to reduced caregiver health. Studies have shown that caregiver stress is associated with higher rates of depression and lower perceptions of personal health, according to the Caregiver Action Network. Stress can even increase inflammatory markers (negatively affecting the immune system) in ways that may increase the caregiver’s risk of illness, according to a 2003 article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Reduce stress in caregiving
Caregivers want more information about controlling the stress caused by caring for others. Overall, 42 percent of caregivers are looking for help to manage their own stress, according to the 2015 Caregiving report.
- Sharing caregiving duties is a great way to reduce stress. Ask siblings, family or friends to take a turn as caregiver, so you can have some respite. Brothers, sisters, family or friends can prepare meals or run errands for you or your loved one.
- If siblings or family aren’t a viable resource, check with local community organizations. Caregivers who belong to a religious organization may find it to be a great source of both emotional support and assistance with some caregiving duties.
- No matter how you end up getting a few minutes to yourself, just about any break helps. Take a nap, go to the gym, take a walk or meditate. These are all practical ways to reduce stress, according to the Harvard Health Blog.
Reframing the situation, “benefit finding”, reduces stress in caregiving
Reframing the situation may be another way to manage stress. “Benefit finding,” the notion that challenging life events like caregiving can create positive health and mental health benefits, was explored in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Health Psychology. Researchers found that caregivers who feel they get something from caregiving — enjoying the time spent with the person, personal satisfaction from a job well done, knowing the importance of the work — may have an improved quality of life. “Caregivers who derive and find benefit from their caregiving role perceived their social support to be better, which in turn increased their sense of (quality of life),” the Journal of Health Psychology study explained.
Access resources and professionals to reduce stress in caregiving
Caregivers who work closely with the loved one’s physician often can increase free time through improved communication. Introducing yourself to the doctor is the first step. Many times, physicians simply aren’t aware of the integral involvement and role that caregivers are playing in the lives of their patients. If you’re able to attend appointments, this is an opportune time to ask about supplementary health services, which can benefit your time management.
Having professionals help at home can decrease the amount of time spent traveling to and from appointments.
Caregivers are challenged when meeting the needs of all who depend on them. Caregivers need to reach out to family and their community, prioritize spending time on self-care, and explore time-saving options.
Beware of carer burnout – read more self care tips
Pets reduce stress too!
Studies have found that:
- Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
- Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.