Caring for seniors is a noble and rewarding venture but it can also be stressful. In addition to “normal” everyday stressors such as bills, and family issues, those caring for seniors face additional challenges with stress.
Any type of stress can contribute to health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression and even heart disease. Stress has also been implicated in other conditions such as decreased immune function which may result in increased risk of respiratory infections, asthma flare-ups, and gastrointestinal disorder.
Whether you are a family member caring for a senior loved one or a professional caregiver, “taking care” of yourself should also be a priority. Here are five ways that you can help you de-stress and avoid burnout.
Take a Break
This is important both long term and short term. For long term stress, every caregiver needs a period of time away from their concerns. Depending on your situation, it may be a weekend getaway or it might be a movie night. For short term stress, a short walk might do you some good or maybe just a short rest on the porch. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.
It may seem like you are too exhausted to exercise but physical activity can actually give you extra energy. Your body produces endorphins which help you feel good and regular exercise can give you more stamina so that you don’t get tired as easy. Exercise is also a good way to temporarily free your mind from your concerns.
A lot of additional stress can be caused by clutter, whether physical or mental. Developing a set schedule with a place to keep everything can help to minimize your overall stress and keep you from getting frazzled and frustrated.
One major cause of stress is feeling like you are not being heard. If you develop clear communication skills where you can talk about your concerns and express your opinion, your issues will be more likely to be addressed. Avoid “you” statements such as “you always” and focus on “I” statements such as “I feel” to avoid triggering defensiveness in others.
Many times when people are stressed, they put their head down and “soldier on.” This can leave you feeling isolated and alone. Keep in touch with your friends and family even if it just a phone call. Talking about your feelings can help put things into perspective and give you back some control.
Remember that your feelings and needs are important and avoid falling into the trap of “giving” too much by taking care of yourself as well as your charge.
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