We face stressful factors every day. Stress is a part of life. Learning new ways of dealing with, reacting, and accepting things is how we learn to cope with situations out of our control. When we learn to cope well, we are healthier! How we seek and apply solutions to stressful situations or problems that emerge is all about using coping skills: healthy coping skills. Caregiving can be rewarding but also very stressful. Instead of eliminating the inevitable stress that comes with caregiving, there are healthy ways for caregivers to cope with stress. Here are five essential caregiver coping skills to know and apply to daily life:
Signs of Caregiver Stress
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired often
- Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
- Gaining or losing 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
Learn to Set Limits
The first essential caregiver coping skill to know is to learn how to set limits and boundaries. If you are feeling emotionally drained, then it is time to take a break. To continue pushing on is dangerous, not just for yourself but for everyone around you. Try to apply some of the same skills you utilize for work or school, such as planning, organizing, communicating, and delegating can also be used effectively with caregiving.
Cope with Negative Emotions
It is essential to understand that negative emotions are a natural part of being a human. It is okay to feel angry or sad! But it is also important to cope with negative emotions in a healthier way than lashing out on your loved one. Instead, write down how you are feeling in a journal. Write down all of the good parts of your day, as well as the bad parts. This is a time when you can be completely honest with yourself and don’t have to share it with anyone else. If you feel the desire to rip up the pages when you’re done, go ahead! You must remember that feelings are just feelings. They are not always logical.
Know Your Resources
If possible, join a support group for caregivers. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. Those who attend support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be an excellent place to create meaningful friendships. In addition to this, know your resources! AARP Family Caregiving offers free care guides, legal checklists, information on care options, and an online community that supports all types of family caregivers. You can even call the caregiver support line for one-on-one help. The Caregiver Action Network also provides information, educational materials, and support for family caregivers.
Take Time to Relax
Another valuable caregiver coping skill is to take time to relax. As mentioned above, you could keep a journal to write down how you are feeling and what goes on throughout the day. Start a new hobby, like playing an instrument or painting. If you need a break to relax, find a volunteer to spend several hours with your loved one, or hire someone. Another great thing to do is to meditate with relaxing music. Focus on your breathing. Inhale for 30 seconds and exhale for 30 seconds. Continue for 10 minutes or until you feel peaceful.
Above all, as a caregiver, it is essential to stay healthy. If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of your loved one? Start by setting small goals—place healthy snacks in the refrigerator at work and home. Try to limit your intake of fast food. Treat yourself by pampering yourself and indulging in a favorite activity!
By utilizing the following essential caregiver coping skills, you will be healthier, happier, and ready to take on the day! You are not alone. Many others take care of their loved ones. If you feel like you are struggling on your own, try to take advantage of local resources for caregivers. To get started, check out the Eldercare Locator or contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to learn about services in your community. You can find your local AAA online or in the government section of your telephone directory. At Courtyard Manor, we offer specific services for those who have Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Contact us today to learn more!