Stress accompanies caregiving…
Yet caregiver stress differs from ordinary stress, eg. from the work place. Its “ingredients” differ: love, caring, devotion, loyalty, pushing oneself to–and beyond–the limit. Of course satisfaction, frustration, anger, resentment and fatigue are common byproducts–generating stress. Can non-caregivers appreciate this?
Unlike Supreme Court Justice’s Potter Stewart’s famous pornography quote: “I know it when I see it,” I believe we can only know caregiver stress if we’ve experienced it. With so much information about reducing caregiver stress (about 17,700,000 items on Google; 1.990,000 on Yahoo) shouldn’t we have learned to manage it by now? In an effort to try, the beginnings of a select list of stress-relief links concludes this post. Meanwhile, caregivers deal with–
Three apparent roadblocks:
1, One size doesn’t fit all (neither the elders we care for–nor us)
2. Non-caregiving family members often can’t/don’t appreciate the stress, and don’t help.
3. We’re often not very good at asking for–no insisting on–help when we need it. Is giving up “ownership” difficult? (True, they may not do as good a job as we.)
Knowing what happens to us when we’re stressed–cranky, short-tempered, impatient, overwhelmed, (you fill in)–should wave a red flag that we need relief. That’s a first step in solving half the problem. When we know our stress-relief activity, we’re can solve most of the other half.
Finding out what works. There’s something that relaxes each of us and helps us see solutions more clearly and move forward. We just need to discover it.
When counseling, I would suggest stressed counselees think–perhaps while taking a shower–about what they enjoyed doing that relaxed them. I vividly remember one teenager who said she remembered hooking a rug in middle school. She loved doing it; remembered it took her mind off her problems. She still had a lot of the string (rags or whatever) and tried it over the weekend. She excitedly reported it still relaxed her and she realized a few things. Different strokes for different folks.
If I were musical, I’d probably play the piano. It seems like a wonderful stress reliever. That said, I’ve identified 3 stress-relief activities, often suggested by experts, that work for me and may for you.
1. Walking fast (but not overly-exerting), the same boring walk day after day for 30 minutes. No distractions (alone and no cell phone). I notice the same things again and again: homes, wildlife, flowers, even rocks. Forced to focus on my surroundings, my mind rids itself of problems and order replaces emotional and intellectual chaos. Solutions appear out of nowhere. Plus getting exercise; and doing something for ourselves, no matter how small, makes us feel better.
2. Gardening inside or outdoors, depending on season and where I am. No cell phone; sometimes music. Gardening (planting, pruning, pinching, weeding, deciding right plant for right place) absorbs me. Stress evaporates. Plus I’ve accomplished something.
3. Being with my pets. They say “Dogs have masters; cats have slaves.” No matter. Petting the dog or cat–or just watching them–slows things down, refocuses our thoughts, and–we’re told–lowers our blood pressure (haven’t tested that).
The beginning effort to compile links to caregiver stress-relief posts I like is below. It’s in progress; obviously incomplete. Recommendations welcomed.
Also check out The 2nd annual virtual Caregiving Conference, March 29, 2015. It’s free. Register on the Caregiving.com website: http://www.caregiving.com/2015/01/save-the-date-virtual-caregiving-conference-on-march-29/
The List (in progress)
1. Avoid Caregiver Burnout–Slideshow: of 14 Ways–WebMD http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/caregiver-14/slideshow-caregiver-burnout
2. Caregiving.com http://www.caregiving.com/the-caregiving-years/ This is excellent with text and videos of “The 6 Stages of Caregiving.”
3. Caregiver Stress: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself: Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-
4. From the Heart of a Caregiver (affirms letting go)
5. Managing Stress: Care for the Caregiver–BrightAngel (Alzheimer’s Foundation)
6. The HelpGuide: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiving-stress-and-burnout.htm
This is long, excellent and very complete.
7. Tips to Manage Caregiver Stress–WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/caregiver-advice-cope
8. What Can I Do to Prevent or Relieve Caregiver Stress? US Dept. Health & Human Services: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/caregiver-stress.html#f
9. In 2012 the Family Caregiver Alliance, Nat’l Center on Caregiving, updated statistics on caregivers, with many topics including “Impact of Caregiving on Caregiver’s Health.” (“an estimated 17-35% of family caregivers rate their health poor-fair”)
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