Taking Care of You

Coping With Caregiver Stress

Make Time to Move
Exercise is the tried and true method for beating stress. Even a brief 10-15 minute walk can boost your spirits and bust your stress. Make regular exercise part of your routine.

Build a Support Network
Build a network of friends, family and professionals to support you. Your network should include friends or family members who will listen compassionately and offer advice only when you ask for it.

Make sure your doctor knows that you are a caregiver. Caring for a family member can have a negative impact on chronic conditions. Don't skip appointments and check-up times.

Be Gentle with Yourself
Observe your thought habits. When something goes wrong, do you say to yourself "I should have known this would happen" or "I should have prevented this from happening"? If you do, work to break the chain of worry and recrimination by thinking what you would say to a good friend under the same circumstance. I'll bet you wouldn't blame her. Treat yourself like a best friend. If you find yourself caught in a web of negative thoughts that you can't break the thought pattern even witht help of friends and family, consider the risk of depression and ask your doctor to screen you.

Healthy Habits for Caregivers...

Healthy habit 1: Exercise
Every caregiver needs to take care of their body. Find time to exercise. Exercise improves your health, raises your spirits, and reduces stress.

Healthy Habit 2: Eat a nutritious and well balanced diet.
It’s easy in the rush of your many to do's to skimp on proper eating. Food is the fuel that makes your caregiving engine go. Eat well. Take your vitamins. Enjoy your food as a great way to add to your sense of well being.

Healthy Habit 3: Go to the doctor regularly and follow his or her advice.
Nine times out of ten, when I ask a caregiver about the last time he/she went to the doctor, I hear about their loved one’s last appointment. This is about taking care of you. Caregiving is very stressful business. Monitor your health with doctor’s help, watching for high blood pressure and other stress related illnesses.

Healthy Habit 4: Get enough sleep.
This is one of the toughest healthy habits to follow and the most essential. Take a good look at your sleep habits. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to suffer sleep disruptions, difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep. Make sure your nightly routine is soothing. Go to bed and get up at the same times every day. If the person you are caring for requires assistance at night, seek help to at least occasionally so you can enjoy an uninterrupted night of rest.

Healthy Habit 5: Seek emotional support while caregiving.
Find places where you can express your feelings. Confide in friends, family members and professionals. Brainstorm with others to generate caregiving solutions and share your experiences with others to learn that you are not alone. There are support groups available for almost every condition and situation. If you use a computer you can connect to on line groups that you can attend without even leaving the house.

Healthy Habit 6: Nurture your spirit.
Seek out places and activities that inspire, uplift and soothe your spirit. Attend church, pray, meditate, experience nature or read inspirational books.

Healthy Habit 7: Take breaks from caregiving.
Seek opportunities to give yourself a break from caregiving. Ask friends or family to cover your responsibilities for an afternoon or the day. Consider hiring a professional caregiver to come to your home to a few hours a week. Consider a short term placement in a care facility for your loved one, a weekend or a week while you take a vacation.

Healthy Habit 8:
Be gentle with yourself.
Caregiving is by its nature is guilt producing. Many of us aspire to a picture of perfection that is almost impossible to achieve. Things will happen that you did not anticipate. Be aware of your internal dialog when problems come up. Are you critical of yourself? Do you say things like “I’m stupid why didn’t I anticipate this problem”? Notice your internal conversations and change from negative statements to more positive statements.

What other healthy habits can you think of? How has your life changed and what do you want to add back in? Think of those activities as your personal healthy habits. Good habits take time to develop, on an average it takes 4-6 weeks of practice before a habit becomes routine. Commit to adding one healthy habit to your day or week for the next 6 weeks and see how your life changes.

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