While some people started off this month by playing a funny joke on a friend or co-worker, the beginning of April, which marks National Stress Awareness Month, makes me think about the stress that plagues those who are caring for an older loved one. And, believe me, caregiver stress is no joking matter.
While stress is the number-one complaint when it comes to a caregivers own health and wellness, finding stress relief is just one more thing you have to do because stress can seriously impact your ability to continue caring for your loved one.
In fact, a study conducted a few years ago by the Commonwealth Fund found that caregivers are twice as likely as the general population to develop chronic illness such as heart disease or cancer due to prolonged stress.
Here are five tips to help find that stress relief you need :
1. Talk to a friend a spouse, adult child, sibling, neighbor or other friendly face who can give you a shoulder to cry on or help get your mind off things for even a few minutes. One thing I have heard over and over again from caregivers is that they feel they are all alone. The reality is that you are not alone. By reaching out and voicing your fears, frustrations and anger in a safe environment with a trusted friend you will be amazed at how just talking can start to lift that weight off your shoulders.
2.Join a support group of other caregivers if you are frustrated, angry or depressed, it helps to let off steam by talking to other caregivers who understand. Often, caregivers find that talking to other caregivers who are going through similar challenges and anxieties can be empowering and nurturing. Sometimes other family members and friends can be sympathetic but not empathetic. It is important to find a support group that is specific to your situation whether you are caring for someone with cancer, Alzheimers or in the case of our veterans, you may be a caregiver of someone with posttraumatic stress disorder or a physical disability. Find the group where others in the circle or online truly understand.3.Try yoga, tai chi, or meditation - Just calmly sit in a quiet room and listen to your breathing. Dr. Oz advises taking ten deep, long breaths a day. It will help you take your mind on a journey to a happy place and has positive health impact. Learning how to relax is a true skill one you have to practice every day.4.Do something that soothes you physically youll be amazed at how it calms your mind. A bath is great or if you dont have the time, just running your hands under warm water for a few minutes can truly relax you.
Get enough sleep 7 to 8 hours is recommended. If you find you are tossing and turning at night and you cant get those eyes closed, try drinking green tea one to two hours before bed, or put a lavender pillow near your head. It will help relax you.5.Remember, stress can be a caregivers biggest enemy. When you become a stress-buster, you will be on your way to finding that balance that will bring you better health and wellness.Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a consultant, media contributor, and frequent guest speaker.