Whether you're a caregiver or the older adult in need of care, stress impacts everyone. Regardless of whether it's work, family situations, finances, failing health or even a social situation, stress can lead to potentially harmful impacts on your mind and body. Not all stress is harmful, though, there are times when a stressful situation may motivate you to make a decision or meet a deadline, but long term, chronic stress is another matter entirely.
Each individual responds to stress in his or her unique way and what is stressful for one person may not cause any anxiety in another. The ways in which you respond to your particular stress triggers can help you cope.
For example, how to react to stress can hinge on myriad items, including:
- Your overall view of the situation. Is it as bad as you originally imagined?
- Do you think you can get through the stressful situation? In other words, can you see light at the end of the tunnel?
- Are you generally an optimistic or a pessimistic individual? Your attitude going into a situation could also impact the amount of stress is places on you.
What is your general state of health and mental wellbeing?
- Have you been sleeping well? Eating healthy? Exercising regularly? Your overall health situation will impact how stress affects you.
Stress, especially chronic stress, can lead to overall anxiety, sleep issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and depression. In the case of a caregiver and his or her stress, feelings of guilt may also factor into the stressful situation. Gaining control of your stress and managing stressful situations will help you get back on an even keel and lead you back toward a happier, healthier state.
Here are some steps you can take to rein in your stress:
Take control of the situation. There are items you can easily address and there are items that may be out of your control determine which are which and then tackle those that you can and ask for help on those that are beyond your control. Simply knowing what you can and cannot do can relieve stress.
Write it down. Many people find they wake in the middle of the night with a to-do list running through their heads. To avoid this, it's best to write a list of items you know you need to complete; the simple act of writing it down will usually remove it from your mind. Also, don't forget to write down those items which cause you the most stress. Writing them down may help you see a solution you hadn't considered previously. Write down items which can be delegated to other family members or for which you may need outside, professional help; remember to ask others to help share the load.
Learn to say no. Remember, it's all right to simply take a step back and take a day off from caregiving; or if you're a senior that babysits the grandchildren you too can ask for a day off. There are times when a caregiver needs to take care of him or herself and the best way to do that is to ask for relief and a day off.
Prioritize and set limits. Only you know what is most important for and yourself your family. If you're a member of the so-called "sandwich generation" (those who are raising their own families while caring for aging parents) you need to balance time with your family as well as with your parents. Once you've listed priorities take a hard look at the list and see if there are items you could delegate or simply not do.
Finding ways to manage stress will lead to a healthier and happier life for both the caregiver and the senior. Remember too, as a caregiver you need to be cognizant of the stress your aging relative may be under. Take time to sit with them and ask what stress they may be experiencing and seek out ways to help them cope you will all be better off for it.