Whether you’re a caregiver now or anticipate being one in the future, don’t let yourself become a victim of stress.
Here are some helpful ways you can reduce stress and improve your own quality of life while caring for a loved one.
1. Ask for help. Many caregivers feel they need to do everything themselves. Either they don’t trust others, or they feel they would be turned down if they asked for help. Such attitudes can lead to burnout, resentment, depression, and other mental health issues. Researchers have found that anticipating rejection can increase brain inflammation, which can compromise memory if it becomes chronic. Despite such fear, reaching out for help has been hardwired into our brains through evolution. Our early ancestors who got help from others gained a survival advantage. Scientists have identified the amygdala’s emotional control center and the frontal lobe’s planning region as the brain networks involved in asking for help.
2. Stay in touch with friends. Maintaining your own personal relationships will help protect against the potential isolation of caregiving. Make sure you stay in touch with friends, even if you can’t give those friendships as much time as you’d like to. Those relationships will sustain you and help you maintain an upbeat mood despite stressful caregiving duties. If it’s hard to get out of the house, invite people over to visit.
3. Schedule recreation. Even if it’s only for brief periods, make sure you take time to pursue activities you enjoy. Take breaks to work in the garden, read, watch a movie, walk the dog, or do anything fun that breaks up the stress of caregiving. Even short periods of leisure time can significantly reduce the stressful effects of caregiving.
4. Join a support group. If you don’t want to burden friends with your caregiving woes, a support group is a good way to air those difficulties with others who are experiencing similar challenges. Not only will you get emotional relief by talking about your feelings with people who understand your situation, you’ll almost certainly get practical advice from others who know the ordeals of caregiving. If you don’t have time to get out of the house for a support group, online communities can be a convenient alternative to face-to-face group meetings.
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