8 Tips to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout
November is National Family Caregivers Month.
Caregivers have an incredibly rewarding job, full of personal and professional fulfillment. But let’s face it: Providing high quality care, consistently and compassionately, can be tough. Caregiving is often stressful, and it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself when you’re taking care of others.
That’s why we’ve put together eight ways to reduce caregiver stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, lonely, isolated, or simply need a break, consider some of these ideas for rejuvenating your body and mind.
1. Make time for you.
Take at least 30-60 minutes each day to do something that you enjoy. Read a book, take a bath, go for a walk, bake cookies, or watch bad (or good) TV. Don’t judge yourself on the “quality” of the activity, just do whatever helps you relax and unwind.
2. Make time for family and friends.
Spending time with loved ones outside of your caregiving role can often fill you back up, even when being around other people sounds exhausting. Schedule easy get-togethers like meeting up for coffee and resist the urge to back out of your commitments. Sharing your joys and frustrations, and being there for your family and friends, almost always pays positive dividends.
3. Be part of a community.
Caregiving can often feel lonely. Consider joining a local or online support group to connect with other caregivers who can understand your specific circumstances. You’ll gain new friends, ideas and support, and benefit from providing the same to others in the caregiving community.
4. Accept help.
No one person can do everything. Ask for help when you need it, and accept help when it’s offered. Consider respite care if you need a break. Friends, family, and professional contacts are usually happy to offer their time and resources. Think about unique ways that people in your network can add value, and don’t be shy about sharing your ideas. You’ll be surprised at the enthusiastic response!
5. Stay healthy.
The best way to provide care is to care for yourself. Cliché? Perhaps, but also true. Make exercise a priority, even if it’s just a short walk or a low-key yoga class. Focus on healthy, whole foods; get plenty of sleep; and enjoy treats like alcohol and caffeine in moderation. It’s easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important to maintaining your mental and physical well being.
6. Practice acceptance.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your caregiving duties. Be mindful of what you can realistically offer, and be grateful for what you’re able to give and receive. Practicing acceptance can be as formal as guided meditation or as personal as taking a few minutes before bed to breathe deeply and let go of the day. No matter what your beliefs, remember the tried-and-true serenity prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
7. Set goals.
Stress often results from feelings of being “in a rut.” Actively pursue new activities and experiences by setting goals, both personally and professionally. Your goals may include new ways to perform your caregiving duties, small habits that form daily routines, or a major undertaking like running a race. The goal itself is less important than setting an intention and committing to its achievement.
8. Manage stress proactively and positively.
Resist the urge to cope with stress in ways that ultimately make you less happy and healthy. Replace another glass of wine with a hot bath, or choose to take a walk instead of sitting on the couch. Stressful situations are only as powerful as your response, and by managing your feelings authentically, you can provide the best possible care to yourself and your loved ones.
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