Caregiver - 6 easy ways to refuelWe live in a fast paced world. Stress seems to be embedded in our lives. If you are caregiving for a loved one though, you may be taking it to a new level.

Stress related to caregiving is expected. Things are often outside of your control. However, how you cope with stress is something that you can control. Learn to understand your stress, and how to refuel yourself. LifeCircles PACE makes it a priority to help caregivers assess and understand their stress levels when serving older adults in greater Muskegon, Grand Haven, Holland and Saugatuck. If you are struggling to care for an aging loved one, LifeCircles may be able to help. Please contact us at 616-582-3100 or at 231-733-8686 to learn more about our team based approach to supporting older adults and their caregivers.

Learn to recognize your individual signs of stress:

  • Neck, back or shoulder tightness
  • Holding your breath
  • Clenching your teeth
  • Clenching your hands
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Sleep changes: either sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in your appetite: either over or under eating
  • Things you once enjoyed no longer seem appealing?
  • Avoiding others?
  • Are little things starting to get under your skin?

Simple ways to refuel and combat stress:

Have you heard the expression, one cannot give from an empty well? This is true. You must find a way to replenish your spirit. It doesn’t have to be daunting though. Work to incorporate these simple tips into your daily or weekly routine. Be patient with yourself. You are in a challenging situation. You are not perfect, and that is ok. You may not be able to do all of these things all the time, but keep trying to make time for them.

  1. Communicate with others – find a sounding board when you need it. Have an outlet to talk about things outside of your day to day life.
  2. Move with a purpose – find 15 minutes a day to get moving. It is good for your mind, body and spirit. You don’t have to go to a gym, or do anything too strenuous. Walk around the back yard, stretch, try yoga or tai-chi. Dance in the kitchen. You don’t even need to do all 15 minutes at once, break it up.
  3. Use mindful breathing. Did you know that when we are tense that we often hold our breath?  Find a quiet place. Clear your mind, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Learn to do this for longer periods of time as you get more comfortable with it. When you find yourself tense or frustrated – remember to breathe! Here is an easy way to take it a step further: http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/mindful_breathing
  4. Watch silly videos on the computer. Seriously, a few moments of laughter no matter how you get it is good for you. Try to step back and find humor in the day to day moments. We really get a kick out of this video: http://afv.com/video/dogs-try-booties-first-time/
  5. Get a good night’s sleep – make it a routine to get to bed at a reasonable time. Turn off your devices, darken your room, and relax.
  6. Make time for yourself to do something just for you. A long bath, a walk in the park, picking up a book, a painting class. It doesn’t have to be big, just something you look forward to doing. It is more than OK to ask for help. Finding just 30-60 minutes a week to do something just for you can have a big impact on your wellbeing, and your ability to help your loved one.

Finally, please speak to your medical professional if you are finding the stress to be too much. Caregivers often experience changes to their own health. Stay in contact with your doctor, he or she can be a valuable resource for you.

If you’d like to learn more about caregiving stress and coping strategies the AARP has a Caregiver Stress Assessment, and other resources that you may find useful: http://assets.aarp.org/external_sites/caregiving/homeCare/managing_the_stress_quiz.html

Your health and well-being matter. Please contact LifeCircles if you’d like to learn about the specific ways we help older adults and their caregivers. 231-733-8686 for Muskegon County, 616-582-3100 for Ottawa and Allegan Counties.