How to help manage caregiver stress

In a majority of households, caregiving is provided by those who are not healthcare professionals. Even if it is the right thing to take care of those who have taken care of you at one point, you tend to put your own well-being on the back burner. Recognizing stress and how to deal with it will help you help yourself and become a better caretaker.1, 2

Recognize and Acknowledge the Signs of Stress

 Whether you are taking care of a spouse, parent, grandparent, or any other loved one, you will have stress in one form or another. The key is to acknowledge them and begin the process of getting well:

  • Constant worrying
  • Prolonged sleep irregularity
  • Easily triggered irritability
  • Loss of interest in other areas of your life
  • Head pain, body pain, digestive problems
  • Binging caffeine, libations, or other substances more than usual

You need to step back and look inwards to take care of yourself if you feel any or combination of them. This is because over a long period of time, these stresses can have detrimental impact on your own wellbeing. Realize that it is alright to take a break and have time to yourself. Distance yourself from the place of stress outdoors, socialize, take care of other parts of your life, and maintain a healthy diet with physical exercise.3

Your Own Nutrition and Physical Health Is Important

 Even if taking care of a loved one demands a lot of physical effort, that type of activity is called physical labour. Just like cooling down after an intense workout, you need routine systematic moderate to vigorous exercise to destress. Not only will you get time away from the source of stress, it will help you maintain a healthy weight, improve posture, and improve strength which will result in healthier heart ergo you become a better caretaker.3, 4

You are a Nutritionist, a Chef, and a Pharmacist to the one that needs care, but who will be those to you? Even in youth, a long bout of bad eating has you feeling lethargic, getting winded easily, and always falling ill. Try to eat the standard 3 meals a day that consists mostly of vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. But if you have to, break down the amount of food eaten in 3 meals into smaller meals. And nutritional supplements are not only for the elderly or those in need of care. It can be for you too, especially if you cannot have proper nutrition through food. Ensure products come in many flavours and forms and have the right ratio of nutrients and minerals to fill in what is missing from daily requirements.1, 4

Accept that You Need Help Too

 In Myanmar, it is culturally controversial to talk about a caregiver’s stress or a caregiver openly admitting they can no longer attend to their duties. We are afraid of judgement, therefore feel guilty if we say no. Focus on what you really can do and seek social support for others. Even if you believe you have the will to power through, letting others help you is beneficial. Enlist a friend, a family member or professional help to aid in the caregiving. You may want to isolate yourself because of the stress, but as experts say, it is never healthy to keep it all inside. If you have to, seek a medical professional for yourself to get treated physically and mentally.3, 4

References:

  1. https://ensure.ca/en/health-nutrition-tips/caregiver-stress-management
  2. https://ensure.com/caregivers
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784
  4. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/caregiver-support/top-10-caregiver-tips-for-staying-healthy-and-active