Taking care of their elderly can be a very rewarding experience, whether you’re a professional caregiver or an adult child caring for an older parent. But there are a lot of demands on your time and resources, both physically and mentally.
Senior caregiver burnout is all too real and it will catch you if you let it. You have to remember that you aren’t caring just for the elderly but yourself, too. Caregivers need to be able to shed stress before it can negatively impact their health.
Keep reading to learn the 15 the best tips to help you reduce caregiver stress…
1. Watch What You Eat
Despite knowing better, it’s possible that as a healer you’re even more susceptible than most to an eat-and-run diet full of processed foods.
Unlike other types of jobs, your career comes with a sense of urgency. It’s too easy to cut corners when it comes to meals, so we’re here to remind you to take care of yourself by eating fruits, veggies, and other wholesome foods.
2. Don’t Forget to Move
If you’re caring for an elderly adult that’s bed-bound or doesn’t leave the house much to physical constraints, you might soon find yourself also becoming more sedentary, which isn’t good for your health, thanks to sitting being almost as bad for you as smoking.
Try adding some gentle exercise into your day, even if it’s just taking a walk around the house. Walking strengthens your bones and muscles and can lower your blood pressure. It’s also a good way to get some of the benefits of meditation without having to stop what you’re doing.
3. Breathe Deeply
Some relaxation hacks aren’t long-term life changes meant to turn you into a new, less-stressed person. They’re more about the moment of crisis when you feel like you’re about to blow.
Those moments will arise when working with people in need, as any caregiver knows. If it’s possible, step back from the situation for a moment, and try slow, deep, abdominal breathing. Several breaths should be enough to steady yourself.
If it’s possible to shut your eyes, so much the better. Try keeping your hand on your belly to make certain you’re taking the breath all the way down. Then release it slowly.
4. Turn Your Frown Upside Down
Remarkably, you can often force your emotional responses from “the outside in.” It begins with a smile that might be completely phony. Commit to that smile, though, and in a moment you’ll find that you actually do feel better.
This simple physical gesture can develop into an overall attitude in which you decide to meet every crisis with cheer, even if you have to fake it for a bit. Exercising this skill will make you less stressed, and you might find it does wonders for your job security, as well.
5. Try a Ten Count
Quietly counting to ten is an excellent way to reduce caregiver stress, and it can keep you from making a mistake under pressure. Often, you’ll find yourself breathing more deeply during the count, as well, incorporating two techniques at once.
6. Make Use of Visualization
Have you got your eyes closed while counting to ten, breathing from the belly, and grinning? If so, visualize something worth grinning about. It could the mountains, or the golf course, or scuba diving, anywhere but where you are right now.
Visualization is a wonderfully versatile technique that can help protect you from senior caregiver burnout but also has an almost endless variety of uses, from helping you quit smoking to lending confidence as a public speaker.
7. Express Yourself
Many famous writers and poets have been caregivers of one sort or another. Some, like the poet William Carlos Williams, were medical doctors. Poet Walt Whitman and fiction writer Ernest Hemingway had to reduce caregiver stress on the battlefields of the Civil War and World War I.
Let them serve as examples. Put your stress onto the page, whether you intend to publish or not. It’s a good way to gain perspective upon the day’s burdens. Nobody needs to see it but you, and you just might be surprised at how cathartic writing your thoughts down can be.
8. Chant a Mantra
Writing might only be possible (or appropriate) when you’re at home. Chanting can be done anywhere. Choose a mantra from one of the world’s traditions if you like, or if you prefer, write your own mantra in the form of an affirmation.
Positive affirmations work much like visualization, with the additional benefit of having one’s voice echoing through your body. Chant a mantra and let the good vibrations flow.
9. Release Frustrations
It could be baseballs at the batting range, golf balls off a tee, or it could be a 75-pound bag at your favorite karate dojo. Work that aggression in safe, sanctioned ways that won’t end up with you being featured on the evening news.
There’s something satisfying about just the act of striking something. Some favor benching heavy weights. Others favor the gun range. What they all have in common is a degree of sublimated aggression.
10. Relax with Soothing Scents
Potpourri simmering on the stove or even just a stick of high-quality incense can be marvelously relaxing. Scent affects our mood profoundly, and it can be motivated to provide calm at the end of a tough day.
Not only is potpourri delightful to the senses, but it also signals us that we are now in a different place, away from the source of stress.
11. Stay Social
Your television does little to relieve caregiver stress. Avoid becoming an overworked couch potato. You either have friends and need to spend time with them, or you need to go places that interest you so that you can make new friends.
We need other people to be around. We need to party now and then, just to share laughter. Don’t let long hours lead to isolation. That can actually shorten your life.
12. Indulge in Some Romance
Human beings need to be touched. Sex is a tonic to body and spirit alike, leaving us feeling accepted by life itself. Just touching or holding a partner sheds stress. Sex is also good for the immune system and lowers blood pressure.
13. Get Out of Town
Whether it’s a transatlantic flight or just a camping trip to your nearest national park, there’s no better way to relieve yourself of months of pent-up stress than to put up the “Gone Fishing” sign and go away.
This is especially the case if you’re a senior caregiver because if you’re home you’re usually on-call. Even if that never happens, the possibility is going to make your home-time just a bit less relaxing than it is for your neighbor the insurance salesman.
Travel has the additional advantage of providing a constant source for peak experiences that will resonate through your entire life. It beats taking an evening stroll to the corner store for sugary snacks.
14. Don’t Self-Medicate
Access to powerful pharmaceuticals plus stress is a dangerous combination. Add a dash of overconfidence from being a healthcare professional, and the result can be a drug abuse problem. The caregiving profession is full of them.
It isn’t just pills you have to be concerned with. You should also make sure not to allow a “glass or two” of wine or another type of alcohol to become a nightly ritual. All forms of booze are addictive and could become problematic if not moderated.
15. Get Some Rest
If there’s any one area of life in which caregivers are frequently asked to sacrifice, it’s in regular sleep. This is unfortunate since erratic sleep patterns have been shown to be horrible for human health.
All we can advise is that those of you working the night shift keep your bedrooms as dark, cool, and quiet as possible. And maybe think about suggesting a reliable medical alert system to the senior you care for each day. Knowing that they have easy access to emergency assistance just might let you sleep easier at night!