How to Cope with Caregiver Stress

Caregiving, whether family or professional, takes significant time and effort (physical, mental, and emotional), which can take their toll on an individual. Most caregivers are unprepared to take on their new roles, yet more than a third of them continue to provide intense care while suffering from declining health themselves.
 

How does caregiver stress affect me?

Both positive and negative stress exists, but only one can kill you. Positive stress can be a high-pressure situation that motivates you to find solutions to difficult tasks, helping us keep pace with physical and psychological demands. It stimulates action, keeps brains functioning fully, and can actually help you create a deeper appreciation for situations and relationships.

However, negative stress can result in a multitude of physical and psychological ailments:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Weaker immune response
  • High blood pressure
  • Risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • is often the major factor in the destruction of family and marriage relationships.

The difference between the two depends a lot on the outlook we develop in dealing with caregiving and stressful situations.
 

How do I know if I have caregiver stress?

Caregiving may be putting too much stress on you if you are:

  • Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry, or frustrated more often than not
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Gaining or losing significant weight
  • Feeling tired or despondent most of the time
  • Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed
  • Easily irritated or angered
  • Constantly worried or sad
  • Experiencing frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
  • Relying on alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs) to support your stress

 

How can I reduce caregiver stress?

1. Join a support group. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to find and participate in a local or online Caregiver Support Group. You can view a listing of TCF and other Hawaii-based groups here.

At TCF Caregiver Support Groups, you can learn relaxation techniques, caregiving tips, and discuss problems you are having on your caregiving journey.

2. Take time for yourself.It is important for all caregivers to realize that they, too, need daily care. Setting aside just an hour a day to read, relax, meditate, or spend time doing something just for you can reduce caregiver stress exponentially.

3. Ask others for help.It is okay to ask for support when and where needed. You may find some helpful resources to local or national organizations on our Resources page. You may also find support or advice from the books in TCF’s Bookstore.

Seeking help from a medical professional or therapist may also be in your best interest. They will help you learn to cope with daily stresses, discuss how you can reduce stress in your life, and give you a safe place to vent frustrations and other negative emotions.
 

What if I cannot cope with my caregiver stress?

Dealing with caregiving on your own can make you feel like you have nowhere to turn or no one to rely on. You are not alone and help is available.

  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Leave the house if you may cause harm to yourself, the person you are caring for, other people present.
  3. Call a friend, relative, or neighbor to step in and help the person in need of care. You may also contact Adult Protective Services or 911 to ask for intervention.
  4. Seek professional help for yourself, both for your mental and emotional well-being, and for support services to help you provide full- or part-time care for your care recipient. This may involve placement into a care facility or at-home care services. TCF can also help with these services.

Most importantly, never try to hold in stress that may erupt in violence towards others. Elder abuse is often the result of unrelieved stress.

Do you need to talk to someone about what to do? Call TCF’s help line at (808) 722-1903 or our office at (808) 625-3782. We are here to help.