The Caregiver


Stress and Management





Stress is the body's reaction to any situation that appears difficult or threatening.  A little stress is good as it makes you think faster and put extra effort into meeting the challenges of everyday life.  However, too much stress which is not well controlled can lead to many health problems including  high blood pressure, heart attack, depression or a nervous breakdown.

Most caregivers experience stress from the constant demands of caregiving. The stress can be related to long hours of care, severity of your care recipient's illness, lack of assistance, and financial burden.  The responsibility and emotion in caregiving put you at risk of exhaustion and illness.

The best way to deal with stress is to prevent it from becoming overwhelming in the first place.  You should start learning how to deal with stress before it is at your wits end.  Do not deal with stress in unhealthy way such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, smoking, or overeating.


Signs and Symptoms of Stress


► Increase heart beats

► Shortness of breath

► High blood pressure

► Headaches

► Frequent colds

► Exhaustion

► Back strain

► Stiff neck

► Upset stomach

► Constipation or diarrhea

► Weight gain or loss

► Increased irritability

► Lose temper easily

► Problems with relationships

► Forgetful, poor concentration

► Feelings of isolation

► Depression

► Loss of sleep

Managing Stress
Talk to People about Your Concerns:
Address negative or confusing feelings by talking about it with someone who can really listen to you.  Finding someone who will let you talk freely about your problems and feelings without judging you does a world of good.  Very often the listener may not help in any practical ways, but the process of ventilating and expressing your doubts, fears and feelings help you work through your stress.  It also provides you with a different point of view. You will probably find the solutions yourself. 
Joining a Caregiver Support Group is a good way to share your experiences and learn from others.  Click here to find a support group.


Plan Your Time:  Good time management helps you complete your tasks within the given time.  Be more organised and decide what to do first.  List what you have to do according to their importance.  Decide how much time you need for each job and then stick to your plan.  Always complete one task before starting another. Remember, do not spend too much time on some activities at the expense of other important tasks. Try to take less time to do each task, without compromising on quality.

Exercise Regularly:
 Aerobic exercises, jogging, and involvement in games are useful means to cope with stress.  Choose something that is most fun for you so that you will likely stick with it.  Even a small amount of exercise every week can help you recharge your energy.  Take initiative to stick with an exercise plan.


Tips on Sticking with an Exercise Plan:


Invite a friend or exercise partner to start with you.


The companionship can be an added pleasure and encourage you to be consistent.


Make a plan and schedule your time, but choose a realistic time.


Keep track of how successful you are with your plan.


Arrange for Relief from Constant Caregiving Responsibilities:  It is important that you have your own quality time every week, doing exactly what you like to do. This is especially so if you are caring for the person over a long period of time.  Ask for free relief from your family members, friends or volunteers.  They can help by taking over your duties, for instance, for a few hours or a few days a week. Alternatively, you may engage private nurses through paid services from the local Nurse Agencies.  These agencies can provide  you nurses for overnight or even 24-hour care if required.  Refer here for services that can facilitate your caregiving roles.
Change How You Respond to Difficult Situations
:  Deal constructively with negative feelings.  Learn to think positively.  Do not promise too much. Give yourself enough time to get things done.  Control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control.  Learn to say "no." Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
  If you cannot cope, ask for and accept help.  Give yourself credit, not guilt.
Adopt Right Breathing Technique:
Proper breathing allows better carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange in your blood, which leads to a feeling of relaxation.  It requires the use of the diaphragm muscle, taking a deep breath by expanding the whole chest and abdomen, and breathing more slowly.  A common mistake in breathing is pulling upward your shoulders and upper chest to inhale.  When you do this, less oxygen reaches your bloodstream and brain.  The result is often that your heart rate goes up and you become more tense.  To understand how proper breathing feels, either lie down or sit, and place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.  As you breath in, the hand on your abdomen will rise but the hand on your chest should barely move.
Practise Mind-Calming Techniques:  These relaxation techniques allow the mind to be totally rid of distracting thoughts.  Yoga is a wonderful way to relax your body and release stress by using breath, movement and body control. Meditation helps you relax your mind and body and develop greater control over your thoughts and worries.  You can also easily practice relaxation techniques at a quiet place by just thinking for a few minutes of an image that relaxes you.  This maybe a beach with a warm breeze or a happy memory.  Another simple way to calm your mind is to distract yourself.  Go for a movie, play a sport, immerse yourself in a hobby, or listen to your favorite music are good ways to calm your mind.

Eat Right:
 Eat and drink sensibly.  Do not stop eating when you are stressed. This is because when your body is deprived of nutrients for a long period of time it too becomes stressed.  Try to fuel up with fruits, vegetables, and proteins.  Good sources of protein can be peanut butter, chicken, or tuna salad.  Eat whole-grains, such as wheat breads and wheat crackers.  It has been known that certain foods can help reduce stress, like complex carbohydrates (examples pasta and potatoes) that are more slowly absorbed.  Stay away from sugary snacks.  Watch the coffee and the hidden stimulants in things like medicines, soda and some of the bottled waters that contain excessive caffeine.  Alcohol and food abuse may seem to reduce stress, but it actually adds to it.


Have Adequate Sleep and Rest:  Sleep and rest are important for our body to function efficiently. Like a machine, our body undergoes wear and tear daily and adequate sleep and rest helps to rejuvenate the mental and physical functions.


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Simple Relaxation Techniques


The following are some simple relaxation techniques that you can try doing at home.  They help to relieve tension and clear your mind.


Deep Breathing Exercise:


Lie down or sit in a chair.


Rest your hands on your stomach.


Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, making the hand on your abdomen rise.  Hold it for awhile.


Slowly exhale through your mouth.  To control how fast you exhale, purse your lips like you are going to whistle.  Your abdomen will fall slowly.


Repeat five to 10 times.



Muscle Relaxation:


Sit on a comfortable chair.


Close your eyes.


Clench one fist tightly.


Hold the tension for a few seconds and concentrate on it.


Then release the tension very slowly.  Feel the tension draining out of your hand.


Repeat this exercise with any part of your body - eyes, shoulders, abdomen, buttocks, arms, legs, etc.



Mental Relaxation:


Switch on some soft music.


Sit on a comfortable chair or lie down.


Close your eyes.  Clear your mind of all thoughts.


Relax all your muscles and let yourself go limp.


Imagine a pleasant, soothing scene such as a clear blue sky, waterfalls, gentle lapping waves, etc.


Do deep breathing if you like or play an audio relaxation message.


Continue until you feel relaxed.



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