As our elders get older, their bodies will naturally start to weaken. And while we’ve talked at length about seniors that can bike 85-100 miles a day (for fun), the truth is their bones weaken and they become more susceptible broken bones and fractures. Because of this, the adult children of the elders often become the caregivers. When this happens, it’s easy to become overwhelmed – it’s natural – because what’s expected of these family caregivers is to provide skilled nursing care without the years of education and training that medical staff undergo.
All of this culminates into caregivers being overcome by stress which can lead to lack of sleep, high anxiety, weight gain, high blood pressure, and depression. This is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding career paths, but simultaneously, one of the most stressful.
So, without further ado, here are 5 ways to relieve family caregiver stress:
1. Eat Healthy Food
It’s an all too often occurrence for family to start having fast food more regularly, simply because they don’t have enough time. Having these unhealthy fried meals that are rich in calories is detrimental to your health and can make you all the more lethargic, depressed and more susceptible to depression, unwanted weight gain and so forth.
The best way to relieve family caregiver stress is to eat healthy food. Smaller meals that you can eat throughout the day are best because that way you can avoid binge-eating unhealthy meals. Some recommended meals are:
- Ants on a Log, i.e. celery with peanut butter and raisins (this is low-fat and high protein)
- Fresh fruit and veggies (these are rich in vitamins and minerals)
- Greek yogurt and granola (you can add honey for some additional, flavor)
- Smoothies (which basically combines all three, but are easy to eat on the go)
2. Drink Water
This may seem obvious, but it should always be a priority, drink water. When trying to relieve stress, drinking water is imperative since losing as little as 2% of your body water can cause drowsiness and fatigue.
In addition, many caregivers resort to caffeine for a boost, however, they’re not drinking caffeine to be more alert, but to stay awake – that’s a problem. Caffeine is powerful, but it dehydrates you faster than other fluids and, if you drink ANY after 12:00PM, you’re going to have difficulty sleeping. So drink water generously, especially if you drink coffee.
3. Go for a Walk
Every person (not just caregiver) has been in that situation where they have just enough time to not get anything done. If you find yourself with 15-20 minutes of free time, rather than sit down, go for a walk. Studies have shown that 15-20 minutes of walking can greatly improve your mood, appetite and even lower your risk of dementia, heart disease or developing diabetes – yes, really.
If you find yourself with an additional fifteen minutes, take a nap. There’s a number of sleep studies that show 15-20 minute naps will re-energize you better than a 30-minute nap which can leave you feeling groggy (similar to a hangover). However, 50 minutes may recharge you better, so budget that time wisely if you want to relieve family caregiver stress – I always set an alarm for ten more minutes so I include the time it takes to fall asleep.
5. Take a Cold Shower
While this one lacks the research of the others, many caregivers I’ve spoken with first-hand insist on taking quick, cold showers because it keeps them alert and helps them feel refreshed whereas others who had hot showers admitted to feeling tired and more irritable. It may be a personal preference, but it seems to work for many as a means of reliving caregiver stress.
For more information, we’ve written another article on how to relieve caregiver stress using Eckhart Tolle’s methodology. If you want more help though, we’re always available by phone and there are numerous sites and support groups dedicated to providing ways to relieve family caregiver stress.
Stay safe and stay healthy!