Providing caregiving to another person ranks among the most selfless, important jobs that a person can take on.
But while caregiving ranks among the most important service you can offer to those in need, it also takes a toll on the caregiver. Much of that can come in the form of stress.
When it comes to caregiving, stress is part of the job. Dealing with often complex situations – and with people going through a tough time – can result in a great deal of tension and anxiety. And often, these feelings are suppressed so that the caregiver can do their job.
It’s important for caregivers to recognize the built up stress inside and to deal with it in a way that is healthy and positive. The list below represents five ways to reduce stress and deal with tension – one alone will help, but a combination of some or all of them works best.
Studies have shown that gardening can reduce stress for a number of reasons. For one thing, gardening allows people to set aside the stress and tension of day-to-day life and reconnect with nature. Gardening also offers a chance to exercise, get outdoors and focus on tasks that involve helping living plants grow and flourish.
Throughout history, people have sought calmness by looking inward. Many major religions and philosophies – including Buddhism, Gnosticism and even Toltec shamanism – have emphasized meditation as a way of improving life. Scientific studies have shown the benefits as well. While you cannot control the environment around you or the actions of others, you can control your own mind and thoughts. Taking time each day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and look inward can lead to more happiness, reduced depression and other benefits, according to many different studies.
Exercise and Diet
A simple Google search will lead you to study after study about the benefits of exercise. This does not mean killing yourself for hours in the gym every day. Instead, consistent, moderate exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and can boost positive feelings (including self-esteem and confidence). Think in terms of trying to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and see the benefits
A healthy diet offers the same benefits. Staying away from high calorie and high carbohydrate foods, and instead eating plenty of vegetables and low-fat protein, will change how you look and feel if done consistently. It also will lead to less stress on the body.
Sometimes stress reaches a level where you have to talk to someone else about the issues that have started to dominate your thoughts. In most cities, support groups are available to give you a chance to talk out your issues with others who will lend a sympathetic ear. Or you could choose to talk to a professional therapist who can listen and also offer good advice on what steps you can take to reduce your stress and change how you think about things in your life.
You can exercise, eat right, mediate and spend quality time in the garden. You can talk out your problems with other people who want to offer support. But sometimes, you have to take a little time just for yourself. Indulging yourself doesn’t mean a weekend in front of the television eating chocolate ice cream, but instead taking time to do something positive and healthy that you’ve always wanted to do. Taking the vacation you always wanted to the mountains, for example, or finally reading “War and Peace.”
However you deal with the stress of being a caregiver, the first step is recognizing that you have stress in your life and that it is completely natural. The important thing after acknowledging the issue is to find healthy ways to deal with it, such as the ideas listed above.
Remember that what you do is important, but so is taking care of yourself.