3 Things You Should Do to Reduce Caregiver Stress
Caregivers dedicate themselves to providing support and care for loved ones, but sometimes the physical and emotional toll becomes too much to bear. It can be difficult to shift roles and become the caregiver for a senior parent, and even more taxing to become the caregiver to an ailing spouse. Even if you don’t want to have negative emotions about caring for a loved one, it is natural to feel frustrated, exhausted, angry, and stressed. And, sometimes that stress leads caregivers to develop a substance abuse problem as an unhealthy coping mechanism. If you are a caregiver struggling with alcoholism or addiction, you need to take steps to reduce your stress level.
Start Saying No
It is not unusual for caregivers to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to cope with caregiving. Studies show that caregivers who have social and emotional burdens are at risk for “problematic alcohol use.” Similarly, registered nurse and CaregiverRelief.com administrator Diane Carbo says seniors frequently “look to alcohol for comfort,” and older women, in particular, are in danger of becoming dependent on alcohol when they provide care for their spouses. Caregivers also experience depression, anxiety, and isolation, which trigger increased alcohol use. Some also use anxiety medication or pain medication as the stress of caregiving builds.
If you are a caregiver, one of the best ways you can reduce stress is to start saying no. You can begin to say no to alcohol or drugs by admitting your problem and seeking help from a medical professional. You also can join a local support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. If you don’t have time to attend a meeting because of your caregiving duties, call the National Drug & Alcohol Treatment Hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357).
But, you also need to start saying no to doing everything in your caregiving role to relieve the stress that triggered your substance abuse issue in the first place. You need to be honest when you feel overwhelmed or like you are being pulled in too many directions at once. You need to come to terms with the fact that you can’t do it all, and that you shouldn’t try. Taking on too many activities or financial obligations increases your stress and makes you a less effective caregiver.
Tackle Issues that Increase Your Stress Level
Even if you don’t like to admit it, you may contribute to your stress level by ignoring issues that need to be addressed. For example, you may experience financial difficulty because you quit your job to become a full-time caregiver. Hoping that the financial issues will resolve themselves is too stressful. In fact, financial challenges are common for caregivers, and you need to educate yourself about the financial aid programs and other options for becoming a paid family caregiver.
Another way that caregivers contribute to their own stress levels is by avoiding difficult conversations. One such conversation includes talking to your loved one about his wishes for end-of-life care and funeral arrangements. Having this conversation is difficult for a host of reasons, but you need to gather your courage and talk to your loved one about his final wishes sooner, rather than later. The relief you will get from having answers and knowing you will be prepared when the time comes far outweighs the anxiety you feel about starting the conversation. You also will gain peace of mind and have a chance to come to terms with your loved one’s morality, and you will reduce your stress level.
Adopt Self-Care Practices
Caregivers spend so much time caring for their loved ones that they often forget to take care of themselves. The truth is, by keeping your own mental and physical health in mind, you will be better equipped to provide the care your loved one needs. One solution is to set personal health goals. After you address your substance abuse issue, continue to work toward improved physical and mental health by sticking to a consistent sleep routine, getting plenty of exercise each week, and fueling your body with healthy food and adequate amounts of water.
Caregiver stress is a serious problem that often leads to substance abuse. You need to manage your stress by saying no to drugs and alcohol, refusing to take on too many duties or obligations, addressing issues that increase your stress, and adopting self-care practices.
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