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National Stress Awareness Month: Ways to Support Caregivers

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain caused by adverse circumstances. April is National Stress Awareness Month and it provides the perfect opportunity to examine how we react to stress and ways to combat it. Caregivers, like all of us, can experience stress while working as well as mental, emotional or physical exhaustion.

Here are some ways to help reduce stress:

· Yoga

· Meditation

· Tai Chi

· Aerobic exercise such as jogging

· Prayer

· Eat a healthy diet that features vegetables and fruits rather than sugar or other stimulants

· Practice relaxation techniques such as taking a walk, making time for a craft like knitting, watch a funny movie, take a hot bath, sing, get a massage, and other activities that bring you pleasure.

· List stressors and then determine what can be changed

· Get a good night’s sleep consistently

In some instances, it may be necessary and worthwhile to consult your health care provider for additional assistance with stress management. For example, if you are experiencing shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea, pain, or other physical symptoms from stress, a medical professional may be able to help.

Surveys have found that family caregivers tend to have more stress than those who are not providing care to a loved one, and the stress will increase in relation to the care needs. To help manage stress, family caregivers might ask another family member, friend or neighbor to take turns with them, or consider hiring a professional caregiver. There are also support groups in-person or online for caregivers providing different types of care, such as a group for caregivers for those living with Parkinson’s disease.

It's important for caregivers to consistently do something that brings them joy. Many experts say that simply making time to do something enriching such as see a movie, walk with a friend or play tennis can aid in stress management.

Additionally, those who are family caregivers can benefit from reframing their relationship as that of partners in care, so it is not just them giving, but also benefitting from shared interests, activities, knowledge, and time together with their loved one—or perhaps time apart, if that is needed.

While stress is not entirely unavoidable in life, people can choose how they react to stress as it occurs and how they care for themselves. Don’t ignore your stress or hope it will just go away. Be aware of the symptoms and find positive ways to de-stress your life.

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