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Stress Management Health Center

Tips for Coping With Caregiver Stress

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What Can I Do to Reduce Caregiver Stress in My Life?

Finding ways to reduce caregiver stress will help lessen the long-term emotional and physical toll. Tips for managing stress include:

  • Keep a positive attitude. Believe in yourself.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Limit yourself to moderate alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
  • Learn to use stress management techniques and coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing or guided imagery.

Relaxation Techniques for Caregiver Stress

Most people don't have a plan for coping with caregiver stress. Fortunately, there are a number of relaxation techniques and coping mechanisms that you can use to help deal with stress, such as:

  • Two-minute relaxation. Switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped. Quickly loosen up these areas. Let go of as much tension as you can. Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (Stop any movements that cause pain.) Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel relaxed.
  • Mind relaxation. Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose. As you exhale, silently say to yourself the word "one," a short word such as "peaceful," or a short phrase such as "I feel quiet." Continue for 10 minutes. If your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to think about your breathing and your chosen word or phrase. Let your breathing become slow and steady.
  • Deep breathing relaxation. Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, and fill your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow breath out, you should feel more relaxed.
  • Guided imagery. Guided imagery is a meditative technique that involves focusing on a particular sensory image to create a specific physical reaction. Guided imagery (also called guided meditation) is a form of mind-body therapy that can bring about deep relaxation and positive focus, the state of mind and body most conducive to healing. Guided imagery also can be used to release tension, anxiety, and stress.
  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback helps a person learn stress-reduction skills by providing precise, immediate information about muscle tension, heart rate, and other vital signs as a person attempts to relax. It is used to learn total body relaxation and also to gain control over certain physiological functions that cause tension and physical pain.
  • Behavioral changes. Changing certain thought patterns and behaviors can help you better manage difficult situations and stress. Examples include checking your assumptions, sharing your expectations with others, being assertive, exercising and eating healthy, focusing on positive relationships, forgiving, communicating feelings, listening, and rewarding yourself and others.

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