Managing Your Stress While Caring for Another

Stress is a common problem and can become even greater when you're trying to care for another. Here are a few things that might help you manage.
July 17, 2019 | 3 min read
Christa S. Plew, MBA
Editor-in-Chief

Daily stress is a common problem for many people. Those providing care for someone are no exception and will likely deal with additional stressors. Caregiving often takes a great deal of time, effort, and work, which can leave you feeling overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, and burnt-out.

As a caregiver, your stress can be influenced by various factors and situations:

  • Whether or not you had a choice to become the caregiver. If you feel you had no choice in taking on this responsibility, you may experience increased strain, distress, and resentment.1
  • Your relationship with the patient. Caring for close family can cause strain in the relationship if the patient feels they aren’t getting the attention they need. Sometimes people offer to care for a family member in hopes of healing a strained relationship, but when healing is slow or complications arise, feelings of regret and discouragement can occur.1-2
  • The patient’s overall health. Caring for a person with dementia can be more stressful than caring for a person with a minor injury.2

If you’ve agreed to provide care for a friend or family member, be proactive about your own stress management plan. Being prepared in advance can help reduce your stress. As stressors can have physiological effects, talk to your own doctor about stress-management specific to you. Here are a few things to consider when planning to act as caregiver:

  • Identify your personal signs of stress.4 Everyone handles stress differently. While one person may internalize their stress, become forgetful, or overly tired, others may become aggressive, looking for an outlet to release their stress. Identifying your early signs of stress can help you plan ways to handle that stress before it arises.
  • Remember, you’re one person.1 There’s only so much you can do and you can’t change other people. Do the best you can, but remember that you can only do what you can do. Don’t stress out trying to be a miracle-worker.
  • Open lines of communication prior to surgery.4 Talk with the patient to ensure that your expectations of the care to be provided are aligned with theirs. That way, you both enter the caregiving situation with the same plan.
  • Try to maintain a sense of balance in your life.3,4  If you feel overwhelmed and stressed, chances are the patient will feel that way too. Build time in your schedule for things that bring you joy and keep you calm.
  • Know when to seek help.1,3,4 Understand what resources and support are available before you begin providing care.  Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed. Know what your breaking points are and plan for where you will seek support should you reach them. 
    • You may not wish to "burden" others or admit that you can't handle everything yourself. But it's okay to ask for help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others might be able to help you. For example:
      • Someone could give you a scheduled 15 minute break a few times a week
      • Your neighbor could help pick up groceries or other items
      • A relative could help with paperwork and organizing bills as they arrive
    • When you break down the jobs into simple tasks, it is easier for people to help… and they do want to help. It is up to you to tell them how.

Above all, remember that you’re not alone. There are many resources out there to help you. Government programs like Eldercare and your local Area Agency on Aging might be able to provide additional support. To find an Eldercare service near you, visit www.eldercare.acl.gov. Also, it might be worth your time to visit websites like www.caregiver.org and www.caregiverstress.com.  These sites provide a variety of resources, tools, and events for caregivers.*

Providing care for a loved one can be incredibly fulfilling. By being prepared, knowing your signs of stress, and asking for help when needed, you can help facilitate a positive experience for everyone.

*Zimmer Biomet is not affiliated with these websites and neither endorses or verifies the accuracy of the content thereon.

References
  1. Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself (2018). Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784
  2. Schempp, D. (2014). Emotional Side of Caregiving. Family Caregiver Alliance. www.caregiver.org/emotional-side-caregiving
  3. Link, G. and Hepburn, K. (2014). Caregiver stress. Office on Women’s Health. www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/caregiver-stress
  4. Dealing with Caregiver Stress (2019). Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro. www.hospicegso.org/i-am-caring-for-someone/caregiving-resources/dealing-with-caregiver-stress/
Please let us know how useful this article was to you

Thank you for rating this article.