Are you a carer?

A role with challenges, so when Harry offered this article he’d written, I felt it offered an important contribution to supporting carers thus have included it here (Di).

Harry wrote:

Caregivers are at a higher risk of many physical and mental health conditions, and 17 percent feel that their health took a turn for the worse due to their responsibilities. One of the most common health problems experienced by caregivers is stress, which, as well as being unpleasant, can also trigger additional health problems. That’s why it’s crucial for caregivers to be aware of and manage their stress levels — and here’s how to do just that.

Be Aware of the Signs – Stress arises when you feel like you’re unable to deal with problems. A little stress here and there is no problem, but if you’re regularly stressed for long period of time, this can have negative effects on your health. Keep an eye out for the early signs of stress and deal with it before it becomes a larger problem. The key symptom of stress is a general feeling of being overwhelmed — as if problems pile up quicker than you can deal with them. However, stress can manifest in many different way — the American Institute of Stress Institute lists over 50 common signs of stress, such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, and common infections. If you start to feel the symptoms of stress, don’t ignore them — take action.

Use Healthy Coping Methods – As a carer, healthy coping methods should be part of your daily life, just like brushing your teeth. Three of the best ways to reduce stress are meditation, physical exercise, and making sure you get seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night. When you’re in a calm and relaxed state of mind (such as after some vigorous exercise), you can try problem-solving. Think about the causes of your stress and come up with a list of ways to remove it. For example, if finances are a source of stress, you draw up a budget, look into loan options, or see if a local credit union or nonprofit can provide free advice. Make sure you take some time out for yourself, too — pursue your own hobbies and interests, catch up with friends, and occasionally let your hair down.

Avoid Unhealthy Coping Methods – When things get difficult, it can be tempting to turn to unhealthy coping methods, such as using alcohol, tobacco, or other substances. However, this simply covers up the symptoms of stress for a short period of time. Addictive substances do not remove the source of your stress, and once their effects wear off, the stress will return. Furthermore, substances of abuse are likely to trigger mental health problems all on their own, such as depression and anxiety. In other words, they will make your stress worse in the long run. They also impair your ability to think clearly, making it difficult to engage in problem-solving as effectively. Other negative coping methods to avoid include overeating, gambling, or compulsive spending.

Get Support When You Need it – Caregiving can be difficult, but you don’t need to face your troubles alone. You may be able to get support not only in the practical aspects of caring, but also for yourself. Look up charities and nonprofits operating in your area. Such groups are often organized by the health problem of the person you are caring for; for example, the Alzheimer’s Association gives free advice and runs support groups for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s. You may also be entitled to financial and other support from the government — Aging Care has a good article here which goes over the major options available to you.

Caring for another person can be one of the most rewarding things you can do, but it is not without its challenges. Being a caregiver puts extra strain on your physical and mental resources, so it’s important to care for yourself, too. What healthy coping method can you start practicing today?

Author – Harry wrote

Harry Cline is creator of and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.