Managing Caregiver Stress: The 5 Top Stress Busters for Family Caregivers

By Sally Abrahms

If you are a caregiver during this pandemic, you’re in one of two situations: either your family member lives with you and you probably need a breather (literally) or, they live elsewhere. In that case, the unknown can take your breath away. Is Mom or Dad healthy and safe? Do they feel sad, depressed or unbearably lonely? Are they being well cared for or taking good care of themselves? But most important, how do you really know if you’re not with them?

Caregiver Stress and Burnout

Mixed emotions and anxiety many family caregivers may have in a non-Covid world have been magnified. You may have guilt that you can’t be with them–or guilt because you’re glad you’re not. Pre-pandemic, you might have found caregiving isolating and stressful. Today, that fear and worry are off the charts. Will your parents get corona? Will you, your spouse, children and others you love? When will you see Mom again? But, even if you live alone, you are not alone. Other caregivers feel scared and overwhelmed, too. Fortunately, there are strategies and resources that can help you cope with stress and relax. Lively turned to its Family Caregiver Council for advice as well as to family caregivers. The Council is made up of leaders from national family caregiver organizations and other experts who work together to share resources and support family caregivers. They have recommended ways to ratchet down stress during Covid-19.

5 Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

1. Exercise. For your physical and mental health, exercise as best you can or practice mindfulness. Both are scientifically proven to help. Online exercise, yoga and meditation videos with tutorials and instructors abound on the web. Many are as short as 10 minutes. Think of it as a mini-break. Of course, walking outside or going for a run (with a mask and social distancing) release endorphins which help with stress and literally offer a change of scenery. Self-care has never been more important. 2. Do whatever relaxes you. If you love to read, now might be the time to try a lightweight kindle; if it’s more enjoyable to listen (another human voice!), consider an audiobook. Free books of all kinds, including eBooks, are available through your town’s library network. They are many ways to engage with others even while you are sheltering in place. Like to play bridge? Try the free Bridgebaseonline or FunBridge. You can invite friends, pick up a game or play with robots 24/7. Want to sweeten your cooking skills? Chefs give demonstrations via Instagram, YouTube, and TV. If you try a recipe and mess up, it’s not like you’re having a real dinner party. Plus, if it’s virtual, how are they going to know? Many world-class museums, opera, dance and music companies have begun offering free online art tours and performances. Another great escape from the pandemic: Top musicians are appearing on special TV programs to show their support for healthcare workers and other essential workers. Stay tuned for more of these. 3. Utilize productivity tools. Make it easier on yourself with apps, tools and products that, say, help coordinate care for a family member. CaringBridge, for instance, just launched a new planner tool for family caregivers to help with “digital care coordination.” On the site, you see what help is needed and/or make requests: a ride to the doctors, food shopping, cooking a meal, coordinating medicine—really anything. 4. Understand your options. Being knowledgeable about your options, whether it’s where to find a specific service for your dad or how to connect with caregivers, should make you better prepared. And, that will likely reduce stress. The Caregiver Action Network has a free Caregiver Help Desk via email or virtual chat; the Family Caregiver Alliance provides online support groups. And, don’t forget Facebook support groups, whether disease specific or more general, including Caregivers Connect. AARP offers a family caregiver section and forum as well as plenty of articles on caregiving and Covid. Here’s one on keeping calm. 5. Think ahead. Are you or your parent planning to move in the next few years? Do you want to change careers, take a college course or hone a hobby? Now is a great time to explore technology to keep you and your family connected and current. If you might move, talk to people in other communities to get their insight. For that possible career pivot, check out company websites, network on LinkedIn or sign up for a webinar. While we are sequestered at home, the phrase “so little time, so much to do” could now be, “so much time, so little to do.” However you say it, make that time yours. While you’re thinking of what to do, how about this: a coloring book for caregivers!
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