AGING AND LONG-TERM SUPPORT ADMINISTRATION
Stress is a normal part of every day life. Although small amounts of stress can keep you alert, too much stress for long periods of time is hard on your body, mind, and spirit.
Under stress, your body goes on high alert. Essential body functions, like respiration and heart rate, speed up. Less essential functions, such as the immune system, shut down. This puts you at greater risk for infections, certain diseases, depression, or anxiety.
There are four steps that will give you the best chance of reducing stress in your life.
- Recognize what normally causes YOU stress.
- Stay alert to early warning signs that you are stressed. Learn more about possible signs of stress.
- Take action early to reduce the stress when you notice warning signs.
- If you are already at your limit, get some help and support.
Do You Feel You May be at Your Limit?
- Do you ever feel as if you’ve reached your limit?
- Are you constantly tired or depressed?
- Are you overeating or drinking too much?
- Do you resent the care you are providing?
- Have you ever worried that you might lash out at your ill family member?
These feelings are not unusual, but they are a warning that it’s time to get help. Help is available through your local Family Caregiver Support Program.
General Tips for Managing Stress
- Ask for and accept help. Learn more about asking friends and family for help (PDF)
- Set limits and let others know what they are.
- Make sure you have realistic goals and expectations of yourself and others.
- Don’t expect to keep a perfect house or entertain the way you did before you took on a caregiving role. Holidays may need to be simplified and you can divide up responsibilities between other family members.
- Humor is often the best medicine. Rent a movie or watch a TV program that makes you laugh. Read a funny book. Humor can work wonders for relieving stress.
- Find support through understanding friends, support groups, or a professional counselor.
- Avoid difficult people, for example, friends who are overly critical.
- Practice deep breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation.
- Write in a journal.
- Try closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a beautiful place surrounded by your favorite things.
- Make a list of your own stress relievers. Keep it in a handy place and use it!
- Coping with Caregiving: How to Manage Stress When Caring for Elderly Relatives (PDF) by V. I. Schmall, Pacific Northwest Extension publication
- Managing Stress from AARP. A variety of links covering stress related topics, tips, and advice.
- Caregiver Stress Check from The Alzheimer’s Association. Includes a short quiz and then a list of personalized resources.
- Tips on Reducing Stress for Family Caregivers from the North Dakota Family Caregiver Project.
- Family Caregiver Handbook (PDF, Requires Adobe Acrobat) from Washington State Aging and Disability Services Administration
- Because We Care: A Guide for People Who Care
- Coping with Stress discusses different types of caregiver stress and strategies to reduce it.
- Caregiving is Different for Everyone discusses the uniqueness of caregiving experiences, how the caregiver journey can change you, and caregiver journey stories.
If you are concerned that you may be physically, mentally, or emotionally harming and/or financially exploiting a vulnerable adult or suspect someone else of doing so, please get help immediately. Learn more about adult abuse and prevention.