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How to Cope with the Stress of Being a Caregiver

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Have you heard the term “sandwich generation”? This is the group of people struggling to meet the needs of both growing children and aging parents, often alone and working full-time. Many of these caregivers may be setting themselves up for an unhealthy future due to a combination of high stress and poor health behaviors.

A recent UCLA study found that caregivers for the aging or disabled are subjected to considerable financial and emotional strain. Most caregivers didn’t need scientific research to support their everyday reality. Unfortunately the research also uncovered higher levels of serious psychological distress compared with the general population.

So what should a caregiver do to combat chronic stress which can lead to anxiety and depression? Here are some recommendations that will help you cope with the extra strain of being a caregiver:

  • Recreate. Consider relief options such as taking long weekends or vacations. You deserve some time off and can come back refreshed to care for your love one.
  • Express your feelings. Feelings of anger or frustration when they not expressed leads to more stress. You may not be able to express this to the person you’re caring for but by writing in a journal, writing a poem, or composing a letter that is never mailed may accomplish your purpose.
  • Keep perspective and look for the positive. Reversing negative ideas and learning to focus on positive outcomes sounds simple but it helps reduce tension.
  • Have a sense of humor. Keeping a sense of humor during difficult situations is a must. Laughing releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps you keep perspective.
  • Exercise. Exercise is an effective distraction from stressful events and keeps your body and immune system stronger.
  • Strengthen or establish a support network. Studies of people who remain happy and healthy despite many life stresses show that most have very good networks of social support. Consider joining a support group for caregivers.
  • Professional help. A mental health professional should be consulted for unmanageable acute stress or for severe anxiety or depression. Often short-term therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can resolve stress-related emotional problems.
  • Relaxation techniques. Learn methods for invoking the relaxation response such as deep breathing, meditation or massage.

Above all don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself! If you need help find a therapist who can help get you back on track or contact my office in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.


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