8 Ways to Cope With the Stress of Caregiving

These caregiver support tips will help both family members and hired caregivers cope with stress. These eight ways to cope with caregiver stress are from a caregiving expert and author of a book about asking for help (which decreases caregiver stress!).

“Do you find it hard to ask for help? Do you do everything yourself?” asks Peggy Collins, a speaker, trainer and author of Help Is Not a Four Letter Word: When Doing It All is Doing You In. “Then you may be struggling with caregiver stress.  Other signs include wanting to be in control of everything and not delegating because no one can do it as well as you. By the way, these are also signs of “Self-Sufficiency Syndrome’.”

To learn more about decreasing stress by asking for help, read Help Is Not a Four Letter Word.

And here are her tips for caregiver support, plus a definition of  “Self-Sufficiency Syndrome”…

What is “Self-Sufficiency Syndrome”?

“Many caregivers were raised to believe that asking for help is a weakness,” says Collins. “And if they were raised in a home where they did not learn to trust, then they have hidden behind this honored value as a way to avoid depending on anyone else. I call this extreme lifestyle The Self-Sufficiency Syndrome.”

Some symptoms of Self-Sufficiency Syndrome and caregiver stress include extreme fatigue, irritableness, inability to sleep, and even panic attacks, anxiety disorders – or and even depression. If you’re a mother and a caregiver, read 6 Tips for Managing Stress for Moms.

8 Ways to Cope With Caregiving Stress

To decrease caregiver stress, Collins says that the first thing is to become aware that you’re operating in the “Self-Sufficiency Syndrome” mode.

1. Seek the help of a therapist to guide you through the process of balancing the care of your loved one while taking care of yourself. You can’t take good care of others if you can’t take care of yourself!

2. Join a support group of like-minded folk to decrease caregiver stress. Attend meetings, and ask someone else to take care of some of your responsibilities.

3. Build a support team of friends, neighbors, relatives who can relieve you, so you can get out, to walk in the woods, to attend church, to go shopping or to a movie. Having others to lean on will decrease caregiver stress. If you’re coping with difficult parents, read 3 Tips for Adult Children of Difficult Parents.

4. Deal with the tremendous sense of guilt many caregivers experience when they turn “their responsibility” over to someone else, even for a short time. They feel like they are failing at their responsibility, and failing the person they’re taking care of. Both the therapist and the support group can help with Self-Sufficiency Syndrome.

5. Get exercise to stay healthy and build stamina. Exercise will also help with the emotional aspects of the caregiving, help you sleep better, and improve your mood.

6. Journal your feelings. Many times, the patient is a spouse and the caregiver is in the first stages of grief over an impending death. Journaling has been cited as a very effective and healthy way to get those feelings out.

7. Do meditation or relaxation exercises. Meditate in another room for 15 or 20 minutes – even once a day can help decrease caregiver stress. Or, try my favorite way to decrease stress — get a massage (but first, learn how to relax during a massage).

8. Realize that when you ask for help, you’re giving someone else a gift: the dignity of helping you! Those around you don’t want to watch you struggle alone. The best way to cope with caregiving stress is to ask for support, and accept it gracefully.

If you can afford to hire support, read Hiring a Caregiver – 6 Caregiving Tips for Family Members.

If you have any questions or tips on coping with caregiver stress, please comment below…

Peggy Collins is a speaker, trainer and author. Visit her website at HelpIsNotaFourLetterWord.

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5 thoughts on “8 Ways to Cope With the Stress of Caregiving”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Triacy…I hope your caregiver stress decreases somehow. If you need more specific tips for coping with caregiving stress, please let me know

  2. Sometimes I wonder how to cope with being a caregiver to my elderly mother and my infant daughter. These tips are helpful but what I really need is a clone of me!!!!!!!! There’s not enough me to go around!!!!!!!

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Debra and Alison.

    Caregiver stress is becoming more of an issue, as more adult children are taking care of their parents. It’s really hard, but if we can find ways to ake care of ourselves, we can decrease the stress of caregiving.

  4. The most important thing to me is me-time. Just take out some time for yourself, spend it the way you want and put yourself first for once. Read a book, take a walk in the park, go for a swim,… whatever! It will take your mind off and put everything in perspective.

  5. I’m a hospice social worker, and I frequently have to counsel caregivers on the issues of stress and burnout. You offer some excellent advice, especially about seeking support and help.

    If I could add one suggestion…Caregivers need to remember to eat regular, healthy meals or snacks. So often they are focused on the nutritional needs of their loved ones that they survive on fast food or candy bars. Of course, this leads to all kinds of spikes in the blood sugar, which leads to all kinds of mood swings. Not a good situation for a caregiver.

    Thanks again for the great advice!