Much well-deserved attention is paid to the physical and emotional impact on family caregivers of caring for an older or disabled family member. In Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers, the Family Caregiver Alliance reminds readers that when on an airplane, the first rule is to always put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. “Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others” the article concludes. But despite all the public service messages and warnings about the importance of self-care, caregivers often fall into the trap of caring for everyone but themselves. The end result can be stress and burnout. In 10 Signs of Caregiver Stress, the website AgingCare.com says that the first step in dealing with caregiver stress is to recognize the signs. These can include:
- Loss of concentration
- Changes in eating habits
- Drinking or smoking
- Health problems
But what about stress and the PAID caregiver? According to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, today there are over 2 million home care workers; 600,000 nursing assistants employed in nursing homes; and 1.8 million workers employed in other settings, including residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and hospitals. Might they also feel stress on the job? The answer is, “of course.”
One way for the professional caregiver to manage job-related stress is to maintain a good work/life balance. This includes engaging in stress-reducing activities such as those listed in the online article, 10 Ways for Caregivers to Practice Self Care. These include:
- Prioritize your physical needs – that means eating well, exercising, and sleeping 7-8 hours each night.
- Make time to relax. Even if you only have a few minutes, sit down with a cup of tea, or close your eyes and listen to some music.
- Take a day off. If you are feeling burned out, speak to your supervisor about taking some time off.
- Practice mindfulness. Research has shown that mindfulness practice can reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation, yoga, or even a minute of deep breathing can have real benefits.
- Remember your boundaries. When you care a lot, it’s easy to become over-involved with clients. Remember your own limits and set appropriate boundaries.
- Go outside. Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and getting some exercise can boost your immunity and your happiness. Spend some time in nature or take a walk in a neighborhood park.
- Keep your sense of humor and practice positive thinking.