Recently the American Psychological Association’s (APA) released a report highlighting the role stress plays on the health of caregivers and people who suffer from a chronic disease. We’ve known for many years that caregivers are overwhelmed with the role they play in caring for their aging loved one or a family member who is chronically ill and needs constant care.
The report, Stress in America: Our Health at Risk reveals caregivers suffer from high levels of stress and poorer health than their counterparts who are not responsible for giving care to another person. The report also showed that those who are caregivers also participate in unhealthy behavior in order to reduce their stress.
This information leads us to why it is important for caregivers to manage their stress.
When we are younger, most of us envision the golden years to be full of relaxation and stress free living. Living a life of ease where we don’t have to go into work every day is a dream many us have had to get us through our work week.
What we don’t consider is that we may spend years caring for an ailing spouse, elder parent, or sibling.
During our years of yearning for a quiet, peaceful, restful retirement, we forget that our life problems will not end when we are of the age when we can put our years of work place drudgery behind us.
Life goes on and so do whatever problems or responsibilities we may have accumulated over time. In later years, financial problems, death, illness and change can cause a person to undergo much stress and anxiety, as can caring for another person.
When we do encounter situations that cause us anxiety, there are positive steps we can take to help manage our stress. For example, exercise, a proper diet, sufficient rest, and stimulating exercise can all help us manage our stress levels.
Getting help with our caregiving responsibilities is important in helping us stay as stress-free as possible. We written often about the steps we can take in relieving our caregiving duties, if even for an hour or two.
Here are a few thoughts to consider to help manage our stress in the midst of all that is going on around us.
- Accept that growing old is a natural part of our life cycle. Trying to fight the aging process can produce its own stress. Relax and enjoy your life at whatever age you are, accept that your body and mind will go through changes, but you will more than likely enjoy your new life if you embrace aging with dignity.
- Prior to retirement, make a pact with your closest friends and coworkers that you will keep in touch. Gather necessary addresses and phone numbers and keep them handy. You could even keep a chart or some type of system on your calendar to remind yourself who to call when. Keeping in touch with those closest to you from your working years will help you make the transition, even if they fall away later on.
- In this day and age, you can use social media such as Facebook to keep in touch with distant family members, friends, and former coworkers. You can easily share photos and news updates and even enjoy an online chat.
- If you were already physically active, continue your activities. If not, start with something easy such as walking. Join golf or bowling league, start working out or join an exercise class such as Yoga or Zumba. Keeping yourself physically fit will help you feel younger, ward off certain diseases, and help you feel better about yourself.
- Stay fiscally responsible even if you are living on a tighter budget than you had hoped. Do everything possible to live within your means. Even if times are financially tough, you will feel better about yourself if you do not allow yourself to get into debt which brings its own stress into your life.
These are just a few of the things you can do to reduce stress and enjoy life as you enter your senior years, whether you are a caregiver or not. I’m sure you can think up a few of your own or have a brain storming session with friends or close family members. Whatever you do, try to find joy in the life that is laid out before you in your senior years.