When we talk about prevention we basically mean that we want to avoid bad or negative outcomes. How do you avoid negative outcomes? By doing things that will result in a positive outcome. For example, if you want to cross a dark room and don’t want to trip and fall, then you do turn on the lights. If you don’t want to get the flu, then you do wash your hands.
The same thing applies to stress. Stress manifests itself in many different ways. Recently, my daughter learned that her frequent headaches were from stress. Who has more stress than caregivers?
So how do you prevent stress when your life is so demanding?
I learned early on in my career that problems don’t get fixed by treating the symptoms; you have to eliminate the cause. In other words, taking a headache medicine is treating the symptom. Prevention is eliminating the cause. In her case, that’s stress. So just relax, right?
No. But to prevent the negative consequences of stress, here are some things you can do:
- Okay, yes. Relax. I don’t mean just tell yourself to relax. I mean, go through very specific exercises that teach your muscles to unclench. Call it meditation. Call it relaxation exercises. Call it your sanity saving exercises. Whatever it is, you need to talk to your body, talk to your head, and consciously make an effort to ease the tension out of your body. Do it for just a minute or two. Do it several times during the day. Do it when you go to bed at night. Do it first thing in the morning before you get up. (I allow myself one minute with a cup of coffee to sit outside and listen to the birds.) Will it solve all your problems? No. But it will help relieve the pressure.
- Work towards solving your problems. In other words, eliminate the cause of stressors. Assess your life and figure out how to resolve it or put it to rest. That may even mean accepting something for what it is. If you’re a control freak (like me), this may be the healthiest move you make – letting go.
- Make lists. It could be that the million and one things you need to do are making your mind a jumble and thus causing your stress. Put it all down on paper and several things happen: you clear your mind, you organize your tasks (which now feel manageable), and you create a plan. And if you continue to make lists a part of your life, you will continue to prevent the stress from creeping back in because you will always have a plan. And when you have a plan, you are confident that everything will work out.
- Find time to laugh. This is one of the best stress relievers there is. Studies show it releases feel-good brain chemicals. Why Laughter May Be the Best Pain Medicine
- Find tools that will help make life easier, like the Cravaat® dining scarf adult bib. By avoiding stains, you save yourself time having to change clothes and treat stains. There are a wealth of other tools out there that can be found in catalogs like: The Wright Stuff, Personal Touch Health Care Apparel, and RehabMart.
- And sometimes you just need to change your perspective. Here is a great article from NextAvenue [The Real Reason Why Caregivers Are Stressed] that addresses how we perceive our responsibilities, such as caregiving. Do you see them as burdens? Or activities that make your life richer? A change in perspective can be the best medicine of all.
- Sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone. This article from Sixty+M3 [https://sixtyandme.com/aging/caregiver-stress-statistics/] describes the many effects of Caregiver Stress. Realizing that the stress you are experiencing is real is another opportunity to change.
This article from HealthGuide.org (Caregiver Stress and Burnout) breaks down the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and what to do about it. Many of the solutions are what I’ve mentioned above.
And finally, I love these ten tips from webmd.com: 10 Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast. Many are listed above.
And don’t forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Prevent the symptoms of stress by utilizing the tools right from the start.