Caregiving feel like Groundhog Day? 7 Tips to Manage Caregiver Stress (2016 #3)

By Paula Erwin-Toth

Do you remember the 1993 film 'Groundhog Day' starring Bill Murray? Murray played a cynical weatherman named Phil who became trapped in a never-ending day while covering the annual Groundhog Day celebration, held every February 2 in Punxsutawney, PA. He kept reliving the same day over and over and over again. He tried everything from the simple to the outrageous to change the outcome, but day after day he woke up promptly at 6 AM on February 2.

It wasn’t until Phil decided to try to work on changing himself instead of focusing on his circumstances that his life finally gained meaning and he was finally able to move forward.

As a family caregiver, do you sometimes feel as though you are caught in a similar situation? Does every day feel like Phil's endless loop of Groundhog Day? What can you do to keep -or regain control of your life? There is no doubt being a family caregiver is one of the most selfless acts of love and commitment you can ever perform for another person. However, it can also be stressful and physically, emotionally, and financially draining.

Here are some tips to help you make some healthy changes so that every day doesn’t feel like Groundhog Day:

  1. Take care of yourself - drink enough water, eat healthy food, exercise.
  2. Get outside at least once a day to see your shadow and breathe some fresh air.
  3. Practice relaxation techniques that include deep breathing and stretching.
  4. Get your recommended health screenings and vaccines.
  5. When people say "Let me know if you need anything", take them up on their offer. Give them a shopping list, ask them to take the car in for an oil change, see if they can help with laundry, housekeeping, or pet care. Ask them to help with transportation to and from doctor, therapy, or treatment appointments.
  6. See if someone is willing to share the care of your loved one on a regular basis - you need and deserve some respite reserved for well deserved 'me time'. Find a respite provider near you via the ARCH National Respite Network or create a Care Calendar with a tool like Lotsa Helping Hands.
  7. Seek out people and resources who can offer guidance and assistance to help you navigate along the sometimes winding and confusing road travelled by the family caregiver.

When flight attendants are reviewing safety information as the plane taxis toward the runway before take-off, they remind us to secure our own oxygen mask before helping others. There is a very good reason for that. Without life sustaining oxygen delivered to you first, you will be unable to help someone else. When providing care for a loved one as a spouse, parent or adult child, it’s almost instinctive for us to take care of their needs before we consider our own.

It is not selfish to address your own needs first. In fact, it’s essential for you to be at your best in order to be able to help your loved one.

Remember, secure your own oxygen mask first.

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