Managing Caregiver Stress

CaregivingProviding care to a spouse, elderly parent or family member who is suffering long term illness or dementia can be very rewarding but it also can be a distressing experience. The caregiver has to endure high levels of stress, lowered sense of well-being and a host of negative emotions.

Caregiver stress can be particularly damaging, since it is typically a chronic, long-term challenge. Without adequate help and support, the stress of caregiving leaves you vulnerable to a wide range of physical and emotional problems, ranging from heart disease to depression. When caregiver stress and burnout puts your own health at risk, it affects your ability to provide care. The key point is that caregivers need care too. Managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to his doctor's appointment or takes her medication on time.

The practice of mindfulness has been found to be helpful in enabling caregivers to be more reflective thereby allowing them to tap into a wider range of coping skills. Mindfulness based exercises leads to the individual being less reactive and judgmental about upsetting thoughts and emotions. This can be combined with a cognitive-behavioural approach to enhance problem solving abilities, challenge their negative thoughts and assumptions and reengage in positive aspects of life.