May 6, 2015
How often have you gone home feeling drained after a long day of caring for your senior clients? Perhaps you worked with a client who acted agitated all day, and none of your efforts to soothe her made a difference. Or maybe a family member needed a hug and some emotional support from you, which in turn left you needing a little emotional support yourself.
As a professional caregiver, you are called upon to be an emotional rock for your senior clients and their families. But who fills that role for you? Who is your rock?
You probably counsel family caregivers to “put themselves first” and “take a break” every now and then—but that advice is much easier said than done. Let’s face it: sometimes self-care feels like one more item that needs to be checked off a lengthy to-do list.
Self-care and stress reduction activities should not cause you stress. Here are four lazy ways to reduce stress and avoid caregiver burnout that don’t cost anything and require little time or effort.
1. Take a day off
Even the best professional caregivers aren’t magicians. Everyone has days when their best tricks fail to have any effect, leaving you feeling helpless. Maybe a usually calm client began sundowning for several days in a row. Or maybe your client cried all day, and nothing you did seemed to give her comfort.
If your professional caregiving life has been intense lately, consider taking a day off. Sometimes the simple act of getting away from the situation temporarily can confer huge stress-busting benefits.
2. Get some sleep
A study by the U.S. National Family Caregivers Association showed that family caregivers with "a high level of responsibilities” experienced a 51 percent incidence of sleeplessness. Professional caregivers may be equally likely to experience insomnia due to the stress of their career.
A lack of sleep can leave you feeling frazzled, which reduces your ability to cope with common caregiving frustrations such as a client who refuses to bathe or eat despite your best efforts. If you’re sleep-deprived, give yourself permission to sleep in or go to bed early at every opportunity. You deserve the rest.
3. Get some fresh air
Most everyone has heard that exercise is the ultimate stress-buster, but hitting the gym may be the last thing on your mind when you leave work.
If you can relate to that sentiment, here’s some good news: simply getting some fresh air—without exercising—can restore and energize you.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology concluded “being outdoors was associated with greater vitality, a relation that was mediated by the presence of natural elements.” The simple act of going outdoors, whether or not you exercise, can boost your mood.
On any given day, your caregiving life may include a constant hum of background noise that includes the television, appliances, telephones, computers and other devices. That auditory overload can evoke a stress response from your body.
A paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives notes, “The auditory orienting response, startle reflex and defensive response translate sound stimuli into action and sometimes into stress induced bodily changes through ‘fight or flight’ neural mechanisms.” Simply stated, the cacophony of modern life can take a toll on your health.
If you work in an active, noisy environment, you can reduce your stress level later by indulging in quiet time. Leave your car radio off when you drive home. Turn off your cell phone and tablet computer to eliminate the ring and buzz of calls and messages. Don’t turn the TV on when you get home. Sit quietly in a room with the door closed to discourage interruptions.
Relieving the stress of a professional caregiving career should not cause you stress or even require much time and effort. Use these four tips to de-stress so you are better able to continue to give freely of your energy to clients.
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