3 steps to coping with caregiver stress

caregiving omahaA recent study from the National Alliance for Caregiving confirms what many of America’s 65 million caregivers know firsthand — the responsibilities of caring for a loved one brings on stress and lots of it. What’s most concerning is that this stress can lead to an overall decline in health. The study found that 91 percent of caregivers with declining health report depression. Caregivers are also at risk of turning to bad habits such as smoking and alcohol abuse to cope.

Sherri Snelling, CEO of the Caregiving Club, created a “Me Time” plan to help caregivers effectively turn their lives around and deal with stress in healthy ways. Snelling breaks her plan down into three steps:

1. Create a plan. To make sure positive change happens, you need to establish realistic goals. Maybe it’s finding outside help so you can take one day off per week and find time to relax and do the things you love. Snelling suggests seeking out volunteer networks and/or online communities for help. Leaving yourself “Me Time” reminders — like a sticky note in the car — can help make sure you don’t forget.

2. Take baby steps. If you want to run a 5k but are not in shape like you used to be, you have to train slowly, day by day and week by week. The same goes for your “Me Time” plan. If you want a week off to visit your new grandson in Texas, plan it out well in advance and take little steps along the way to make sure it happens.

3. Track and celebrate your progress. Snelling says that tracking your progress will allow you to celebrate it. Pick a day each week and reflect on your recent “Me Time” moments. Having a support network of people who know about your goals can also help immensely. Plus you’ll have someone to celebrate with.

Read more about Snelling’s “Me Time” plan on Huffington Post’s Post 50 blog.

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