Caregiving is stressful. Moreover, it is more stressful when you fail to recognize that you’re a caregiver, when you think you are just “helping out,” and then wonder why you are so exhausted and worried and mad all the time. Spouses are particularly prone to this trap—and it can lead to dire health hazards for them.
Our advice: Don’t brush off what you (or your mother-in-law) are doing: make sure the caregiver gets care too. Here are five tips for releasing that stress.
- Channel your anger. Letting it out is actually healthier than keeping it bottled inside (which ups your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease). Next time you feel mad, punch a pillow, do 10 jumping jacks, or scream in the privacy of your car with the windows up. Call a trusted friend and vent – or write out your feelings (in a diary, not on Facebook!).
- Play mind games: Mentally put all your worries in a big box. Lock the lock. Send the whole thing to the bottom of the sea. Mail the key to China.
- Breathe. Slowly. Five counts in. Five counts out. Keep going for at least five minutes. Repeat as needed.
- Seek joy: Don’t focus on worrying about tomorrow—that’s borrowing trouble and adding stress. Enjoy the good parts of today, and if you can’t find any, find a snapshot in your mind of a happy memory and relive it.
- Be realistic: Control what you can—let the freezer be your friend, keep up with paperwork, get cleaning help—and let go of what you can’t control. This includes the temper of the person for whom you are caring.