Caregiver Tips: If September is the Most Stressful Month, here’s what to do about it

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Conventional wisdom says the holidays are hardest. I think they are wrong. September definitely wins the “Most Stressful” Award. Why? Well, first of all there’s that whole back-to-school vibe. Even if you aren’t dealing with an academic calendar directly, every organization—from work, to religious groups, to charities, to  your book club—ramp things up after the relative lull of summer. (Oh. You didn’t notice a lull? Me neither. But there you are.)

Add to that, the tension caregivers face when their summer included something traumatic—a decline in health, a death—or even just the same exhausting unremitting grind. In September (and, often, October) the question on everyone’s lips is “How was your summer?” And the response they want to hear is, "Fantastic." But yours wasn’t “Fantastic.” It was horrifying.  Debilitating. And pretty overwhelmingly stressful.

Well, time to lighten the load. Here are five ideas that should help.

  • Pay attention to your bedtime. Sleep is one of the most basic requirements your body has to stay on an even keel. Sacrificing it to care for others will hurt them in the long run. You’ll be more emotional, less able to cope, and make far less good decisions on their behalf.
  • Have some fun. Even if you have to schedule it.  But really, it can be simple. Turn off NPR and play the sort of music you sing to, instead.  Subscribe to a joke-a-day feed.  Make a monthly plan with a friend—and keep it!
  • Get outside. A walk. A picnic (on the front steps even works). A ten-minute break in the sunshine. It’s not just invigorating, it’s healing.
  • Form a food coalition. Get together with two or three other families who like similar foods. Everybody pick a day they are going to cook. When it’s your turn, just triple (or quadruple) the recipe. And suddenly you quit having to cook dinner several nights a week. (idea courtesy of Kim & Jason)
  • Create a Stop Doing List. That “To Do” list starts weighing you down. So take a radical new approach and list the things you are going to stop doing. These can be tasks (stop replying to every single email), emotions (stop feeling guilty) or even general behaviors (stop acquiescing).  Then follow it.  (idea courtesy of Danielle LaPorte)