Advice from a Caregiver on Stress Reduction

Mar 15, 2022 / • Caregiver Tips

Lisa Bailey is a kindergarten teacher and caregiver to children and her husband who is undergoing cancer treatment. She shares her top coping strategies in this article for living a balanced life as a caregiver. You may find some of these strategies helpful in your own journey.

      • Make all choices from a solid base of integrity. I try to make medical and personal choices from the base of my Christian faith, which helps free me from second-guessing myself.
      • Be clear about today’s reality. Don’t imagine things are worse than they are. Enjoy the good parts of today and don’t let worries for tomorrow take over your emotions and thoughts.
      • Talk honestly to family and friends. Honest, frequent communication with close family and friends about caregiving concerns is much easier than trying to play catch-up later.
      • Learn the medical lingo. It will help you as a caregiver and a medical advocate to learn as much as you can about your loved one’s medical situation. The Internet is a helpful resource, but be cautious about which websites can be trusted. Ask questions of the doctors and nurses. Check the accuracy of your information if you are at all troubled or in doubt.
      • Be aware that pain, stress and medications may release the patient from their social “filter” and they may say some difficult things at times. Listen and be compassionate as best you can.
      • Control what you can control. Lots of articles about stress-management advise letting go of control; I have found that being in control of some areas of my life has greatly reduced my stress.
      • Let go of what you cannot control. For me this means leaning on my faith; for others it may be working with meditation or other techniques that will focus and center you.
      • Get help with house work and yard work—paid or unpaid. Help with household chores has helped me prioritize my most important tasks.
      • Prepare meals in advance and freeze them. I do bulk cooking and freeze pre-prepared meals.
      • Plan your work; then work your plan. Keep bills and insurance paperwork organized and pay bills on time. Be proactive about taking care of tasks and errands. Don’t let things pile up.
      • Nest. Everyone needs a comfy place to relax and rest. Make a comfortable nest for your loved one and for yourself by having a comfy chair with afghans, pillows, fresh flowers, candles, books and great music to your nest.
      • Journal for yourself. There are so many ways to re-center yourself, but none works as well for me as journaling. Even if you have never kept a journal, try starting one to help you clarify feelings, manage your stress and plan the work you need to do as caregiver.
      • Find joy in living life, whatever the circumstances. Whether illness or infirmity limit the scope of you and your charge’s activities—remember to bring meaning to your lives through activities you both enjoy: a good meal, movies and shows, music, reading aloud, playing card or board games, and trying new activities that may be creative and enriching.
      • Keep a vision for the future. None of us comes here to stay; we know that. But we also know that we can “grow until we go,” and we should. We make plans for our future.
      • Give. While I have learned through my husband’s illness to receive the gifts of help, encouragement, prayer and love from other people, giving to others in return keeps us feeling emotionally and spiritually full and is always worth the effort.
      • Release yourself from expectations for perfection. As humans, we all experience “feet of clay” when we do not have infinite energy, wisdom or capabilities to manage our lives. This is normal. Get through each day as best you can, and don’t dwell on mistakes.
      • Take good care of yourself. Eat good food, remember to exercise, rest and learn to say no to outside demands. See your doctor and dentist for checkups. Get away from the house regularly—and not just to run errands, but to do an activity you enjoy to renew your spirit.