Taking the stress out of caregiving

Children model our behavior, including how we react to stress.

Stress is a normal part of life, especially as most adults struggle to balance work and family. Children learn how to handle stress from us. As caregivers we need to learn how to handle our stress productively so our children can model our behavior.

Stress reactions are very complex. It’s important to be able to recognize how our bodies react to stress so we can notice when we feel overwhelmed and address it before we make poor or unhealthy decisions. Our bodies produce several hormones when under stress. The most well-known of these is cortisol which is frequently referred to as the “stress hormone”. As we experience stress, the levels of stress-related hormones increases in our bodies causing physical changes such as sweaty palms, rapid or shallow breathing, increased heart rate or pounding, loss of appetite or an upset stomach. Watch for these symptoms to prevent prolonged stress and related health issues.

Most people handle short term stress well. Prolonged stress, however, can cause health issues. Thus, when you make a point to take good care of yourself to relieve or reduce your stress levels you are better able to care for others. Try some of these tips for taking care yourself:

  • Eat three balanced meals a day.
  • Get eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Get some exercise throughout the day.
  • Find the humor in things. Laughter is great for your health!
  • Do something fun with a friend. It doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming, or glamorous.
  • Do something for yourself. Like read a book or take a nap.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back.

When you feel stressed, try these approaches to relieve it:

  • Count to five
  • Meditate
  • Take a bath
  • Go for a walk
  • Call a friend
  • Picture yourself in a peaceful place

Caregivers who are stressed tend to be more irritable. Taking care of yourself is a necessary job of being a caregiver of children. For more information about handling stress check out www.talaris.org. There are classes related to handling stress and anger throughout Michigan.

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