Activities to manage caregiver stress

Life these days can be very hectic with the stress of work, family, finances and health concerns.  Add in the responsibility of caring for someone with a chronic disease such as #Myositis to that list, and your anxiety level can go through the roof.  While it’s common to feel that you are too busy to simply stop and smell the roses, it is the perfect time to give yourself a break and find things that can help you manage stress.  The journey to find those stress relievers can be pleasurable.

Doctors advise people to manage stress with exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep habits, which are all very important, however, there are many additional ways which can be helpful.

Stress relievers will be different for each person.  Try to keep an open mind, step out of your comfort zone and be willing to try new things.  You may discover your best stress reliever is something you never thought you would enjoy or participate in.  Once you find things that work for you, you will likely feel better and can be a more effective caregiver.

  • Writing: Whether jotting a quick note, writing an online blog or in a journal, writing is a therapeutic method to get your feelings out with an added benefit of being able to look back to check whether you are making progress managing your stress or to determine if you need to try different methods.
  • Express your feelings: Talk, laugh, cry and express anger when you need to with someone you trust such as a great friend, support group, family member or therapist.
  • Relax your body:  This may include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, massage, aromatherapy, yoga or relaxing exercises like tai chi and qi gong, imagery exercises or self-hypnosis.
  • Focus on today.  Try to avoid thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow.  Reinforce positive thinking.
  • Find humor in everything.  Laughter is essential to our well-being and can be as effective as prescribed medicines to relieve anxiety for some people.  Have you heard of “Laugh Yoga?”
  • Find support.  Join an online, Facebook or in-person support group for caregivers where you can share ideas, tips and emotions as well as creating new contacts.
  • Avoid helping too much. Let your care partner do as much as he or she can.

Sometimes simple activities can help you manage your stress level. You can also include your care partner if you wish.  This may help you both by leaving the “caregiver atmosphere” and enjoying something new and different together.

  • Take a walk or sit outside in the fresh, soothing air.
  • Meditate by breathing in and out deeply and calmly in a dark, quiet room or in the sunshine. You can even add a cool or warm cloth around your neck.
  • Relax in a nice warm bubble bath or whirlpool. Light candles and add music for ambiance. If you are able to drink, take a glass of wine with you.
  • Watch a movie or read a book while reclining in your favorite chair.  Or, read to your care partner if they are unable to leave the house.
  • Listen to your favorite music genre. Or, play your care partner’s favorite music to help stimulate natural endorphins and invoke memories of the past that music does so well.
  • Bake your favorite dessert and share it with your best friend while laughing about the “old days.”   Try a recipe you or your care partner remembers from childhood.  Or watch a cooking show and try a completely new recipe.
  • Paint a picture, which could range from splattering paint on a piece of paper to creating a picturesque landscape on a canvas.
  • Visit your local zoo, national park or museum. Make a day of it with a picnic lunch.
  • Volunteer together with your care partner, if able. Helping others will provide you both with a sense of accomplishment and can be fun.
  • Video chat using tools such as Skype with far away friends and family.
  • Consider adopting a pet from a local shelter. Pets naturally reduce stress levels with their unconditional love and playfulness.
  • Organize photographs electronically or in albums or boxes.  It may sound like a tedious chore, but memories will come flooding back and take you to a different time in your life. It’s also a great way to stimulate communication.

There are many ways we can try to manage stress as caregivers, but it may be a trial-and-error process to find the things that work for us.  Finding that may require some motivation and determination, but it can also be a pleasurable experience to try new things.

What are some effective stress relievers you have discovered which helps you as a caregiver of someone with a chronic illness?



Myositis Support and Understanding Association (MSU) is a patient-centered, all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Empowering the Myositis Community. Founded by Myositis patients, for Myositis patients, MSU provides education, support, advocacy, access to research and clinical trial matching, and need-based financial assistance.

View more information: Myositis Support


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