Are you feeling tired? Overwhelmed?
Care giving for a person living with a dementia diagnosis is rewarding, but it is also taxing. We gain feelings of pride for caring for someone we love, but it is no small feat. It can be hard to take time for ourselves, as our loved one’s needs are ongoing. However, it is important to take stock and prioritize our own health, so that we can continue caring for our loved one.
Identifying how we feel is an important first step. Take a moment to ask yourself, “How am I feeling today, or at this moment?” It is when we identify our feelings and realize that they may be negatively impacting us that we can devise a plan to change them.
Self-care is important in helping us manage and cope with stress. Stress affects our behaviour, our mood and our physical body. Sometimes we cannot change the circumstances resulting in our stress, but we can choose healthy strategies to cope with what is happening.
What is stress?
Stress is a response to circumstances in our life. When we are stressed the hormone called cortisol increases and in turn affects our mood, behaviour and ability to function.
Stress and Behaviour
When we are stressed our behaviours change they can include:
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less
In taking a daily assessment of our behaviour, we may be able to identify stress before it becomes unbearable, thus we may be better prepared to respond and manage it.
Have your behaviours changed lately? Could it be due to stress?
Stress and Mood
When we are stressed we are more susceptible to mood changes. Have you noticed a change or increase in the following?
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability and anger
- Sadness or depression
One way to be mindful of the onset of stress is to do a daily assessment. How are you feeling today? Keeping a mood journal may help us identify patterns of stress.
Stress and Your Body
Stress not only impacts our behaviour and our mood, but it also affects our body. Here are a few ways you may be able to identify physical symptoms of stress.
- Muscle tension
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
Have you experienced any of these symptoms persistently? If so, it might be time to pay attention and respond to what our body is trying to tell us. What will help you get relief?
Stress manifests in a number of ways and sometimes it feels out of our control; however, we do have some control. We may not be able to immediately change the circumstances increasing our stress levels, but we can practice self-care to help us manage and cope.
Here are a few practices to help you manage your stress.
- Play games
- Read or listen to audio books
- 4x4 breathing
- Call a friend
- Write a letter
- Do something nice for someone
- Talk to a counselor
- Call us – 403-290-0110
Self-care and stress management is more than healthy coping mechanisms. It is also identifying how we come to a place where we feel rested, able to focus and prepared to take on what we need to.
It is different for everyone, but here are a few places to start in feeling rested and rejuvenated.
For some this means their faith or their religion, while for others it can mean being outdoors, being quiet, meditation or even mindfulness, and for some it means practicing gratitude.
People find joy in a variety of ways. For some joy is laughter, time with friends, talking to someone they trust, being with like minded people, getting away, getting a massage or music.
Movement is what it implies – walking, hiking, working out etc. We are built to move.
Be kind to ourselves or others. To be of service/volunteering, being your own best friend. Replacing negative self-talk with positive and supportive self-talk. Being with others who lift us up (not just tell us what we want to hear), but say the tough things that are hard to hear because it comes from a place of pure and positive intention. Re-examine the expectations we have of others and ourselves. Let go of guilt and acknowledge grief.
Recognize what you have control over and what you do not. Make a plan. See your stress as a challenge. Challenge your perception. We cannot control our feelings, but we do have control over our thoughts; and therefore, our behaviour.
Our brain favours familiarity. We tend to stick with things we are familiar with. Change challenges us. It makes our brain work harder. Negative change can still lead to positive outcomes. Control your perception.
What gives you energy? What takes it away? Who can you call on for support and allow you a bit of time to focus on yourself. Start with the basics …food and sleep.
Reach out for help! You are not alone! Call us at 403-290-0110.