Everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives. However, caregivers often have higher levels of stress due to their responsibilities. In fact, the special kind of stress that caregivers experience is recognized by medical professionals and even has a name—caregiver stress.
If you’re noticing signs of caregiver stress, like feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and easily irritated, you should know that allowing stress to go unchecked can have some serious health consequences.
Stress and the Body
Your body is designed to experience and deal with some stress. In some cases, stress can even be good. Positive stress is the kind that you might experience when you get a promotion or that allows you to react quickly when playing sports. But, caregiver stress is the negative kind of stress that puts your health at risk.
The physical effects of negative stress include:
- High blood pressure.
- Chest pain.
- Increased risk of heart attack.
- Digestive issues.
- Sore muscles from tension.
- High blood sugar.
- Skin problems.
Some Stress Statistics
Chronic stress is such a pervasive problem that there have been numerous studies conducted about it. WebMD shares these statistics about stress:
- 43% of adults have experienced health effects due to stress.
- Up 90% of doctor visits are stress-related.
- Stress in the workplace is estimated to cost American businesses about $300 billion each year.
- About 50% of people will develop an emotional disorder as a result of stress.
- Coping with Caregiver Stress
The negative effects of stress are certainly scary, but there are things you can do to prevent them from happening to you. Some ways you can cope with and reduce caregiver stress are:
-Say “Yes” to Offers of Help: If family members and friends ask if they can help with your caregiver duties, accept the help. It can be helpful to make a list of ways other people can help you and pull it out to assign a task to someone who offers help.
-Join a Support Group: Support groups for caregivers are a good place to commiserate with others in your situation. You can vent your frustrations, share your joys, and learn tips from more experienced caregivers.
-Take Care of Yourself: It can be tempting to put off your own health needs while you’re busy caring for your aging family member but don’t do it. You need to keep yourself as healthy as possible, so you can continue to be an effective caregiver. See your doctor regularly. Eat a healthy diet. Get some exercise.
Being aware of the dangers of chronic stress is just the first step in keeping yourself healthy. If you are experiencing high levels of stress, see your doctor to check for any stress-related problems. Reach out to the people around you for help and accept help when it’s offered.
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