Pushin' On: UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System Volume 38 | Number 2 - Page 3

feel more anxious , scared , irritable , or moody .
• The way you think – you might forget things , think of yourself as a failure , or have trouble concentrating .
• The way you act – you might cry easily or for no reason , become angry , act out of control , lose your appetite or start overeating , reduce your interactions with other people , or abuse drugs and / or alcohol .
• Changes in your body – you might experience higher blood pressure , shaking , nervousness , headaches , muscle tension , more pain , change in weight , or sleep problems .
As a caregiver , you may not always be able to see signs that you are becoming too stressed . This is why it also helps to ask your friends , family and doctors to watch for signs . Think about asking them during the acute period so that they are mindful that stress is an ongoing risk for caregivers .
How do I prevent stress ?
You are not likely to avoid stress , but you can have a plan to minimize stress . You can also have a plan for what actions you can take if stress becomes a problem .
Minimize stress
• Make your health a priority . Simply put , your health is just as important as the person who is receiving care . This is not being selfish . It is simply a way to provide the best care for you and the person receiving care You cannot expect to care for someone else if your own health is poor .
• Eat healthy and drink plenty of water . People often eat too much or too little when under stress . You might make water your drink of choice along with making healthy food choices .
• Get sleep . Your body and mind work best if you get proper sleep .
• Exercise . Exercising helps you to maintain good physical and mental health , and it can be a great way to burn off some energy and relieve stress .
• Do enjoyable activities . Read a book , watch movies , binge watch TV shows , play games , and be creative in finding other fun activities to do .
• Unplug . Set a time limit on how much screen time you spend on electronic devices . Balance your time with other activities such as puzzles , reading , and exercise .
• Respite - Caregiving is not a one-person job . You need time away for a healthy lifestyle . One of the best thing that you can do is have a list of people that you can call when you need someone . You might also have one or two people on your list who can be a backup care provider on short notice in case of sickness or crisis , or if you just need a break .
• Set realistic expectations . No one is perfect , and trying to be perfect only leads to stress .
• Give yourself a break when you make a mistake .
• Avoid trying to do everything and fill every role .
• Break big tasks up into small , more manageable tasks to help avoid feeling overwhelmed .
• Set realistic goals so that you can feel accomplished when they are met .
• Provide small rewards when goals are met .
• Stay connected with friends and family . We are social beings . We enjoy our time spent with family and friends , and rely on them for support during tough times .
• Use community resources when needed . You can still get the support services you need , like healthcare , state and local agencies , and online resources . You can also ask for help from your community or friends if needed . Here are a few more resources for caregivers .
• The SCI Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center ( SCI MSKTC ) is your best starting point to learn about SCI . Many websites offer good information , but the MSKTC collaborates with SCI Model System programs to adapt knowledge gained from research into information that benefits people with SCI and their families . This means you get information from SCI experts .
• Family Caregiver Alliance ( FCA ) is to improve the quality of life for family caregivers and the people who receive their care .
What do I do if I am feeling stressed ?
Your first step is to take action right away . Do not fall into the trap of putting off taking action until there is “ a better time ” or “ things are not as hectic .” Putting off action only leads to more stress .
• Revisit your plan for minimizing stress . It is easy to slip slowly into unhealthy habits . The thing to do is to renew your commitment to healthy habits .
• Get professional help . Counseling can help you process your thoughts and feelings along with helping you find ways to manage and cope with your daily challenges .
Additional Resources
• Caregiver Burnout
• Caregiver Burnout : Steps for Coping With Stress
• Caregiver Burnout
• Caregiver Resources
• Caregiving Tips - Traumatic Brain Injury ( TBI )
• Caregivers
UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System 3