The heart of Home Care lies in the compassion, kindness, and care that our caregivers offer. But caregivers can’t take care of others unless they first take care of themselves. However, the stress and anxiety that often surrounds a global pandemic can make self-care difficult. Especially for caregivers that are balancing competing demands such as caring for their clients, their families, themselves, and adjusting to this new way of life. Therefore, it’s vital that caregivers take measures to care for themselves during this stressful time. Here are some concrete strategies to help manage stress during this challenging time.
Listen to your body
Monitor yourself for signs of excessive fatigue, irritability, poor focus, and marked anxiety. If we run on empty, we can’t care for our clients or families. After all, our work is a marathon, not a race. If you notice any of these symptoms consistently (more than two days in a row) that likely means you need to adjust your routines or try a new strategy to manage your stress.
*TIP: Apps like Moodpath can be a practical way to set aside time to reflect on your mood and symptoms amidst your busy schedule. The app sends notifications asking you to complete your mood journal for the day or simply to answer a few multiple-choice questions to track your moods.
Take a breather
Try mindful breathing several times a day, especially when you begin to feel your stress or anxiety mount in a situation. Breathing is scientifically proven to help us calm down, relieve stress, and improve our concentration. A great time to do this is when transitioning from stressful tasks or environments to reset yourself. For instance, if home schooling your kids is stressful, take ten seconds to breath slowly in and out once you’ve finished to reset before moving on to the next task. This will help you to cleanse yourself of that stressful task so you don’t carry the stress with you the rest of the day.
*TIP: Apps like Breathe can help to guide your breathing practice. There’s also free videos on YouTube that can be helpful (here’s our favorite: The breathing Octagon).
Keep up with routine
One issue with staying home more is our routines can begin to blend together. We are home schooling, working, exercising, eating, relaxing, and sleeping all in the same space. Without different spaces, the stress from one environment (like work or school) can bleed into other areas of our life and our routines can begin to break down. We know, sleeping in a little and having extra time to make breakfast at the beginning of the stay-at-home order was refreshing. But, over time our routines started to get a little blurry while adjusting to the new schedule and no concrete time tables. One way to combat this is to schedule important routines and set intentions for the day. For instance, you may have to move your workout to a different time under this new schedule, but don’t stop doing it. Making a to do list for the day can also be a way to help maintain your schedule and prevent the day getting away from you (it happens to the best of us).
Exercise, exercise, exercise
Exercise is vital for stress reduction, regardless of the type of exercise. You do not need to be doing HIIT work outs every day to feel the stress-reducing benefits of exercise. In fact, studies show that regardless of the type of exercise (light walking, biking, running and hiking, throwing a Frisbee for your dog), just the act of setting aside time in your day for your physical health can improve stress. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as you do it (also we like to think that no matter what, you are still lapping everyone sitting on the couch!).
*TIP: YouTube has a plethora of at home workouts that can get you started!
Connect with others
Although physical interaction is limited at this time, you can still reach out to family, friends, and colleagues for social contact. Call, Facetime, Zoom, Skype or try Google Hangouts to reduce feelings isolation. Meaningful and fun connections are vital to your health and well-being!
*TIP: Confused what all the Zoom talk is about? Here’s resources on how to get you started if you’ve never used the platform before: Getting started on Zoom.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
Along with connecting with others, may come setting boundaries. Currently, we are in a very overwhelming time, and there’s plenty of ways you can find to increase your stress and anxiety (especially in the news). Therefore, don’t be afraid to set boundaries with others around you. A common way is to set boundaries around the sharing of bad news. It’s natural right now to discuss the COVID outbreak with others, but it’s also okay to establish boundaries around bad news and ask to discuss other topics. This doesn’t mean you will never talk about it or are pretending it isn’t happening, it means that for your mental health you need to have times where your world exists beyond the pandemic. This may take the form of discussing the news with your partner in the morning with your coffee, but then moving on to other topics once the first cup-of-joe is finished.
Seek help when you need it
Above all, we know this time is stressful and filled with uncertainty. If you notice yourself continue to feel stressed and anxious, reach out for help. You can reach out to a trusted friend or family member, or get professional help. Getting professional help is more accessible than ever through apps like Whats Up, Talk Space, Headspace, and Ten Percent Happier are all great resources (some are even free!)