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Caregiver Stress:  A Simple Way to Manage a Common Problem

01/23/2019

Feeling overwhelmed?  That’s the general sentiment of most caregivers today.  It’s a struggle to keep your sanity while juggling work, family and caring for a loved one who needs constant attention.   And it takes a toll on your health.  Statistics show that caregivers are at risk for burnout and worse, caregiver apathy.  Once these set in it is difficult to work your way out. There is only so much you can give before you reach the end of your rope.   You cannot help anyone because you become the one who needs help.   This is why you see so much written about caregiver stress and ways to control it.

Most caregivers know a variety of ways to control their stress.  The most common stress reducers are exercise, attending support groups and getting help with the caregiving tasks.  These are important and have been shown to reduce stress levels so that the caregiver can continue to function without full blown burnout.  But there is one more stress reliever that will help and that is journaling.

Journaling is a simple, no frills method of jotting down your thoughts.  What makes it easy is there are no rules.  You can write 1 or 2 sentences or 10 pages.  No grammar or spell check is necessary.  You don’t have to leave your home and it takes very little equipment. This is your opportunity to freely write down all of your feelings and emotions, especially those associated with caregiving stressors.  Don’t worry, only you will see what you have written. 

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Let the Stress Flow Through Your Fingers

Think of journaling as a catharsis.  Think of all the words that express your thoughts.  Anger, frustration, fatigue, not enough sleep, feeling alone, are some of the common feelings.  By transferring all the negative thoughts and feelings to paper, you have moved the bad energy out.  It is no longer internalized where over time it can do damage to your mental and heart health.  It’s sort of like hitting the punching bag, just with less effort, and no gloves are needed.

Give yourself permission to write anything that comes to mind.  After all, this is your journal.  You have complete control.  No one can take it away from you.  Where else in your life can you give yourself permission to do something?   Doesn’t it feel that most of your day to day activities are out of your control?  With journaling, it’s your “me” time.  And we all know the importance of “me” time.  We can’t always find enough “me” time to go to the gym or other activities to relieve stress.  Anyone can fit journaling into their day.

The amazing secondary effect of journaling is a sense of relief.  You made connections between your thoughts and feelings and they are out.  By releasing those emotions, you will notice clarity.  Clarity shows itself like the morning sun.  You may have a “Eureka” moment.  Suddenly you understand how and why you felt or acted in a certain manner.  With clarity comes calmness.  Clarity also leads to answers.  “How can I ….?” questions are solved.

There are Positive Aspects, Too

Don’t stop at just writing down the negatives.  Journaling gives you a chance to channel your positive self-talk as well.  This is just as important as releasing the negative energy.  Every day, make a list of what you are thankful for.  Where do you find your strength?  Is it from another family member, your faith, a pet?  Do you have a designated time for fun, such as going to church or out with friends?  It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of life and forget the positive ones.  By writing the things you are grateful for, you remind yourself that there is good in life.  This will give you a sense of hope and help you gain strength to face another day.     

Journaling has lots of advantages.  It is a simple way to clear your head and help you sort out your thoughts.  It can be done anytime and takes very little time.  You will learn how to recognize the triggers that cause anger and frustration.  By recognizing the negative emotions, you will learn better ways to control them.  Focus on the positives in life.  They are there.  Let them be your source of strength. 

 

 

 Ackerman, C. (2018).  83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Management.  Positive Psychology Program.  Retrieved January 10, 2019 from                https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/benefits-of-journaling/

 

Adams, K. (2015).  Journal Keeping.  The Center for Journal Therapy.  Retrieved January 10, 2019 from  https://journaltherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Article-KA-Journal-Keeping.pdf

 

Department of Community Service.  Brandeis University (2008).  Journal Writing Tips.  Retrieved January 10, 2019 from  https://www.brandeis.edu/studentlife/communityservice/pdfs/Journaling%20tips.pdf  

 

Written by Andrea Breeding.

 1-Business photoAndrea Breeding is a freelance writer for the senior health industry and a retired nurse practitioner.  She has years of experience working with the elderly in long-term care, outpatient settings and hospitals.  Andrea lives in Maryville, Tennessee and when not writing you can find her on the pickleball courts or following UT football.  You can view her blog posts at www.seniorhealthcopywriting.com  She may be reached at abreeding50@gmail.com or 865-268-9813.

 

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