The unorthodox role of a caregiver, although rewarding, can also be very challenging. These challenges can cause a plethora of emotions to be experienced. Stress being one of them.
You can experience stress in a variety of ways unique to you and your journey. Caregiver stress however, is usually due to the ever mounting emotional and physical strain of caregiving. Thus, caregivers tend to report a much higher stress level than non-caregivers.
Signs you may have caregiver stress include; tiredness, weight fluctuation, irritability, sadness and much more. It is worth noting though, that one person will experience countless times, will be nothing more than an afterthought for another.
The stress, the good and the bad emotions, may come from similar sources but will be felt and reacted to differently by many.
Unknown to many, there are a few risk factors that can increase the chance of a caregiver experiencing stress such as social isolation, depression, and financial difficulties.
Many caregivers may experience the same challenges, there is no uniform coping mechanism. Caregivers and non-caregivers alike, have a coping mechanism that is connected to an external stressor or trigger that occurs regularly enough that it ultimately interrupts the regular functioning of their day to day.
It is disruptive enough to cause the individual to adopt a coping mechanism in which to maneuver around the trigger and live comfortably. Sounds fine right? Well it is, for the most part.
The issue arises when a toxic coping mechanism is chosen. Alcoholism, poor eating habits and self harm, to name a few are popular coping mechanisms that need to be avoided especially by caregivers as they have a responsibility to those in their care which can be jeopardized by the after-effects of these mechanisms.
Of course, as much as there are toxic coping mechanisms, there are healthy, sustainable mechanisms that can be adopted.
Journaling is an inclusive method that can be used to help identify negative emotions whilst also gaining a better understanding of how your thoughts and situations cause your emotions to fluctuate.
Through journaling, you are able to clarify your thoughts and feelings, gaining self-knowledge on the stress triggers in the process.
Journaling about events that occur in our day-to-day lives allows us to both explore and release the emotions involved. By processing difficult emotions head on and not suppressing them, will lead to personal growth.
Granted, relieving negative experiences may be hard but remember the bigger picture which is a more holistic mental health and an overall more positive outlook on life will remind you why it is necessary to push through the emotions.
Journaling also allows you to highlight the positivity that goes on in your life. By being grateful for the positive things that you possess in your life. This automatically causes a more positive mood for the individual.
The logging of positivity is also good to refer back to when times may be hard and you need a reminder of the things you have to appreciate in life.
A few tips that can help you on your journey to start journaling
- Find somewhere to journal your thoughts. Whether it be a beautifully illustrated book or on your computer or your phone, find where you feel most comfortable both financially and aesthetic wise.
- Make the time even if it’s just 5 minutes every day, the consistency will allow you to build a habit of continuously writing in the journal.
- Choose a time that is conducive for you; although being consistent is good, don’t be harsh on yourself if you find yourself skipping days out.
- Journaling should be a positive experience so writing in the journal should only be done from a place of positivity.
- There are no right or wrong answers. Nobody will be marking your journal. Whether you write in bullet form or inexpressive paragraphs, write about whatever as long as it’s helping you.
Don’t worry about neatness or even grammar. Just getting your thoughts and feelings on paper is more important than perfection.
As mentioned above, there are many signs of caregiver stress which can ultimately also long term stress and serious health problems such as obesity and a higher risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Although journaling does not release tension from your body, journaling has been linked to decreasing the symptoms of these serious health problems whilst also increasing cognitive functioning and increasing the immune system. The quality of your life and that of your spouse will improve exponentially.