Home is where we find food and shelter, where we go for rest and relaxation; it is the place for family and a gathering place where we can invite friends to share good times. How can we cope when the responsibilities as a parent or caregiver are highly stressful, or even when the peace of our home is disturbed, either by domestic troubles or even emergencies caused by disaster events? It is important to learn how to deal with stress at home.
Take Care of Yourself First, Physically and Mentally
For many people at some time in their life, the injury or illness of a loved one will mean dealing with the stresses that go with being a caregiver. AARP offers some excellent advice for those who are caregivers responsible for helping a sick or dying loved one. First and foremost, take very good care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Oftentimes, there is less time to call your own, or to spend with family and friends.
The stresses on time and the mental and emotional toll when a loved one is sick or dying all contribute to stress for the caregiver. Chronic stress will ultimately rob you of vitality and ultimately degrade overall health. When caring for another who is disabled, putting yourself first is not selfish. It is an important step that enables you to sustain the ability to help to meet the needs of a loved one.
Plan nutritious meals, and map out a regular schedule, which includes exercise time and time for you. Yoga or Tai Chi is especially effective for stress management. Be sure to get enough sleep; if you have trouble relaxing enough to sleep easily and well, try healing music that is based on stimulating the brain’s alpha and theta brain waves as these are healing and relaxing.
Find Some Helping Hands
Ask for help; if you are the main caretaker, make a list of tasks and delegate – even distant relatives can be of help. There are many community services dedicated to helping; you can delegate the work involved in researching those services available for caregivers. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to find resources in your area. There may be considerable paperwork involved; get help with taking care of those kinds of details.
If necessary, arrange for help so that you can get some time out. Even the toughest endurance runner has to know their limits, or inevitably the mind and body will break down. Make sure to arrange for help if you need someone to relieve you in order to take a break in order so you can spend time with family and friends.
Supportive relationships are very important; not even necessarily for advice or moral support, but simply to be able to “hang out” and spend some quality time with those we care about. Often faith-based community services offer services to help caregivers. Our close circle of people who we can connect with is a powerful resource.
If we put this aside, thinking that we can put off personal needs until some later time, our ability to sustain as a caregiver will suffer; eventually feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed can lead to depression. If you experience symptoms of depression, seek the help of a counselor who is experienced with stress to help with coping skills and stress management strategies.
When There Is Substance Abuse in the Home
A family member struggling with drug or alcohol abuse always creates a very high stress environment for family and friends, but most especially for those living in the same household. For resources for help, this page on the National Institute of Drug Abuse website offers a number of links that will direct you to local resources.
Get Away From An Environment Where There is Domestic Violence
When there is domestic violence, get outside help immediately; stress-management practices cannot alleviate the damaging effects of stress, because the traumatic events are continuing. This is not a situation that you are going to resolve on your own; the abuser is in your environment and that person’s behavior is not in your control.
Children who experience or witness domestic violence also suffer long-term effects. Victims of domestic violence suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and research is showing that one of the most effective treatments for PTSD is cognitive-behavioral therapy. To find out more, check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
When Disaster Strikes
The best strategy for a natural disaster or emergency is to be prepared. The American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have prepared an Emergency Preparedness and Response website that gives guidelines for individuals and families to help deal with disasters should they occur.
Events that are beyond our control can be the most stressful because there may be little we can do to change the course of events. However, by being prepared you can greatly mitigate the impact on your household. In this case, preparing ahead of time may be the best practice stress management. Get an emergency kit together; your state emergency preparedness site will provide one, along with an emergency plan, contact information and designated meeting place that you can prepare and provide for each family member.