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Tips for Managing Stress

As joyful and fulfilling as grandparenting can be, it can also make you feel stressed and overwhelmed, especially if you are the full-time caregiver. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.4 million grandparents in the United States take full responsibility for raising their grandchildren.

Everyone is affected by stress in different ways. In other words, what is stressful to one person may not be stressful to someone else. Regardless of the cause, stress tends to result in feelings of pressure and anxiety. No matter how much you love your grandchildren, taking on the responsibility of raising them - regardless of how willing or eager you are to do it - changes your life. And with change often comes stress. While some stress is a normal part of life for many people, it can easily become unhealthy when not managed properly, and as you grow older, the last thing you want to worry about is poor health due to unmanaged stress.

Just as there are differences in the causes of stress, there are also differences in possible solutions. While there is no single answer for relieving stress, the one word you need to remember is balance. When taking on the responsibility of raising children (again), it's easy to let your life fall out of balance. In addition to providing food and shelter, there are also emotional concerns, as well as financial and educational responsibilities to consider. While meeting the needs of your grandchildren, you must also take the time to care of yourself. After all, if you neglect your own needs, you won't be in any kind of position to take care of someone else.

It is important that you are able to recognize the signs of stress and learn appropriate ways to respond to them, especially when the wellbeing of children is at stake. Some of the physiological signs of stress include high blood pressure, continuous rapid heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, increased nervousness, increased lack of patience, physical pain (back, neck or headaches), weight loss or gain, and mood swings.

If you notice any of these symptoms and believe they are a due to some imbalance in your life, it's time to think about how to alleviate them. Your grandchildren will benefit most from having a caregiver who is healthy and happy. Below are a few tips to help you stay that way.

  1. Put yourself first. Always put your own physical and emotional health at the top of your priority list. Proper exercise, relaxation, a healthy diet, time spent with friends and engaging in activities you enjoy on a regular basis are all important things to prioritize when dealing with major changes in your life.

  2. Ask for help. Never be too proud to ask for help. No one should be expected to do everything by themselves. Churches, schools and other community organizations can provide help and support. Friends and other members of your family may be able to help out as well. See our list of resources for grandparents for more information (link).

  3. Stay positive. Take time out of your busy schedule to spend time with friends or participate in an activity you take pleasure in. Sign up for a scrapbooking class or join a bowling league. Staying busy doing things you enjoy will help you feel good and help you be more productive through the day. Check your local recreation department for things to do, as they likely offer events for people of all ages.

  4. Be realistic. There are only so many things a person can accomplish in a day. Do what you can, but don't push yourself to finish things today that can be taken care of tomorrow. Stay organized and efficient within reason. In other words, try to avoid scheduling doctor's appointments, parent-teacher meetings and a trip to the grocery store all in one day. Don't force yourself to rush unless it simply cannot be avoided.

  5. Get energized. Any physical activity, whether it be an hour on the tennis court or a twenty minute stroll around the neighborhood is a good way to maintain physical fitness and relieve stress. You can even include your grandchildren in such activities. An active lifestyle is good for everyone.

  6. Eat better, sleep better, live better. Try to get at least eight hours of good sleep every night. Recent studies have shown that even a quick 20-minute nap during the day can do wonders for a person's energy levels, so if you have time and feel like you need it, take a catnap! Also, be sure to eat three balanced meals each day in order to provide your body with the essential nutrients for living a healthy life.

  7. Relax. Every once in awhile, give yourself a break from the daily routine. Have a trustworthy person step in and relieve you for a few hours, whether it's another family member or a local babysitter. Just a small amount of time to yourself doing whatever it is you feel like doing may help you recharge and get back in the swing of things. When you simply can't stray from the routine, at least try to give yourself a few 10-minute breaks throughout the day.

  8. Keep an eye on your health. Schedule regular checkups with your primary care physician. Always take your medications as directed and have conversations with your doctor and your grandchild's pediatrician about any physical or emotional concerns you may have for either of you.

  9. Communicate. Talking often with your grandchildren will not only help them know what to expect, but it will also help develop a trusting and supportive relationship between you. Open lines of communication between family, friends and teachers are also important, as these are the people most likely to have a part in helping you care for your grandchildren.

While raising grandchildren can be a stressful and exhausting job, it can also be an incredibly joyful and fulfilling experience, so don't give up! Successfully caring for your grandchildren starts by taking good care of yourself.

 


 

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March of Dimes
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