Managing Caregiver Stress with a Gratitude Journal
a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.
something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety
Stress can occur in any aspect of our lives, including (and sometimes especially) caregiving. Those caring for a loved one who is ill are at increased risk of stress, and as a result, at increased risk for health issues due to that stress. The topic of stress management – especially for caregivers – has become a popular one. There are many resources available that provide tips to help caregivers manage stress. One of these is a gratitude journal.
How Gratitude Can Help Reduce Stress
Before we jump right into the gratitude journal, let’s talk about how gratitude can help reduce stress. Gratitude is said to help lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels in our body by about 23%. Reducing stress can in turn reduce health issues that may result from stress. These can include anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep issues, weight gain, and even heart disease.
One study indicates the beneficial role of gratitude on coping with caregiver stress and even recommends incorporating gratitude in psychological interventions for caregivers.
What is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is a tool used to keep track of the good things in life – the things you are grateful for. No matter how difficult or stressful life may get, there is always something to be grateful for. Taking the time to write it down in a journal can help you remember to take a break from everything that is causing you stress and focus on the good.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in physical or electronic form. All that matters is that you are writing it down. Physical journals can be as simple as a notebook. There are also templates online that can be downloaded and printed or journals that can be purchased. Electronic journals can be a Word document on your computer or a notes orjournaling app on your phone.
Benefits of a Gratitude Journal
In addition to reducing stress levels, keeping a gratitude journal can:
- Help you feel calmer, especially at night. This could be beneficial if you have trouble falling asleep.
- Give you a new perspective on what is important and help you truly appreciate those things in your life
- Give you a safe space to write whatever you want without worrying about judgment from others. It is only for your eyes.
- Help you feel better by reading through it on tough days
How to Start a Gratitude Journal
Getting started is often the hardest part of any new habit. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Choose how you want to journal. As we previously mentioned, it can be in physical or electronic format. Things to consider when choosing how you want to journal include:
- Whether you prefer to write or type. If you use a computer all day for work, you may prefer to use paper.
- Where you plan to do your writing. At a desk? In bed?
How to structure your journal. You should do what works for you. Try different templates and formats until you find one you like best. For example, do you prefer to write full paragraphs or bulleted lists?
Commit to a schedule. This is very important. Like any habit, you have to commit to it if you really want to see the benefits. If journaling every day feels like too much to commit to in the beginning, aim for once a week or a couple times a week. You can always increase it to a daily reflection once you get in the swing of things.
Still not sure where to start? Try this 21-day Gratitude Challenge!