Caring for a loved one can be stressful for even the most resilient of people, especially if you feel like you’re in over your head or have no control. A caregiver can be defined as anyone who provides assistance to another person in need, such as an ill parent, disabled child, or mentally ill spouse. If you’re a caregiver, it’s important to take steps to preserve your own physical and mental wellbeing.
Caregiving can be very rewarding, but it can also cause a lot of strain on the caregiver, and since caregiving is generally a long-term responsibility, the ramifications of such stress can snowball over time. People who experience this strain can be vulnerable to declines in their own health. As a caregiver, some people become so focused on their sick loved ones that they don’t realize their own well-being is suffering. Signs of caregiver stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed or consistently worried
- Feeling exhausted often
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Changes in weight
- Becoming easily agitated
- Losing interest in hobbies
- Frequent headaches or other bodily pain
- Abusing substances
An abundance of stress, especially over an extended period of time, can be very detrimental to your health. Caregivers are at higher risk to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression; caregivers also often do not get enough sleep or exercise or do not eat a balanced diet – all of which can increase your risk of medical issues such as diabetes or heart disease.
Despite the daunting tasks that accompany caregiving, there are steps you can take to manage stress and regain a sense of balance and joy in your life. Here at BrainForest, we know how important caregivers and the work they do are, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to help manage caregiver stress!
Caregivers often feel like they are responsible for their ill loved one and so they have to take care of them on their own. However, the job of caregiving is often too big for just one person to handle. To prevent caregiver burnout, it is important for caregivers to be willing to ask for help and accept it when it is offered. It can help to be prepared with a list of tasks you would be comfortable letting someone else do, such as running errands or cooking, so that when someone offers to help, you are prepared with a task they can assist you with.
Focus on What You are Able to Provide
Caregivers often feel elevated levels of stress when they feel they are unable to perform the tasks that caregiving requires of them. It’s normal to feel guilty sometimes, but caregivers especially should be compassionate with themselves and understand that no one is perfect. It is important to believe that as a caregiver you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can for your loved one.
Set Realistic Goals
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks assigned to you as a caregiver, it can help to break large tasks down into smaller steps that can be completed one at a time. This gives you the opportunity to prioritize tasks, make lists, and establish a manageable daily routine. And when you have a straightforward idea of what is required of you in a certain day, it is easier to say no to requests that are too stressful.
Connect with Caregiver Resources
Many communities have caregiving resources that can help alleviate stress. Some cities offer classes specifically geared towards caring for a loved one with a certain disease. Communities also often offer caregiving services such as transportation, housekeeping, or meal delivery that allow you to delegate some of your caregiver tasks. Knowing what resources are available to you outside of your home will help you manage your caregiver stress.
Remember How Empowered You Are
A sense of powerlessness is the number one contributor to caregiver stress and is an easy feeling to get trapped in, especially if you feel stuck in a position you didn’t expect or helpless to provide relief for your ill loved one. It is important to remember that no matter what your situation is, you are not powerless. You may not be able to get the extra time, money, or assistance that you’d like, but you always have control over your state of mind. You can always get more happiness and hope.
Join a Support Group
Caregiver support groups are the perfect place to share your troubles and find people who can empathize with what you’re going through. In support groups, you’ll talk about your issues and listen to others talk about theirs. You’ll be able to receive help, give help, and most importantly, find out that you aren’t alone. This in and of itself can help alleviate caregiver stress while also connecting you with a community of people who can support you, both emotionally and physically. To find a support group, check the yellow pages, ask your doctor, or call local organizations that deal with your loved one’s illness.
Take Time for Yourself
It is so easy for caregivers to become completely consumed by the task of caregiving to the point they become negligent of their own needs. Not only is it important to remember to drink water, eat a healthy meal, exercise, and get enough sleep, but humans have other needs, too. It is important for caregivers to take time for themselves to watch a movie, have dinner with a friend, go for a walk, or whatever you enjoy doing to relax.
Taking some time for yourself allows you to reset your stress levels and return to the task of caregiving feeling renewed and energized. If you don’t take some time for yourself every now and then, you can quickly burnout.