Caregivers are vital to the lives of many people. They can be a professionally trained caregiver or an informal one who looks after loved ones. Caregivers ensure that the person under their care has all their needs met.
But, who cares for the caregiver?
The Pros and Cons of Being a Caregiver
Caring for someone is a rewarding act. It offers a sense of fulfillment, strengthens your bond with that person, and provides them with the lifestyle they need.
However, stress accompanies caregiving as well. Constantly being "on" for someone else, putting your loved one's needs before yours, and handling complex duties will leave anyone feeling overwhelmed.
The CDC reports that more than half of caregivers in the United States show that their health has suffered while providing care. This statistic accounts for mental and physical health.
Caregiver stress is damaging when left untreated.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Confronting caregiver stress is a challenge. Guilt for the way you feel may overwhelm any sense of what you're feeling. Therefore, it's crucial to check in with yourself to determine if you're experiencing caregiver stress.
Some of the signs of caregiver stress include:
- Irritable or easy to anger
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Caregiving mistakes
- Turning to unhealthy coping behaviors
- Loneliness or feelings of isolation
- Excessive or lack of sleeping
- Frequent fatigue
- No excitement for things you typically enjoy
- Excessive worry
- Frequent headaches
Moreover, your stress can worsen and develop long-term health problems. These include:
- Weak immune system
- Chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes
- Cognitive difficulties
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Running out of steam is inevitable. Everyone needs time to practice self-care and recharge. However, you can take some steps to prevent burning out too quickly, such as:
- Take classes on how to better care for your loved ones at hospitals, care centers, or online.
- Find local communities that provide caregiving services to give you a break from your typical duties.
- Get help from friends and family to share some caregiving duties (or do tasks for you).
- Join a caregiver support group to share experiences and learn caregiving tricks.
- Keep a routine and a running task list. Staying organized will help you keep your duties in order.
- Maintain relationships with your friends and family.
- Take care of your health.
Ways to Recharge Your Caregiving Battery
There isn't a single fix. Even activities that you would typically enjoy may seem unappealing when you're experiencing caregiver stress. Instead, you can explore these activities for healthy self-care:
Sleep. More than a third of caregivers get less than 7 hours of sleep each night. A lack of sleep harms your health and ability to care for your loved one.
Practice good sleep hygiene by starting a nightly routine that ensures you get enough sleep and that the sleep you get is of good quality. If you need, take a quick 15-minute nap during the day to get yourself energized.
Move. Whether it's exercise, yoga, or walking outside, moving your body can help you relieve some caregiver stress. Moving improves your health, boosts your energy, and much more.
Socialize. Your friends and family will support you. Maintain your relationships with them to give yourself an emotional outlet and for someone to lean on.
Write it down. Verbalizing your feelings can be difficult. But, putting your thoughts into words can lessen their power, help you process them, and release them from your mind. So, grab a pen and paper and start journaling.
Mindfulness. Whether through meditation or breathing exercises, mindfulness will help you stay in tune with your body. Mindfulness prevents your emotions from getting the best of you and can help you recharge your body.
Gratitude. Practicing gratitude will keep your mind on the good things in your life. It recharges your battery with positivity that you may have forgotten.
Consider starting a gratitude journal. Allot a mere 5 minutes each day to write down a few things that you're grateful for, no matter how big or small.
Unplug. As a caregiver, you always have to be "on." So, find time to turn off your devices, get outside, and spend time with yourself. Give yourself the chance to turn off and recharge.
Eat and drink well. You've heard it all before: drink plenty of water, limit caffeine intake, and eat whole foods. But, giving your body the right food and drinks will improve your energy and focus. The proper nutrition can quite literally recharge your battery.
Set a schedule. Make time for your self-care. Setting boundaries for you-time will ensure you have the time to recharge your battery. Turn your self-care into a routine.