Caregiving can be a rewarding job, but we all know that it involves a lot of stressors. Caregiver stress can be damaging to your health. If you don’t do anything to manage it, it can lead to more serious conditions such as depression, anxiety and burnout. Caregiver burnout is a state of exhaustion that can affect your physical, emotional, and mental health in a negative way. Studies suggest that the following signs can indicate that you are experiencing caregiver stress:
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty sleeping
- New or worsening health problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Drinking and smoking
- Gaining or losing weight
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
So what can you do to reduce caregiver stress?
Focus on the things you have control over
Taking care of someone is a big responsibility. However, we have to remind ourselves that there are things we can and can’t control. Things we can’t control include someone’s health condition. For example, you empathize with your patient, and you so badly wish that his or her cancer would go away. This makes you feel helpless and that whatever else you do for him or her isn’t going to help in the long run. Instead of focusing on these kinds of things, you can focus on what you can control. For example, you can do your best to make sure that your patient is as comfortable as possible. You can do this in many ways such as cooking their favourite food, or simply placing a pillow under their legs if that’s what helps them sleep better. At the end of the day, it’s the little things that matter.
If you don’t get recognition from anyone, it’s time for you to recognize your own hard work and reward yourself. This doesn’t have to involve money. You can do things like take a hot bath, or have a scoop of ice cream for dessert – whatever it is that you usually do to pamper yourself.
If you feel like all the weight is on your shoulders, speak up. Don’t expect your family and friends to know what you’re going through. If we don’t say anything, other people won’t know what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling. This is a good way to open up a discussion about sharing the responsibility. For example, one can cook meals, another can tidy up the house, and another can stay with the person you’re caring for.
Give yourself a break
You owe it to yourself. It may seem impossible to get a break from your responsibility, but try your best to set aside at least five to ten minutes of your time whenever you start to feel like it’s too much. Step out of the room, sit on the couch, and put your feet up. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. Do anything that will help you regain some energy.
Take care of your own health
If none of the strategies above worked, go see your doctor. Caregiver stress can take its toll on your health. If you have been neglecting your own health, there might be more serious things going on. Discuss how you feel with your doctor. He or she should have some resources to help you.
Think of your body like a car. With refueling and proper maintenance, it will run reliably and smoothly. If you neglect it, then it will start to break down on you. Take care of yourself regularly to avoid caregiver stress and burnout. Always remember that you are not alone!