The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.
~ Pablo Casals
Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors: changes in the family dynamics, household disruption, financial pressure, added workload and responsibility. When families are subjected to continuous and never-ending stress, they may find their coping skills no longer effective.
The ambiguous loss they are experiencing and the prolonged stress they feel may lead to burnout – a depletion of personal resources to the point of loss of energy to fulfill necessary daily functions. When family members find themselves excessively focused on others’ needs, deficits and problems, it is only normal to feel drained, worn out and exhausted.
Common Signs of Caregiver Stress
anxiety, depression, irritability
feeling tired and run down
overreacting to minor nuisances
new or worsening health problems
feeling increasingly resentful
drinking, smoking, or eating more
cutting back on pleasure or leisure activities
your own needs are being neglected
you feel helpless and hopeless
Attend To Your Needs
Take time to relax daily and learn how to regulate yourself and de-stress when you start to feel overwhelmed.
Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings. This will give you perspective and serve as a way to release strong feelings.
Talk with someone to make sense of your situation and your feelings. Feed your spirit. Pray, meditate, or do another activity that makes you feel part of something greater. Try to find meaning in your life and in your role as a caregiver.
Watch out for signs of depression and anxiety, and get professional help if needed.
Stay social. Make it a priority to visit regularly with other people. Nurture your close relationships. Do not let yourself become isolated.
Do things you enjoy. Laughter and joy can help keep you going when you face trials, stress, and pain.
Maintain balance in your life. Do not give up activities that are important to you, such as your work or your hobbies.
Give yourself a break. Take regular breaks from caregiving, and give yourself an extended break at least once a week.
Find a community. Join or reestablish your connection to a religious group, social club, or civic organization. The broader your network the better.
Exercise regularly. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress and boost your energy. So get moving, even if you are tired.
Eat right. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress and get through busy days. Keep your energy up and your mind clear by eating nutritious meals at regular times throughout the day.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. It can be tempting to turn to substances for escape when life feels overwhelming, but they can easily compromise the quality of your caregiving. Instead, try dealing with problems head on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep. Aim for an average of eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep every night. otherwise, your energy level, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.
Keep up with your own healthcare. Go to the doctor and dentist on schedule, and keep up with your own prescriptions or medical appointments. As a caregiver, you need to stay as strong and healthy as possible.