Caring for Yourself: For Caregivers

Whether it’s for a child with special needs, a spouse injured in an accident, or a parent whose health is in decline, taking on the role of caregiver can dramatically change your life overnight. Devoting your time and effort to help a loved one in need can be rewarding and fulfilling work, but it can also lead to stress, depression, and exhaustion. It’s important for all caregivers to recognize some common signs of caregiver burnout and know a few strategies for coping.

Not Your Normal Self

Caregiver burnout can lead to feelings of frustration, to say the least. If you’re having trouble feeling motivated to get up each day and take care of your responsibilities, if you spend a lot of time worrying about what will happen to your loved one, or if you find that you’re short and often irritable when helping your loved one, you may be feeling the mental effects of caregiving. Depression, anxiety, and mood swings can make it harder to get through your daily tasks.

Consider consulting with your doctor or a mental health provider about your situation. Don’t assume that this will lead to therapy or medication; your doctor may simply assist you in finding ways to reduce stress. That could be relaxation and deep-breathing exercises, or it may just be finding time to do something you enjoy by yourself.

Simply Worn Out

When you’re expending all your effort on another person rather than yourself, there are potential risks to your physical health. If you’re getting sick a lot or battling consistent physical fatigue, make sure you’re caring for your own body.

You’re focusing on getting your loved one to appointments, providing healthy meals for them, and taking care of their health needs, but you have to put just as much importance on your own health. Don’t forget your own doctor’s appointments, and talk to your doctor about your caregiving role and how you can balance it with your own priorities. Focus on healthy meals and nutrition, and find ways to include exercise in your daily routine. Finally, remember the importance of sleep!

In Need of a Helping Hand

Isolation and lack of support can make it difficult to fit self-care into your schedule. Investigate local resources that can provide you with backup care. Grow your support network to include family and friends who can relieve you, even if it’s just for short periods of time. Schedule free time with friends to relax and blow off some steam, or visit a support group for caregivers, not only to feel solidarity and give you a social outlet but to learn different caregiving strategies.

Being a caregiver requires a lot of love and a lot of time, but that doesn’t change your own needs for self-care and self-love. Don’t forget to do what you need to keep yourself feeling strong.

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