There are many reasons and times we want to and may be expected to care for loved ones when they cannot care for themselves. While on one hand this experience can be rewarding, caregiving is a big responsibility that can become overwhelming with our other responsibilities. In an effort to balance our work-family balance, we often forget about caring for ourselves. Like the people we are caring for, we have physical and psychological needs that must be met. If our needs are not met, then we are at risk of developing caregiver stress. Caregiver stress refers to physical and psychological fatigue that is often accompanied by emotional distress and/or difficulties in our everyday functioning (e.g., sleeping). Some signs of caregiver stress include:
You may feel:
o Persistent tiredness
o Hopeless or helpless
You may experience difficulties with:
o Completing responsibilities
o Sleeping (more or less)
Other possible signs include:
o Decreased engagement in pleasurable activities
o Increased use of alcohol or other substances
o Increased physical symptoms (e.g. headaches)
In order to best care for our loved ones we must care for our needs as well. Some ways you can manage caregiver stress:
– Ask for and accept help
o Utilize your support system
o Participate in therapy – individual and group therapy
o Find a support or community group
– Engage in self-care activities each day
o Self-care activities do not have to be time-consuming. Self-care can be as quick as reading a self-affirmation or a 5 minutes mindfulness exercise.
o Scheduling self-care time is a good way to remind yourself that there is time to care for yourself, as well as increase your accountability to yourself.
– Maintain your physical health
o See your doctor
o Improve eating and sleeping habits
Author: Melanie Levitt, M.S.