Taking care of a sick or elderly family member can be challenging. Not only is it exhausting, but it can take a toll on your mental health, too. If you are experiencing this, you may have caregiver stress. As much as you want to do your part in helping a relative out, it can become difficult to bear, especially if you’re sacrificing much of your time with them.
What happens when you have caregiver stress?
Caregiver stress can happen to anyone, including experienced caregivers. Because you spend most of your time attending to the needs of a loved one, you may not have the personal space you need to keep your emotions in check.
If left unabated and without the right coping mechanisms in place, you could put both your physical and mental health at risk. To know if you are stressed out as a caregiver, watch for these signs:
1. Depression and anxiety:
According to Caregiver.org, around 20% of family caregivers suffer from depression which often results from prolonged isolation and loneliness. It may not be much, but the condition could affect your relationship with your loved one as well as your performance in caregiving.
2. Physical health issues
Some caregivers hardly have any time for self-care. This could affect their eating habits and, more importantly, their physical health. When less attention is placed on their physical well-being, caregivers could become vulnerable to various diseases and conditions.
3. Relationship Rifts
Given the emotional and physical effects of caregiver stress, your frustrations could lead to unwanted conflicts with a loved one under your care. This may even lead to distrust and deeper rifts when other family members are involved.
Stress can do more than give you headaches. It can also lead to serious complications that could endanger yourself and your loved ones. Here are a few ways you can keep helping them without having to suffer.
4. Find time to socialize
Talking with friends or meeting new people can relieve you from the emotional toll that can affect your relationship with the person you are taking care of. Look for opportunities to go outside and build a support system.
If that isn’t possible, you can talk with friends and family members online during your free time. Socialization can help you build a support system where you can get valuable advice and motivation.
5. Build a time management system
With the amount of work you have to deal with each day, caregiving could lead to burnout if you lack a system for managing your tasks. You can only do so much with the hours you spend caregiving, so it’s important to space out your activities and ensure you have enough free time for rest and leisure.
Allow yourself spontaneous breaks, especially if you are dealing with major tasks. With this, you can prevent yourself from burning out without compromising the time you dedicate to your loved one.
The best way you can organize your time as a caregiver is through time-blocking. Consider your loved one’s schedule for certain activities, such as going outdoors or having meals. You can organize your time around these activities and maximize the time you will be spending for rest and leisure.
When coming up with a personal schedule, make sure to list down your priorities and start with the more minor tasks first.
That way, you will have less to worry about as you focus on the bigger tasks that lie ahead. Planning your time effectively is a surefire way to avoid caregiver stress and ensure that your loved one gets the amount of attention they need each day.
6. Take up a creative activity
Stress can cause you to do and say things that could harm the person under your care. With this in mind, make sure you have an outlet for easing the daily pressure. The best you can do is to get into a creative hobby during your free time.
Apart from reading a book or watching your favorite TV shows, consider more engaging activities such as crocheting, gardening, or crafting DIY decorations. Not only are these activities effective ways to spend your free time, but they can also help keep your emotions in check.
If you want to develop a new skill or get into a new hobby, consider signing up for creative courses on Domestika or Skillshare, where you can learn from experienced talents. This is also a great and productive way to spend your free time, so choose a course that fits your preferences.
You can also share this new skill with your loved one. Online drawing and painting courses are particularly helpful for people suffering from dementia.
7. Seek professional help
In case caregiving causes too much emotional pressure, you might as well reach out to a mental health professional. Many psychiatrists are offering telepsychiatry services where you can talk to them online, get advice, and prescribe the right medication.
Seeking help from a mental care professional can help you develop new ways to cope with caregiver stress. Other than licensed psychiatrists, you can also look for a therapist who can help you talk about your feelings and channel your frustrations without causing harm or distress to your loved one.
Assuming the role of caregiver doesn’t exclude you from getting professional help yourself. Considering the demanding nature of this role, you may need someone to lend you an ear and provide valuable advice on how to stay composed even when caring for another person seems difficult.
8. Consider assisted care
Another option you can try out is to bring your loved one to an assisted care facility. There, they can live independently with the help of on-call staff. Some retirement communities, like Riverview Retirement Community in Spokane, Washington offer medical support services to seniors. You just need to open this up to your loved one and see if they want to be there.
Helping a loved one shouldn’t come at the cost of your mental health. Consider these tips as you provide the support system they need.
Martha lives in the Bay Area and is a dedicated reader of romance novels. She runs a yoga studio and taught yoga for many years. She always says that yoga fuels her writing. She’s also a vegetarian and advocate for living a healthy life. Martha has been writing for us for a while now, giving readers a glimpse into her lifestyle and work.
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