Caregiver stress and rejuvenation

By Dr Lisa Webb on 2nd May 2019

When you’re exhausted and burned out, it’s tough to do anything, let alone look after someone else. That’s why taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity, argues Dr Lisa Webb…

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or you’re in over your head. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to exhaustion.

Caregiver stress and burnout: What you need to know:
Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors. Caregiver stress can be particularly harmful if it is typically a chronic, long-term challenge. It can be particularly disheartening when there’s little hope your family member will recover or improve for the long-term. That’s why managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to their appointments or takes medication appropriately.

Learn to recognize the signs of caregiver stress.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver overstress:
– You have much less energy than you once had
– It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around
– You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
– You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
– Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
– You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
– You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for

Find ways to feel empowered:
Feeling powerless is the number one contributor to burnout and depression. No matter the situation, you aren’t powerless. This is especially true when it comes to your state of mind. Embrace your caregiving choice. Acknowledge that, despite any resentments or burdens you feel, you have made a conscious choice to provide care. Focus on the positive reasons behind that choice.

Focus on the things you can control, focus on the way you choose to react to problems. Celebrate the small victories. If you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself that all your efforts matter. You don’t have to cure your loved one’s illness to make a difference. Don’t underestimate the importance of making your loved one feel more safe, comfortable, and loved!

Get the appreciation you need:
Feeling appreciated can go a long way toward not only accepting a stressful situation, but enjoying life more. Studies show that caregivers who feel appreciated experience greater physical and emotional health. Caregiving actually makes them happier and healthier, despite its demands. But what can you do if the person you’re caring for is no longer able to feel or show their appreciation for your time and efforts?

Applaud your own efforts. If you need something more concrete, try making a list of all the ways your caregiving is making a positive difference. Ask for help. Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a surefire recipe for burnout. Don’t try to do it all alone.

For more help: contact Dr. Lisa M. Webb at the Body & Mind Consulting Associates Group:

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