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It’s Worth the Effort: Recognize and Manage Caregiver Stress

Stress Awareness Month

For Stress Awareness Month this April, learn some common signs of caregiver stress, and explore why and how to save some care for yourself.Because taking on a caregiver role requires putting someone else’s needs before your own, it’s that much harder to recognize the magnitude of your own stress. What’s more, because these responsibilities can grow slowly over time, caregiver stress can accumulate without being noticed.

Staying stable and capable in order to provide for others doesn’t happen by itself; your mental and physical health need your attention, too. In honor of Stress Awareness Month this April, we’re putting caregiver stress in the spotlight. Take a moment to evaluate whether caregiver stress is compromising your own health, and read on for tips on how to turn some of that care back on yourself.

Assess Your Stress

If your caregiving responsibilities have you feeling overwhelmed, even some of the time, step back and assess whether you’re showing any of these common signs of caregiver stress.

  • Exhaustion; trouble sleeping
  • Persistent negative emotions; quick to anger
  • Eating habits suffering; substantial weight change
  • Increased physical complaints; frequent headache or body pain
  • Lack of concentration; ‘dropping the ball’ in other aspects of life (e.g. work, home)
  • Withdrawal from social circle and/or favorite pastimes
  • Turning to alcohol or drugs (prescribed or not) for relief

You may be able to handle the stresses of caregiving from minute to minute, but their effects over time cannot be ignored. People who undergo caregiver stress — and may neglect to care for themselves in the process — are at increased risk for depression. Moreover, because caregiving is ongoing, often in the long term, a perpetually stressed caregiver could become burned out.

Save Some Care for You

If you’re affected by caregiver stress, you may feel like you don’t have any energy to spare for self-care. To diminish that strain, you may in fact need to scale back a little. But not only is that possible, it’s also vital for your long-term health (and future caregiving capacity). Here are some important steps you can take toward self-sustainment that can help you better sustain your loved one.

  • Know your limits. Your time and energy are in high demand right now, and there’s no shame in not being able to do it all. There may also be duties in other aspects of your life that you can back off from, or hand over to someone else. As hard as it may seem, give yourself permission to say ‘no’ sometimes.
  • Go easy on yourself. Don’t think in terms of not doing enough; rather, reward yourself for all that you are doing. Favorite activities can serve as a release valve. Invest the time to eat well and stay active, increasing your energy and overall wellness.
  • Look outward. Seek assistance from within your loved one’s family, friends, and community. Divide responsibilities, and accept help when it is offered; even if they can’t do as well as you, ‘good enough’ will suffice. If you’re feeling isolated, seek out a support group or get back in touch with a friend.

If you’re experiencing caregiver stress, you’re not alone — and you don’t have to let it define you. Being a successful long-term caregiver should involve making trade-offs in order to give yourself the same attention that you’re generously giving to your loved one. Each nugget of time you spend on self-care can pay off in the quality of care you’re able to provide in turn.

For more tips on identifying and handling caregiver stress, visit these resources:

Are you struggling to care for a loved one, or recognizing signs of caregiver stress in your life? You can quickly determine whether your loved one might benefit from the in-home health care services offered by Residential Home Health by taking our online Home Care Assessment — or call (888)930-WELL (9355) to discuss your specific situation with a Home Care Specialist today.