Caregiver Stress: Remember to Take Care of Yourself

Caregiver stress can lead to burnout and ultimately poorer health for you and poorer care for person you are looking after.

There are millions of caregivers in USA in any given year looking after chronically ill, sick, or disabled friends and/or relatives. 

Being a caregiver can be tough. Often the caregiver can feel that they have no sense of control over the person's recovery and that the person they are caring for does not resemble the person they once knew. 

How can you tell if you are suffering from caregiver burnout or stress?

caregiver stress

Signs of Caregiver Stress and Burnout

Whether you are taking care of elderly parents, an Alzheimer's sufferer, or someone who is sick, there are a number of signs of caregiver burnout or stress. 

These may include:

  • feeling more irritable and moody than usual
  • feeling depressed and experiencing low energy levels
  • feeling more frustrated and angry than usual
  • losing interest in your hobbies, friendships and other activities that you once found pleasurable
  • feeling angry and resentful towards the person that you are caring for.

The feelings that you are feeling are not wrong, they are just those of somebody under stress. 

In many ways, caregiving is the "hidden patient" who carries the silent suffering of the person they are caring for.

What is your stress level?

Take the stress questionnaire and see how life events may be affecting you.

The impact of caregiver stress and burnout

Caregivers who have a history of chronic illness themselves are 63% more likely to die than those who are not caregivers (Journal of American Medical Association).

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences it was reported that those who suffer from caregiver stress are: 

  • more likely to display signs of stress that affect their mind and body,
  • more likely to have a weaker immune system. This may result in more stress related illness,
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression if they are the full-time caregiver of their spouse,
  • 2 times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety if they are the full-time caregiver of parents.

These stress statistics make it important for the caregiver to look after themselves. Just as you are focused on the needs of the person you are caring for, your overall health depends on you caring for yourself. 

Chronic stress eventually leads to burnout and ultimately poorer health.

Tips to manage caregiver stress

When looking after somebody else probably one the first things that you are going to neglect is your own self-care as you put other's needs before your own.

In the long-term this can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

This is called Self-Care Deficiency Syndrome, a situation in which you are not giving yourself enough self-care.

Headaches, insomnia, indigestion and a general feeling of being overwhelmed or irritable can all be symptoms of Self-Care Deficiency Syndrome.

Caring for others is hard work and can lead to burnout and health issues. Here are four tips you can practice today.

1. Increase your awareness of your stress. One of the first steps is to become aware of the stress that you are under and the emotions that you are feeling. What are your stress symptoms.

Keep a stress diary

Gain objective information about your stress triggers and symptoms. Download and fill out a stress diary for a week. 

2. Listen to your body. If you are tired then take a break. 

Pushing on only increases your fatigue and the risk of burnout.

3. Set boundaries. Make a decision to set good boundaries. Learn to say "No" and also seek help from support groups and others who care for you.

4. Practice more self-care. This can be difficult but permit yourself to practise self-care rather than feeling guilty about taking time for yourself.

Some ideas for self care may be to:

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