Navigating Caregiver Stress
The stress of caring for a loved one can be challenging. You may feel like you’re going from one challenge to another, and your usual day-to-day life may feel like it’s been out on hold. While caring for a loved one is a beautiful and selfless act, it can also lead to caregiver stress and burnout is certain if boundaries are not in place. There are ways to prevent caregiver stress. Here’s what you need to know about this common problem:
What is a caregiver?
A caregiver is someone who provides care and support to an ill, disabled, or elderly person. Caregivers are usually family members but can also be friends, neighbors, paid staff and others who have a close relationship with the person being cared for.
What is caregiver stress?
Caregiving is a stressful job, but it can also be caused by many things. Caregivers may experience stress from their care recipient (for example, when you’re caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s who has become aggressive or violent), from their family (when your spouse demands that you take more time off from work), or from themselves (if you have chronic health issues that affect your ability to care for the person).
Identifying and managing caregiver stress helps you manage it better and in turn reduces the negative impact on your ability to provide care.
There are many factors that contribute to caregiver stress:
Know the signs of caregiver stress.
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Feeling like you are not making progress or making much of a difference
- Feeling guilty about not being able to do more
- Feeling like you are losing your sense of self, where you feel you are solely living for another person not yourself.
Guilt and caregiver stress.
Guilt is a natural and inevitable part of caring for a loved one. Being a caregiver can bring up feelings of inadequacy, regret, shame, grief and anger. These are normal emotions that may be helpful in some situations but can also be destructive if not managed properly.
Guilt has the power to make you feel ashamed or less than who you truly are when it comes time to care for yourself. Guilt can lead to caregiver stress because it makes you feel like you should be able to do more than what you are doing right now with limited resources at your disposal. When this happens, caregivers tend to put themselves last on their list; they often forget about their own needs first because taking care of others seems easier than tending our own wounds.
Caregiving can be emotionally and physically draining. Be aware of the stress it might cause and find ways to deal with it before it becomes a problem.
Caregiving can be emotionally and physically draining. Be aware of the stress it might cause, and find ways to deal with it before it becomes a problem.
Stress is one of the leading causes of caregiver burnout, which occurs when caregivers feel like they can’t take any more. Caregivers often put their own needs last because they are focused on caring for others. However, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you will eventually become overwhelmed and unable to continue providing care effectively.
You may also experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness during this time due to the thought of losing a loved one who has been so important in your life—or even just because dealing with someone else’s problems day after day can be emotionally draining
Accept that you can’t do it all.
While it feels like you should be able to do everything, the truth is that you cannot do it all. You can’t be everything to everyone and you won’t be perfect. Even if we were superheroes, we’d still need help.
But what’s important is that we keep trying, even when things seem hopeless and overwhelming. Remembering to take care of ourselves is just as critical as taking care of our loved ones. I always say, “If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others”.
Be realistic about what you can do.
- You’re a caregiver because you care about your loved one, and it’s natural to want to do everything you can to help them. But sometimes, the best way to take care of someone is by taking care of yourself first. Set realistic goals for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are just a few ways that will help you manage your stress levels and stay strong during difficult times.
Learn to say no to extra tasks or requests.
You can also learn to say no to extra tasks or requests. If someone asks you for help with a project or task, but it doesn’t seem feasible given your current responsibilities and time constraints, be honest about your limitations without feeling bad about them. Only commit yourself when it makes sense for everyone involved, and primarily yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It’s important to talk about your feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family, or a licensed professional. You deserve the best care possible and you should never feel guilty for needing some support along the way.
In the end, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. You can always reach out for help if you need it and there are many resources available to caregivers. The main thing is knowing when your stress levels are getting too high so that you can take action before it begins impacting your daily functioning.
Learn to Navigate Anticipatory Grief with Dr. Carolina Raeburn
Dr. Carolina Raeburn is a Florida Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a subspecialty in neuropsychology. If you’re struggling with caregiver stress or anticipatory grief, please schedule a telehealth appointment by clicking here. Or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out through our contact page.
*All the information published in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Any information provided here is offered in generic form. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.