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 on hold. While caring for a loved one is a beautiful and selfless act, it can also lead to caregiver stress, and burnout is unavoidable 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 older adult. 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 stressful, but many other things can also cause stress. 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.
Many factors 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 can make you feel ashamed or less than who you truly are when caring 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 because taking care of others may seem like the only priority.
Take care of yourself first
Caregiving can be emotionally and physically draining. Caregiving stress is one of the leading causes of burnout, which occurs when caregivers feel like they can’t take any more.
It’s crucial to remain aware of the stress you are experiencing, so you can find ways to deal with it before it becomes difficult to handle. Caregivers often put their needs last because they focus 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 sadness or hopelessness because of the thought of losing a loved one who has been so important in your life.
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 can’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 caring for yourself is just as critical as caring for our loved ones.
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 possible to help them. But sometimes, the best way to take care of someone is by making sure you’re okay, too – If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others. Set realistic goals for yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
- Eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are just a few ways to 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, including 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, family, or licensed professionals. You deserve the best care possible, and you should never feel guilty for needing some support along the way.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. You can always seek help, and many resources are available to caregivers. The main thing is knowing when your stress levels are getting too high so that you can take action before it negatively impacts your life.
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 grief, loss, or caregiver stress, 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.