Learning how to avoid stress as an everyday caretaker is essential to preventing burnout and maintaining your own mental health. A caregiver is an individual who provides assistance to another in need. Family caregivers or informal caregivers might provide long-term care services for an ill spouse, a child with disabilities, or a homebound elderly loved one.
Informal caregivers are no less vital in their role than someone who is not a family caregiver. In fact, home care is beneficial for seniors, allowing them to maintain independence and improve health longer than staying in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
Your role entitles you to a large community of caregivers, resources for elderly loved ones, caregiving services, and all associated resources for elderly loved ones and those who care for them. Discover how to recognize the signs of depression and stress as a caregiver and how to avoid stress as an everyday caretaker.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
24/7 care can quickly lead to caregiver burnout, impacting mental health and creating a decline in the well-being of the caregiver. Family caregivers can easily become so involved in caring for a homebound elderly loved one, they may not always recognize when the time comes to step back and provide some much-needed self-care.
When you take care of your mental health, you take care of your whole self. Being aware of the signs of caregiver stress is one of the most important steps toward learning how to avoid stress as an everyday caretaker.
There are five major signs of excessive stress or mental health concerns severe enough to suggest depression.
1. Loss of Interest in Activities You Used to Enjoy
From painting to running, our hobbies play a crucial role in our quality of life. Pulling back from these activities can be devastating to your mental health. If you stop participating in activities that bring you joy, you may be experiencing caregiver stress.
2. Sudden Sadness with No Clear Cause
Occasionally feeling sad in reaction to an external trigger is perfectly normal. However, sadness that is persistent or arises for no apparent reason can be a warning sign of depression. This type of depression is common among caregivers. It can be treated with therapy or various mental health approaches.
3. Loss of Hope for the Future
Devoting each day to providing care for another person, regardless of how much love you have for them, can be emotionally draining. When you get caught up in caring for a loved one, you may forget about enjoying your own experiences. If you feel like things are bad and will never get better, you may be experiencing signs of caregiver burnout or depression.
4. Declining Mental Health
Increased anxiety is one of the first major symptoms of caregiver burnout. You worry constantly about a myriad of things, many of which are outside your control. Anxiety can disrupt your sleeping habits and cause:
- Increased irritability
- Inability to concentrate
- Using unhealthy habits to cope
5. Declining Physical Health
Poor mental health can have devastating effects on your body. It may manifest physically as body pains, increased frequency of headaches, drastic weight change, and a weakened immune system. High levels of stress over a long period can also lead to heart disease.
How to Avoid Stress as an Everyday Caretaker
Caring for a loved one is an amazing decision, but if you do not care for yourself, you will not be able to provide that care. Caregiver stress and burnout are serious threats to the mental health of family caregivers, and can ultimately have devastating effects on the quality of care you can provide. The ultimate goal in managing caregiver stress is to find a healthy balance between the care services you provide and your life outside of these duties.
Ask for Help
Perhaps one of the most important parts of how to avoid stress as an everyday caretaker is taking advantage of caregiving resources and services available to you. Organizations like CareLink offer services to both older Arkansans and their caretakers.
Senior centers are a great place for older adults to engage in activities and meet other older adults. Respite care allows everyday family caregivers to take a break, for a few hours or a few days a month, by having a temporary caregiver stay with your loved one.
Your Mental Health
Finding ways to promote your own mental well-being is vital to figuring out how to avoid stress as an everyday caretaker. Alleviating day-to-day stress also improves physical health. Physical activity is a proven method to promote mental health. Talking to a therapist or trusted friend can also give you clarity and allow you to evaluate your situation more objectively.
Do things you enjoy. Give yourself a break, even if it is only for 20 minutes, every day. Take a hot bath, or go out with a friend for an evening. Set aside time to maintain personal relationships.
Your Physical Health
If you care for another person, you have to take care of yourself. Go to your yearly exams. See your doctor if you notice a new or worsening problem. Tell your healthcare provider you are a caregiver. Stress, when left unaddressed, can lead to many physical ailments, including higher risks for heart disease and stroke. Just a 30 minute walk 5 days a week can help your physical and mental health.
Join the Community
Caregiving can become incredibly isolating. You may feel like no one else can understand what your life is truly like. Fortunately, there are many resources available for family caregivers. Local resources and many online support groups are specifically dedicated to helping caregivers support each other. Join a support group, in-person or online, through reputable organizations like the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Setting healthy boundaries between caring for others and caring for yourself is essential to avoiding stress as an everyday caretaker. Know when to ask for help (through respite care provided by local organizations or by asking other family members to step in). Whatever you need to do, define boundaries where your life as caregiver ends and your own life begins.
For More Information
Stress is inevitable, but figuring out how to avoid stress as an everyday caretaker is essential – before it negatively impacts your mental or physical well-being. If you need help caring for a loved one, contact CareLink online today!