Guest post by Tina Butler, CSA, CDP
Caregiving for a loved one can be one of the most selfless and rewarding acts. Despite the benefits, the challenges of providing care can negatively affect the health and wellbeing of family caregivers. In fact, rough studies indicate that 30% of caregivers die before those they are caring for. Because of the severity of stress on the body, caregivers should address any symptoms of caregiver burnout and make self-care a priority.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Burnout may accompany a change in attitude from positive and caring to negative or unconcerned. Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
As a caregiver, it’s important to keep an eye out for any negative physical or emotional symptoms as these can lead to long-term damage. Physical signs that you might be experiencing caregiver stress and/or burnout:
- Frequent headaches or body aches
- Feeling tired or fatigued
- Change in sleep patterns – too much or too little
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Abusing alcohol, prescription and/or recreational drugs
- Change in mood – easily angered or irritated
- Persistent sadness or hopelessness
- Lack of interest in previous enjoyed activities
- Feelings of loneliness or isolation
Take Care of You
Bottom line, you are not able to care for anyone else if you are sick; therefore, taking care of you must be priority.
- Eat nutritious meals – Don’t give in to stress-driven urges for sweets or overindulgence in alcohol.
- Get enough sleep – If sleep deprived, take naps during the day.
- Get regular medical check-ups – Speak to your physician about symptoms of stress, depression or anxiety
- Exercise – Get daily exercise.
- Utilize family, friends or community services- Ask for help when a respite is needed. If support network is lacking, homecare organizations can be hired to provide professional caregivers on a temporary or ongoing basis.
Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress
As a caregiver, you need an outlet. To combat feelings of overwhelming anxiety and frustration, here are 10 stress relief tips most useful and realistic for busy caregivers.
- Take slow, deep breaths– Taking slow, deep breaths is one of the fastest ways to shift your body out of stress mode and allows you to relax.
- Use aromatherapy – Essential oils such as lavender are proven to have a calming effect similar to anti-anxiety medications.
- Drink calming herbal teas – Sipping an herbal tea is a wonderful way to take a break and rehydrate your body too. Some calming herbs such as mint, lemon or ginger can do double-duty as aromatherapy.
- Meditate or pray – Studies show that meditation reduces blood pressure, improves immune function and ability to concentrate. If you’re religious, prayer works similarly. You can reap the benefits in a few minutes a day.
- Exercise – Exercise is an excellent way to relieve tension, boost mood and improve physical and mental health. Even a 5-minute walk or workout can make a big difference.
- Talk to a friend/join a support group – Venting your frustrations and knowing you are not alone can significantly reduce stress. Check online for local and/or virtual support groups.
- Practice gratitude –Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of life, balance things out with a dose of positive and things you are grateful for. Making a nightly practice of writing down 3 positives of your day can provide a new perspective.
- Listen to music – Music is an amazing mood booster. Create a happy playlist on Spotify or Pandora.
- Do something creative – Take a break from caregiving and focus energy on a fun, positive and productive creative project such as gardening, coloring, crafting, gardening, cooking, painting, etc.
- Watch or read something laugh worthy – Sometimes you just need a good laugh. Read a funny book, browse cartoons or watch a humorous video.
As a caregiver, remember you must put on your oxygen mask before attempting to help those around you. Self-care is not a selfish act, but a necessity! Prioritize self-care and relaxation. Incorporate habits into your life that nurtures both your mind and body.
About the Author
Tina L. Butler, CDP, CSA
Certified Senior Advisor®
Tina is a Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Dementia Practitioner with 34 years of senior care experience. She has acquired a wealth of knowledge working with seniors in all levels of care and housing. For the past 20 years, Tina has been at the helm of Comfort Keepers In-Home Care and Oasis Senior Advisors, a FREE placement and referral service. Tina’s life’s passion is to support family caregivers and advocate for a higher quality of life for the seniors in her community.