Seeing a loved one living a challenging life or battling harsh health conditions is not easy. So, it is common for one to take the brunt of caregiving tasks. The problem occurs when they disregard their own needs while focusing entirely on their loved ones.
If you are the primary caregiver for your family member who is physically or mentally unwell, you should take specific steps to protect your own health. In this article, you will learn the best strategies, starting with understanding caregiver burnout.
What does caregiver burnout mean?
Caregiver burnout describes a constant state of mental, emotional, and physical stress. It affects many primary caregivers while providing caregiving and nursing services to another person. Caregiver burden affects most caregivers differently, whether physically, psychologically, or socially.
A lot of time, people provide caregiver support to other family members, but the work is very demanding physically and emotionally. So, often, many caregivers stop caring for themselves, like not getting enough sleep, which further harms their own health.
Risk factors for caregiver burnout
Certain factors can increase your risk of physical and emotional stress while caring for family members.
- Living 24/7 with someone who needs constant care.
- Handling full caregiving responsibilities for your spouse.
- Having no guidance from professional health care professionals.
- You feel like you constantly need to manage all the emotional and physical demands of the care recipient.
- Spending a lot of time providing respite care services.
- Not having strong coping skills.
Signs to look for to detect caregiver stress
Family caregivers and even professional caregivers who provide caregiving services do show some symptoms that indicate their deteriorating mental and physical health. Here are some of the signs of caregiver stress that you should keep note of.
- A feeling of constant mental and physical exhaustion.
- Lack of a good night’s sleep due to restlessness or sleeping too much.
- Withdrawing from social activities with friends and family.
- Signs of physical stress, like stomach aches, chest pains, migraines, etc.
- Feeling helpless or anxious often.
- Changes in regular eating habits, like eating a lot or losing appetite.
- Showing signs of irritability and becoming argumentative suddenly.
- Losing concentration often.
- Sudden mood swings.
- Depressive or suicidal thoughts, and even attempts at it.
- Neglecting self-care practices and even regular responsibilities.
Best self-care tips to manage caregiver stress
The following are helpful self-care tips for you to deal with caregiver burnout safely.
Clear your mind.
Do activities that will refresh you, like meditation, going for walks, or listening to calming songs. Moreover, you can do yoga and exercise, improving your physical health and well-being.
“Caregivers tend to put others’ needs before their own, which can be exhausting,” said Isaac Robertson, co-founder and nutritionist at Total Shape. “Find a quiet spot, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and focus on your breath. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold it for a moment, and then exhale gently. It might sound basic, but deep breathing can do wonders to calm your mind amidst the chaos of caregiving.”
Improve your regular lifestyle.
You should take considerate steps to improve your lifestyle. Take genuine steps to eat right, sleep on time, and drink a lot of water. Try out different activities that will motivate you to move your body and maintain an active lifestyle.
Set goals within your reach.
Things like increased prices of groceries, rent, utility bills, etc., stress people further. However, a lot of the time, many external factors cause such issues, like inflation in the global economy and raising the price of goods. These are not under your control- you should focus on things you can work on to reduce your stress. You should set attainable goals for yourself and do things one at a time instead of handling multiple tasks simultaneously.
Talk to others about your situation and feelings.
It would be best if you did not hide your feelings and condition when you are struggling with stress from your caregiving responsibilities. Keeping everything to yourself will further impact your emotional stress. So, you should take actual steps to help your mental health.
Connect with a social worker, psychologist, or mental health professional to discuss your emotional state. They can provide guidance with serious conditions like depression, if you are showing those symptoms. Also, meet with healthcare physicians for help with your physical health issues. You can talk to your friends and other family members for emotional support as well.
Check present local resources
Community resources are available for unpaid caregivers, like community day-care centers, in-home care, and meal programs. You can access these resources to reduce your caregiver burden to some extent.
Spend more time with your acquaintances and family
It would help if you spent more time with your family members and friends to decompress. Go for a coffee or a walk with your loved ones to get a break from family caregiving.
Join support groups
You can take part in on-site or online support groups to socialize or connect with other people dealing with similar experiences. The people you meet in a support group can provide helpful advice and become a support system for stressful situations.
“One of the most effective things we’ve found is to have a trusted source in your nursing unit you can go to anytime to discuss what is weighing you down”, said Zachary Jacobson, VP at Better Nurse. “Having someone who completely understands your situation because they are there day in and day out can be much more effective than discussing what’s weighing you down with someone who’s not in our industry.”
Practical tips to maintain caregiver mental health for a loved one
If someone close to you is the primary caregiver, you can do some things to maintain their physical and mental health. Here are some tips to manage stress from the perspective of a loved one.
- You should offer support to your loved one struggling with their caregiver role.
- You can help them with regular activities, like meal preparation, household chores, etc.
- You can arrange respite services for the caregiver to give them temporary relief from their duties.
- You can provide companionship to the person they are handling caregiver services. During this time, the caregiver will get some free hours to relax, too.
- You can offer different services to prevent caregiver burnout, like offering to drive them to their workplace, appointments, etc.
- Take care of some of the caregiving duties to reduce their workload.
- Encourage the caregiver to relax and do some self-care activities, like practicing different hobbies, exercising more, etc.
- You can connect them to professional healthcare providers like therapists or nurses for caregiver support.
Caregiver burnout is a common occurrence that can affect anyone, but there are ways to handle it before it drastically harms your health. You should note the risk factors and check for the common signs. Then, take measures to care for your physical and emotional health while actively caring for others. If this is something your loved one is struggling with, be kind to their situation and take steps to help reduce their stress levels. A healthier mental and physical state will give you the strength to continue with your activities while managing a satisfactory lifestyle yourself.