A caregiver is defined as a person who tends to the needs of a person with short or long-term limitations, due to illness or injury. Many people can be considered caregivers, whether you are taking care of a friend, family member or you are a professional caregiver, such as a nurse or physical therapist. Whether you take care of others as part of your job or you take care of a family member, being a caregiver can be a stressful (but rewarding) role. It’s not an easy position and despite that a lot of people may be more than happy to do so, it can take a serious toll on one’s emotional and/or mental health.
Those in the caregiver profession or role tend to experience higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety and other health issues more than those who are not in the role. In fact, it was reported that out of the 40 million caregivers that provide unpaid support for loved ones approximately 1 in 3 experience poor health themselves.
So, let’s say you are in the caregiver role, whether it be professional or personal, and you are experiencing high levels of stress. Or you may know someone in the role who is experiencing more anxiety than usual and you want to help. What can you do about it?
First, it’s important to identify the signs of what this stress may look like, which could be any of the following:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Constant fatigue
- Becoming easily irritated
- Losing interest in normal activities
- Not getting enough/too little sleep
These are just a few signs that may show up if you are feeling overly stressed. Sometimes stress that goes on for long periods of time, or chronic stress, can actually manifest itself into burnout, so it’s important to catch these symptoms/signs before they get worse.
Once you identify and acknowledge these feelings, the next step is to learn how to manage them. Everyone will have different ways of managing stress, because everyone is different and everyone’s role as a caregiver is unique. That being said, here are some things to remember when you are feeling stressed, anxious or just really overwhelmed.
First, don’t be afraid to accept help from others. Accepting help doesn’t automatically imply that you are incapable of handling something yourself. Instead, it shows that you are aware that you may need additional assistance and there is nothing wrong with that. It also doesn’t have to be something drastic, but could be something such as finding someone to take care of your dog a couple of times a week or having your groceries picked up. It might be a good idea to compile a few items that you could use help with and talk to the other person to see what they are most comfortable assisting with.
Along those same lines, it may also be a good idea to get connected and seek support. If you find yourself feeling not only overwhelmed, but lonely, chances are someone is feeling the same way. This might be the time to look for resources in your community that are catered towards aiding caregivers and preventing burnout, such as trainings and support groups.
Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. For example, if you schedule doctor’s appointments for your family member, schedule one for yourself at the same time. Make sure to practice self-care, implement healthy boundaries, and take a step back when needed. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but can be difficult, so remember to care for yourself, too.
Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper
Mollie Clupper is working for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with her fur-niece.