How to Manage the Emotional Stress of Being a Caretaker

Caring for a loved one is a rewarding experience, but it can also be emotionally challenging. Between the vast number of tasks you’ll do to help your loved one live comfortably at home, seeing them change can take an emotional toll on you. As a result, it’s not uncommon for caregivers to experience depression, anxiety, and burnout. This stress can impact both your physical and mental health. Learning how to manage the emotional stress of being a caretaker is crucial to ensure not only your well-being but your ability to provide quality care. First, however, it is important that you know how to recognize the signs of family caregiver stress early on so that you can properly treat them.

How to Manage the Emotional Stress of Being a Caretaker

What are the signs of caregiver stress?                        

Caregiver stress and burnout are a direct response to the workload that comes with the role. There are common symptoms of stress, like feeling overwhelmed and irritated, but it can manifest in so many more ways. Recognizing the signs of caregiver stress will help you understand when it is time to take a step back and care for yourself.

  • Frequent feelings of exhaustion
  • Changes in sleep (too much or not enough)
  • Changes in weight
  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Frequent headaches and other bodily pains

High levels of stress increase your cortisol levels, which can have long-term impacts on your overall health. Long-term stress can lead to health problems like anxiety, depression, digestive issues, heart disease, and more. For the sake of your health and your caregiving responsibilities, it is important you make a point to take care of yourself.

Seek support

Caring for a loved one can be a lonely experience. Having a support system of friends and family members—either those who aid with the care or simply offer a listening ear—will help you manage the emotional stress of caregiving. Support can be both emotional and practical, and it’s important to have both.

Support groups are a fantastic resource for caregivers. These groups are made up of individuals who truly understand what you’re going through. They can provide the validation and encouragement you need, and may be able to offer solutions to your problems. Joining a support group for caregivers provides a much-needed sense of community.

Accept help from others

Many caregivers feel that they have to do everything themselves. This, however, is one of the fastest ways to overwhelm oneself. Accepting aid from others can help to manage the emotional stress of caregiving.

If you have certain family and friends who are willing to provide assistance with your caregiving responsibilities, let them. If they can’t physically offer this assistance, but can give you the contact information of a home care agency, accept that additional support. Even a few hours of respite care can make a world of difference to your mental health.

Manage your caregiver stress

Set realistic expectations

Some of the hardest things to overcome as a caregiver are the expectations you set for yourself. However, too many caregivers end up setting astronomical expectations for themselves, which can lead to undue stress.

It’s essential to set realistic expectations for yourself as a caregiver. In doing so, you’ll be able to approach your day knowing you can achieve all you’ve set to do, thus relieving some of the emotional stress that arises with your duties. You must also acknowledge that you can’t do everything yourself, and sometimes it is necessary to ask for help.

Create a daily routine

Some days, you have so much on your plate that knowing where to start is positively overwhelming. Other days may be spent enjoying a favorite television show with your loved one. Regardless of what is on the docket, it’s having a daily routine will help make every day a little easier.

Mark down what tasks need to be completed every day– such as bathing, meal time, and exercise time– and set a schedule for those tasks. Don’t forget responsibilities that perhaps don’t have to be completed daily, but completed on a specific date, like filling a prescription. Then, write down everything you would like to complete, such as cleaning the kitchen or grocery shopping.

Some days you may have time to do these things, while other days you might have to push them to a less busy date. Regardless, having a notated schedule helps you structure your day, and week, with more ease.

Take breaks

Caregiving can be an all-day job, but it’s crucial to take time for self-care. It’s essential to have some time to relax and recharge each week. This could be as simple as taking a walk, reading a book, or spending time with friends.

Keeping a connection with your loved ones can do a great deal for your mental health. Isolation can be a significant source of emotional stress for caregivers, so these connections can help caregivers feel supported.

Take care of your physical and mental health

Caretaking is a physically demanding job. In addition to keeping you on your feet, it can involve lifting and stretching. In order to better maintain these aspects of the job, it’s important you put in the work to prioritize your physical health. Maintaining your diet, sleep, and exercise will help you feel good both physically and mentally.

It’s essential you take conscious care of your mental health. Managing your mental health helps ensure you are better equipped to manage the emotional stress of caregiving. This can be done through activities like journaling, meditation, and enjoying your favorite hobbies.

Caregivers often put the needs of their loved ones before their own. This might feel necessary for the overall work, but it’s important you practice self-compassion and give yourself permission to take care of your needs.

Relieve emotional stress as a caregiver

Seek professional help

Sometimes, if the emotional stress of caregiving grows to be too great, seeking professional help is the best solution. In addition to joining a support group, professional help can come through the help of regularly speaking to a therapist. These professionals can offer the tools and resources you need to manage the emotional stress of caregiving.

Focus on the positives

Caring for a loved one can be emotionally challenging, but it is also a rewarding experience. Focusing on the positive aspects of caregiving can help to manage emotional stress. Some of the positives of the job may include watching the progress your loved one has made or acknowledging the positive impact you are having on their life.

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For the sake of your own mental and physical health, it’s important you know how to manage the emotional stress that comes with the responsibility of caring for someone else. Remember that as a caregiver, you don’t have to go through this journey alone. There is support available.

Home Care Powered by AUAF is here to help you navigate the caregiving journey. We create personalized care plans that suit each of our clients’ unique needs and lifestyles. We offer a range of services, including companionship, meal preparation, medication management, light housekeeping, and more.

If you or a loved one needs assistance with daily tasks, give us a call at 773-274-9262. We understand the importance of quality care and are committed to delivering compassionate, reliable, and professional care services. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can support you on your caregiving journey.

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