Today’s caregivers face numerous challenges that often leave them feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. Overlapping demands from work, home, and their aging loved one can be a common source of stress and frustration.
Left unaddressed, these feelings can quickly lead to caregiver burnout. Learning to spot the early signs of stress, as well as healthy ways to respond, is important for every caregiver. Read on to learn more about caregiver burnout, and discover six simple self-care tips to help prevent it.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
The harmful effects of chronic stress include increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Caregiver burnout results from prolonged exposure to the stressors associated with being a caregiver.
Symptoms of burnout may include:
- Weight gain
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Social isolation
Six Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
If you are a caregiver, it may seem counterintuitive to focus on your own needs first. However, assessing your pain points and learning how to address them will enable you to provide the best care for your loved one.
Everyone is unique, so not every tip or strategy will be successful. Being patient and persistent in finding what works best for you is important. Focus on strategies that help you feel refreshed and recharged.
Here are six tips to help you get started:
1. Practice breathing
Why should you practice something your body does automatically? Simple — most of us are not breathing as well as we could. Learning to breathe deeply with correct posture and focus can help trigger your body’s relaxation response.
Deep breathing has also been shown to reduce anxiety, improve cognitive function, and encourage positive thoughts. There are numerous apps, including Headspace, that offer deep breathing exercises.
2. Nourish your body
Swinging through the drive-thru for a quick meal on the go seems like a simple solution, but making it a habit can harm your health. Processed foods high in refined sugars and fats can increase inflammation in the body – something to avoid when coping with stress.
It’s vital for caregivers to fuel properly throughout the day with nutrient-dense food -- like fresh fruit, veggies, and whole grains. Meal planning and prepping don’t have to be complicated – this article offers simple ideas to help you get started.
3. Get plenty of rest
Most adults require between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night – and this is especially true for caregivers. Sleep is critical to repairing muscle, synthesizing hormones, and consolidating memories.
Chronic sleep deprivation can increase your risk for multiple health issues, including high blood pressure, depression, and weight gain. If you are struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, the Sleep Foundation has some tips that can help.
4. Incorporate exercise in your routine
Along with eating right and getting enough sleep, daily exercise plays an important role in maintaining good health. Regular exercise can lower stress and decrease your risk for chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Because it boosts endorphin production, exercise can also improve your mood (think runner’s high). Be sure to consult your doctor before you get started on a new exercise program.
5. Connect with friends and family
Serving as your loved one’s caregiver can be a lonely endeavor. Feeling as though no one understands your situation or the challenges you face can cause you to become isolated and socially withdrawn.
In addition to staying connected with your immediate circle of friends and loved ones, look for caregiver support groups in your area. Spending time with others who not only understand what you are going through but can also provide helpful advice can be a big stress reliever.
6. Delegate tasks to others
Be realistic with the amount of time and energy you have available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Divide responsibilities like paying bills, making doctor’s appointments, and running errands with other family members, if possible.
Clearly communicate what is needed and any deadlines associated with each task. Employ time management strategies to maximize your time.
There are numerous ways to help manage the stress associated with caring for an older loved one. Experiment until you find a combination that works best for you and your situation. Remember — addressing your own needs will position you to provide the best care possible both now and in the future.
Additional Resources for Caregivers
For additional caregiver tips and resources, visit The Bristal’s blog.