The rewards of helping someone every day are endless—so much so that you might forget about your own health and well-being. Explore how to handle the stress of being a long-term caregiver for advice on caring for yourself.
Recognize the Signs of Stress
Caregivers can sometimes become so consumed with their work that they’re unaware of how much it takes a toll on them. Signs of stress include feels of depression, irregular sleeping habits, quickness to anger, and abuse of drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, getting back on track can be as simple as doing a momentary self-check-in so that you don’t end up ignoring your feelings. Stress and anxiety will only get worse if you leave them unaddressed.
Maintain Personal Health
Your health is as important as anyone else’s, so you must take care of yourself as well. If you’re spending most of your day inside, find reasons to go outside and exercise. Exercise creates endorphins in the body. Try to maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep, too. Finding the time for healthy living can be hard, but you’ll be more rested and fit to take care of your patient if you can work it in.
Find Respite Care
Finding time for yourself is essential. Caregivers—especially unpaid ones—often let caregiving become their lifestyle. That means 24-7 care for 365 days out of the year. Over time, that schedule becomes impossible to maintain, as you’ll naturally start to wear down from the daily grind, leading to caregiver burnout. As hard as it may be, you have to find a life outside of caring, which is why respite care is so helpful. Respite will give you a temporary rest from care for a few hours or weeks, depending on your needs. That way, you can enjoy your time without having to worry.
Have a Support System
Remembering you aren’t alone will also help. Across the world, people are going through the same struggles as you, so you shouldn’t bottle up your feelings. Instead, find a caregiver support group where you can vent about your day or ask for help when you need it. If there isn’t a physical support group in your city, consider starting one or looking online for the countless message boards and social media groups where caregivers gather.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to handle the stress of being a long-term caregiver, you can help yourself to better help your patient.