Being a caregiver is a huge responsibility, giving up your time voluntarily to take care of a loved one can be a strain on your health and your relationships with others. Although there are over 40 million people in the U.S providing unpaid care to someone else, it can sometimes feel like a lonely job, with no-one to talk to or help you. It is just as important that you are getting the help you need as well as the person you care for, so here are some tips on looking after yourself as a caregiver.
Compassion Fatigue and Burnout
As the person looking after someone who’s ill, it can be easy to overlook your own health because you are concentrating so much on theirs. It means that problems such as compassion fatigue and burnout can come on without you noticing until its too late. Both of these conditions can have similar symptoms, though there are key differences. With compassion fatigue, you can become traumatized by your loved ones suffering. Although you still have the desire to help, the feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, dread, and isolation can become too much to cope with. Burnout symptoms are subtly different in that you lose your empathy towards your loved one and start to feel negativity towards them and the situation. Both of these problems are common in caregivers, so it is vital that you discover the ways you can minimize the stress of being a caregiver and recharge your batteries.
Be Aware of Your Levels of Stress and Fatigue
Your levels of stress and fatigue can change from day to day. There are many other factors that can influence how you feel such as a poor night’s sleep or perhaps problems at home. However, it is important that you are aware of your stress levels and how tired you are feeling. One way to monitor this is to have a notebook where you can write down how you feel on a scale of 1-10. Each day, just write down your levels of fatigue and stress and perhaps anything that has made it worse or better that day. It is a great way of seeing how you feel over time and kick-starting you into action. If you notice that you have been at the lower end of the scale for a while, then perhaps this is an opportunity to do something about it.
Start Making Self-Care a Priority
When you are taking care of someone else, you can often forget about your own needs. Perhaps you feel guilty for wanting to take a break or go and take some time out for yourself. The truth is that everyone needs to be happy and healthy, and you won’t be an effective caregiver if you are not taking care of yourself. It means that you need to find some time to spend doing the things you love and spending time with people you love. Feeling guilty is a normal part of being a caregiver, but you and your loved one will feel a lot better if you are both given the rest and relaxation you need.
Taking Care of Yourself
There are many ways that you can look after yourself, but the key is to do something you like to do. For example, if you have a hobby, the chances are you haven’t had much time to do it lately. Spend an hour or so on your own just doing what you love. Another important part of self-care is your physical health. You need to be getting exercise regularly, especially as it not only keeps you fit but also helps with low mood. Try to eat healthy as well; it will make you feel better and also limits the amount of junk food you might be craving. Sleeping is something that can be affected by compassion fatigue and burnout, so it is vital that you try to get the sleep you can. If you are having difficulty sleeping at night, then try to take a nap during the day. It might seem extravagant, but it will help you to get some rest and make you feel better.
One of the problems that caregivers face is finding someone to look after your loved one while you take time out. You might also have the feeling of not wanting to burden someone else with your role. However, there are many people and organizations that can help you and support you. Companies such as CareBuilders at Home can send over a qualified person to look after your loved one for you. Sometimes, getting an outside person to come in and help can feel better than asking a friend or family member because that is the job they do.
Join a Carers Support Group
With so many people now taking on the caregiver’s role, there are many sites and forums out there on the internet that offers support and the opportunity to chat with people in the same situation. Just the feeling that you are not alone can be the biggest help, plus, you can discuss problems together. There will undoubtedly be others that have been in the same situation or had the same problem, and they can help guide you to the right answer.
Writing a Journal
Sometimes, you can have a lot of thoughts and ideas in your head; they can all get confused and start cluttering up your mind. Starting a journal can be a great way to get these feelings and thoughts out of your head so you can feel less overwhelmed. You don’t have to share your journal with anyone else; it can be your own personal account of how you feel and what you’re thinking. Many people find that writing a journal such as this can help them to unwind and relax, especially if you write it in the evenings.
Although the role of caregiver can be demanding and at times overwhelming, there are many good reasons why you have chosen to look after your loved one.