The role of caregiver can be both emotionally and physically taxing. According to the NIH, caregivers undergo chronic stress, which can be devastating to both their physical and mental health. To prevent burnout, illness, and mental health challenges while providing the best possible care for your loved one, self-care is crucial. Self-care can include a wide range of activities, from getting regular exercise to taking time for relaxation and socialization. In this article, we’ll explore what causes caregiver stress, the effects it can have on caregivers, and offer ideas for prevention through self-care for caregivers. Let’s dive in.
Causes of Caregiver Stress
Most family caregivers are unaware of the physical and emotional toll caregiving can have on their bodies. It is important to understand the causes of caregiver stress in order to minimize its effects. Caregiver stress can be caused by a variety of physical, emotional, and situational factors.
Physical Stressors. One common cause of caregiver stress is the physical demands of caregiving. Lifting, transferring, and bathing a loved one can be physically taxing, especially if the caregiver is not used to performing these tasks or if the caregiver has physical limitations.
Emotional Stressors. Additionally, caregiving can be incredibly emotionally draining. As a caregiver, you may feel responsible for your loved one’s wellbeing, which can turn into a 24/7 source of stress. You may also start experiencing forms of anticipatory grief. The constant worry, anxiety, and stress can take a toll on even the most intentional caregiver.
Financial Stressors. Another common cause of caregiver stress is financial strain. The cost of medical supplies, appointments, respite care, medications, gasoline to get to appointments, time missed at work, and home modifications can add up quickly, leaving many caregivers struggling to make ends meet.
Situational/Personal Stressors. Finally, caregivers often have difficulty finding time for self-care, as they are so focused on meeting the needs of their loved ones. This can lead to worsening health for the caregiver, feelings of isolation and resentment, and poorer attention to detail when providing care, which can further contribute to caregiver stress and create a reinforced cycle of stress.
While caregiver stress is a reality for many individuals, there are steps that can be taken to minimize its effects. When caregivers practice self-care, they are better able to cope with the stresses of caregiving and provide the best possible care for their loved ones.
7 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
As we touched on, there are many causes of caregiver stress. This stress can worsen your health and the quality of care for your loved one – two things you don’t want to experience. That is why, as a caregiver, it is important to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Here are 10 self-care tips for caregivers:
Get enough sleep. Be sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night when possible. While we recognize this isn’t always possible, most people don’t realize how crucial sleep is and easily let it fall by the wayside in favor of other self-care “quick fixes.” Prioritizing sleep is one of the best ways to improve your health and longevity, so make an effort to put sleep higher on the list. (Source)
Eat healthy meals. Eating nutritious food will help you maintain your energy levels and improve your ability to cope with stress. A proper nutritious diet also helps treat, prevent, and potentially reverse some ailments. (Source)
Exercise. Taking some time out for physical activity can help reduce stress levels and improve your overall sense of well-being. Even just a 15 minute walk in the middle of the day can rejuvenate your mood and have lasting health benefits.
Take breaks. When possible, take breaks throughout the day to allow yourself room to breathe. This could involve taking a walk, reading a book, or taking a hot bath.
Seek social support. Talking to friends or family members about your experiences can help you feel more supported and less alone in your journey as a caregiver. The simple act of sharing can reduce stress levels and help you feel some relief.
Join a support group. There are many groups available to support caregivers both in-person and online. These can provide an invaluable source of social support and information sharing.
Find time for hobbies and interests. Dedicating some time each week to activities that you enjoy can help reduce stress and promote a sense of balance in your life. Make sure to schedule in some time for yourself to do things that make you happy, such as reading, listening to music, getting a nice lunch, or watching a movie.
While self-care may sound like too simple of a solution to prevent new or worsening ailments, caregiver burnout, anxiety, and more, it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
The stresses of caregiving are often small, yet constant. They continual to pile on themselves and wear on you as a caregiver over time. To combat the small daily struggles, you need a small daily outlet to release the stress of the day. One big gesture won’t undo little stresses that have built up over months (or years). Start taking time for self-care today and everyday.
Additional Reading: How to Get Paid to Be a Caregiver
If you are a caregiver, we recommend you check out our article about getting paid to be a family caregiver. Becoming a caregiver is expensive–out-of-pocket costs average in the thousands each year for a family caregiver. The state of California offers several paths to receiving at least subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver.
For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to call us at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.