How to cope with the stress of caregiving
These tips help you reduce stress and stay healthy when you're caring for a loved one.
Caring for a spouse, partner, parent or child with a serious illness can be rewarding, but it can also be a source of stress and may put your health at risk. It's important to pay attention to your own well-being despite the many demands being placed on you as a caregiver. When you feel good, it's easier for you to help others and it keeps you healthier.
Stress is common among caregivers and too much stress can harm your physical and emotional health. Signs of caregiver stress include:
- Feeling sad, worried or overwhelmed
- Becoming easily angry or irritated
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing weight
- Not having interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
Here are some tips for coping with the stress of caring for a loved one:
- Prioritize. You can't do everything so determine what's most important and let go of what's not.
- Accept help. When someone offers to do something to help, let them. Look into resources for help even before you need them.
- Stay connected. Stay in touch with family and friends and make time to see other people. Support groups can connect you with others who may be dealing with similar challenges and can lead to meaningful friendships.
- Don't neglect your own health. Take time to eat healthy, exercise and sleep. This can be difficult to do when you have so many other things competing for your time and attention but it's too important to ignore. Don't skip doctor appointments or recommended screenings.
- Find time for you. Taking even a small amount of time each day to focus just on you can help reduce stress. Take a walk, read a book or meditate.
- Cut yourself some slack. No one is a perfect caregiver so remind yourself that you're doing the best you can.