Depression affects 20–40% of professional caregivers. Caretakers face an enormous amount of day-to-day stress that takes a toll on their mental health, and many are so dedicated to their patients that they forget about their own health. Read our guide to self care for caregivers and learn how to take care of yourself.
How well you take care of yourself affects everyone. You need to approach your caregiving responsibilities with the right state of mind. A stressed and negative mindset leads to poor service for your care recipient. They deserve the best version of you, which is one of the reasons why self care for caregivers is so important.
The Physical and Emotional Toll of Caregiving
Caregivers face a unique blend of physical and emotional challenges. Issues that caregivers battle include:
Depression and Anxiety
Caregivers face depression and anxiety at twice the rate of the general population. These are serious issues that lead to reduced quality of life, physical illness, and suicidal thoughts.
There are proven connections between stress and physical health. Stressed caregivers commonly develop weakened immune systems, which leads to more frequent development of colds and the flu. A weak immune system also makes vaccines less effective, so illnesses are even easier to develop. In general, high stress levels can make any health issue worse.
Female caregivers are more likely to develop stress-induced obesity. Reducing stress is a critical step to preventing obesity and protecting your health.
Our Self Care Tips for Caregivers
Based on the information above, what caregivers need most is reduced stress. Factors that impact caregiver stress include:
Whether or not your caregiving is voluntary
The quality of your relationship with the care recipient
Your caregiving circumstance
How well you’re able to cope
The support systems you have
Whatever your situation, you can mitigate your stress by following our guide to self care for caregivers. This guide can improve your wellbeing and give you the presence of mind to take on the challenges of caregiving.
Reframe Your Situation
How we choose to perceive events highly impacts how well we cope with them. Stress isn’t the product of situations—it’s the product of how we cope with them. Remember that whatever your experiences are, you’re not alone. Try to think about what you have that’s worth being thankful for.
This advice is much easier said than done. If you struggle maintaining a positive attitude, focus on the things you do have in your life. Caregiving and home care isn’t easy, but there are always things worth being grateful for.
Caregivers deal with a lot of responsibility. Between running errands and helping patients, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Find the time to set small, measurable goals. Anything can be a good goal, but make sure it’s realistic and achievable.
Break down big-picture goals into smaller steps. Instead of setting a vague goal like “be healthier”, make specific goals towards that overarching objective. In this example, more specific goals could be:
Walk 7,500 steps a day
Buy healthier foods on your next grocery trip
Don’t eat out for the rest of the week
Get an hour of sunlight everyday
Small goals will help you build momentum towards bigger, long-term goals. Getting halfway to a big goal can feel like you’ve accomplished nothing if you aren’t celebrating small steps. Setting goals is the simplest advice for caregivers we can offer.
Communicate With Friends and Family Members
Isolation isn’t good for your mental or physical health. Make sure to spend time with friends, family members, and others you care about. Open up to them about what you’re going through and have them listen, even if they can’t tell you a solution. A huge portion of your life is dedicated to caring for others, so don’t feel guilty asking your support groups for help.
Exercise and Sleep
A healthy body is a healthy mind. Physical activity is one of the best ways to boost your mental health. Regular exercise creates better sleep, reduces physical pain, and boosts energy. People assume that exercise has to be an intensive process, but any movement is better than none. Exercise can be as simple as:
Every bit helps. Caregiving can be exhausting, but simple exercises are still worth incorporating into your daily life. Exercise gets easier every time you do it too, because you’re getting better and boosting your overall energy. This is one of the most important steps in self care for caregivers. Take control of your health and start exercising today.
Seek Professional Help
When all else fails, consider professional counseling or therapy services. People are commonly trapped by negative thought cycles that are extremely difficult to get out of alone.
Even if you think you can handle it on your own, it’s worth seeing a mental health professional. A professional will help you every step of the way and make sure you get the care you need.