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- You feel furious one minute, sad and helpless the next. Whatever you call it — second-hand stress or the more serious caregiver burnout — the despairing mix if physical and emotional exhaustion strikes many caregivers at one time or another. As you ride the emotional roller coaster of caregiving, you’re easily
overwhelmed and angry. You can’t eat or you eat too much. You’re exhausted even after a night’s sleep. Your brain is foggy and you no longer care about the things that used to bring you joy.
- The fix: Your life has changed in profound ways, so it’s natural to feel frustrated and to grieve for what you have lost. But untreated anxiety or depression is serious, and you can’t take good care of anyone if you don’t take of yourself. First, check in with your doctor to rule out any medical conditions that can trigger symptoms of mental health problems. Let your doctor know that you are a caregiver and might need support to be able to continue in this role. Finally, remind yourself that while you are doing everything you can, you will never do everything — and that’s OK too.
- You catch every bug that comes your way. Stress doesn’t just make you anxious and depressed. It takes a toll on a toll on your immune system. If you are getting sick more often and staying sick longer than you used to, your body is trying to tell you something. Listen up!
- The fix: Don’t let routine checkups slide because you don’t think you have the time. See your primary care doctor and your dentist regularly. Ditto for immunizations, mammograms and other recommended screenings. Eating a nutritious diet and getting at least seven hours of sleep a night boosts your body’s natural defenses.
You’re snapping at everyone. When you feel helpless and overwhelmed, you’re more likely to overreact to the things people do, or don’t do. Like a toddler having a tantrum, you need a timeout.
The fix: Don’t set the bar so high that you can never meet it. Pick up the phone and make a call to afriend. Studies show that simply giving voice to your frustrations and fears dials down tension and eases the isolation that shadows caregivers.
Mapping out a daily routine that you try to stick to will also give you a greater sense of control. Prioritize your to-do list, whether it’s grocery shopping or taking Mom to a doctor’s appointment. Don’t worry about things lower down on the list that don’t get done.
You know you should exercise, but you just don’t have the time. No one functions well in crisis mode day after day. Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to find a way to dial down the tension.
- The fix: Force yourself to get moving. Exercise is the best stress reliever. Not only will you feel better right away, the surge of endorphins that exercise triggers lifts your mood, clears your head and helps you sleep better at night. A brisk 30-minute walk or jog on the treadmill, even a 10-minute walk around the block, jump-starts your brain, soothes nerves and powers up your immune system.
You can’t remember the last time you met a friend for dinner or a movie. Everyone needs a break from time to time, so why don’t you give yourself one? Caregivers — motivated by a mix of love, loyalty and a dash of guilt — rarely do.
- The fix: We’re not suggesting a two-week Caribbean cruise, though that would be lovely, right? An overnight visit with a college friend, a night at a bed and breakfast, even a few hours to write in your journal, sip a cup of hot tea while you read a book or watch reruns of your favorite sitcom, can be restorative. One caveat: Taking a break doesn’t mean running errands or doing chores. It’s you time.
You’re the go-to caregiver. Always. This may be the hardest jobs you’ll ever have, and it can take time to adjust and come to terms with it. But try going it alone and you’ll quickly hit bottom.
- The fix: Establish a network of relatives, friends or people in the community you can call on. Schedule a family meeting or video chat about who does what and who pays for it. Let everyone know you will not be available to host holiday meals, organize the church book drive or any other draining activities that you’ve normally handled. Keep a to-do list with you and e grief process whip it out when others ask if they can help. Your neighbor might be happy to spend a few hours at your house while you go to the gym. A friend can buy groceries when she’s at the store.Meanwhile, join a local or online support group so you can connect with sympathetic ears and glean ideas for coping better. Be aware that there are a wide range of programs and professionals out there who can help make the job easier for you.
- Go to our CaregiverDave.com membership website, and browse around to see all of the ways that you can get the support that caregivers so desperately need. We have allowed non-members to see just a sampling of what membership access can accomplish through our tremendous support for you, the caregiver. The latest blog posts, radio shows, videos and resources (out of the hundreds of shows and videos, and thousands of blog posts and articles) that will help you stay alive and stay healthy. We offer all of this because 30% of caregivers will actually die BEFORE their loved one, and the rest will likely become sicker than the one they care for, and eventually need a caregiver of their own! We even offer a free 1 hour coaching call to determine a unique prescription plan to get you on a healthy track so you are not just surviving caregiving, but THRIVING! Check it out now. CaregiverDave.com membership might just save your life, or keep you out of the hospital! How much is THAT worth? It’s PRICELESS!
Thank you, and God bless you!
The Caregiver's Caregiver