There are an estimated 40 million Americans who take care of elderly or ill family members. It comes as no surprise that taking on the role of a caregiver can be a financially costly and time-consuming endeavor, but the most trying aspect of caregiving is arguably the emotional cost.
The often relentless emotional stress of caregiving comes in many forms, including feelings of:
This amount of constant stress poses serious health risks to caregivers. Reported conditions as a result of such stress include high blood pressure, depression, insomnia, fatigue, premature aging, arthritis, and other forms of chronic pain.
Managing the Emotional Stress of Caregiving
In other words, it’s crucial that caregivers take an active role in their own health, personal care and support. Ways to manage the emotional stress of caregiving include:
Asking for help. You’re only human, which means you have your limits. You cannot expect yourself to be able to do it all, so enlist the help of friends and family you know you can rely on. Set up a time to talk with them and explain your situation, and how they can help — even if it’s just picking up groceries for you. Asking for help can be very difficult, but it will go a long way.
Finding a community. Seek out other caregivers locally or online. There are countless groups and resources that already exist, and you just need to find them and join. Feeling like you’re not alone will help ease a lot of the emotional toll caregiving takes. Or, join a different kind of group unrelated to caregiving, where you can bond with others over a common interest or hobby.
Making time for yourself. And make this time non-negotiable. This time can be spent in a variety of ways, but it needs to feel right for you. It can include journaling, exercising, meditating, seeing a movie, or spending time with close friends who aren’t taxing to be around.
Staying healthy. It’s also important to keep yourself physically healthy. Without bodily health, the mind will not function optimally and you won’t handle stress as well as you may be able to. Keep yourself active, make sure you’re getting the proper sleep (nap when you can), visit your doctor, and eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet.
Are you a caregiver? How do you keep your emotional stress low?