The month of May each year is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. During this month, we help raise awareness and spread the word about the importance of mental health and how it is an essential part of living a healthy and balanced life. Our mental health impacts our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors daily. Being a caregiver can increase the risk of developing a mental health disorder. Caregiving can be rewarding, but the demands can be overwhelming and exhausting, leading to caregiver stress and burnout. Caregivers must take care of themselves, too. After all, we cannot take care of others if we are not caring for ourselves.
Risk Factors for Caregiver Stress
Over an extended period, caregiver stress can be harmful to one’s health. The physical and emotional demands of being a caregiver require excessive effort. Even the most resilient people are susceptible to caregiver stress.
Some of the risk factors for caregiver stress include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of choice in being a caregiver
- Not enough education to develop necessary caregiver skills
- Diagnosed with depression
- Having difficulty solving problems that arise in life
- Not having financial security
- Living with the loved one you are caring for
Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
Recognizing and addressing the signs of caregiver stress is critical in ensuring they do not become a mental health disorder.
Some of the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout include, but are not limited to:
- Neglecting your own needs
- Physical exhaustion
- Cutting back on hobbies and leisure activities
- Smoking or drinking alcohol more often
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Not being satisfied with your life
Managing Caregiver Stress
Caregiving doesn’t have to take over one’s life. Knowing when to seek help is essential for maintaining good mental health. There are some things that a caregiver can do to address and help prevent caregiver stress and burnout.
Take a mental health assessment
There is a free mental health assessment that can be taken to help determine if anxiety, depression, or stress are impacting your life.
Connect with close friends and family
Opening up to others with whom you feel comfortable can help provide the emotional support you may need.
Focus on what you can control
There are many things out of our control as caregivers, like hours in the day or having another set of hands. Focusing on what we can control, such as our reactions to problems, can help reduce caregiver stress. Believe that you are doing the very best that you can and making the best choices in your ability each day.
Set personal health goals
Try to establish and maintain good sleep patterns, choose healthy foods, and find time to stay physically active most of the week.
Educate yourself more about mental health
Take some time to explore the resources available for learning more about mental health. One excellent resource is the National Institute of Mental Health. You can find a wealth of information related to mental health, anxiety disorders, major depression, and more.
Join a caregiver support group
Caregiver support groups can encourage, validate, and provide advice or information about practical solutions or options. A support group can be a fantastic place to form meaningful relationships. When you are overwhelmed and exhausted by caregiving responsibilities, these support groups can help you feel that you are not the only one in a similar situation.
Talk to a professional
If you begin to feel or notice that your mental health impacts you, it may be time to reach out to a professional for support. Taking on the role of a caregiver includes a lot of different responsibilities, and doing them all alone will take a toll on anyone’s mental health. Doctor On Demand is an excellent tool that offers accessible virtual counseling. You can find a therapist with different specialties and backgrounds to support your whole mental wellbeing.
Taking care of yourself and your mental health as a caregiver is necessary. If caregiver stress and burnout are not addressed, both you and the person you care for end up suffering. Learn as much as you can about the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress to take immediate action to prevent things from becoming worse. By taking action quickly, you can improve the situation for yourself and the person you care for.