Caregiving is one of the toughest challenges you’ll face in life. Every caregiver goes through times when they’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to improve the situation. Kathy Macaraeg from Caregiving Made Easy shares common signs of overwhelm along with practical suggestions that improve health and well-being.
If you are an overwhelmed caregiver, here are some strategies to tame the overwhelm
It isn’t unusual for the caregiver’s needs to get ignored. Everyone is so focused on the caree’s needs being covered that we forget to think about the caregiver.
The problem is, a healthy caregiver can get sick or have emotional or mental health challenges after being a caregiver for a long time. Constantly putting your own health and well-being aside can wreak havoc on your on health.
Sometimes, we’re so busy that we don’t even realize that we’re struggling. Think about it. Have you ever reached 3 p.m. and realized that you never had breakfast or lunch?
In my case, I’ll notice I have a headache when I stop to use the restroom, but then when I get back to work, I forget about the headache until I stop again. It isn’t that the headache went away, it’s that other things were stealing my focus and I kept forgetting to stop and care for myself.
I’m betting you can relate.
Signs you are a struggling caregiver and possible solutions
If you are experiencing any of the following, you may be struggling to keep your head above water.
Don’t feel guilty or like you aren’t “cutting it.” Being a caregiver to a loved one is probably one of the hardest roles you’ll have.
Even if you have had young children, this doesn’t compare. Parents of young children usually have a support network of people willing to help. They also have the knowledge that their stressful situation will only last so long.
The same is not true for caregivers. Most people who aren’t caregivers don’t understand what caregiving encompasses so there aren’t as many offers for help.
In addition to the lack of support, there is the emotional toll of seeing someone you love struggle. And of course, we aren’t even taking in to account that most caregivers have other demands in their life, whether it is children, work, a spouse or other commitments that are important to you.
If you are struggling to keep it all together, you may need to stop and re-assess. Is everything you’re doing “mission critical?” Are there responsibilities you can opt out of or pause until you get your head above water?
Here are some common signs of overwhelm and possible solutions
You don’t have time to eat well or you forget to eat or drink water.
Find ways to make healthy eating fit into your routine. This might mean different things based on your schedule. Some things that have helped me are to pre-cook two or three casserole type meals on Sunday to eat throughout the week.
I also simplify my breakfast so that I can cook something in less than 5 minutes or have on-the-go breakfast foods for the really crazy mornings. I also make sure to have health snacks around in case I don’t have time to stop for a meal.
You can also check out my post on self-care apps for caregivers for reminder apps. There is an app that will remind you to take your medication or one that reminds you to drink water.
You have frequent body aches, headaches or stomach aches.
Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing new health issues as there may be a medical cause. If they’re not due to a medical cause, they may be a result of stress.
You are sleeping less than 6 hours or are sleeping poorly.
Stress can cause insomnia, which is kind of crazy since that’s when we need the most sleep! If you are struggling with sleep, check out my post on sleep hygiene for tips to sleep better.
You may also want to talk to your doctor about trying melatonin. We use it in my house when one of us is having a tough time winding down and can’t seem to fall asleep.
You’re short-tempered, anxious or feel like you’re constantly under stress.
First, know that anxiety, frustration and anger are perfectly normal caregiver emotions. Don’t feel embarrassed that you sometimes (or maybe more than sometimes) experience these feelings.
If you are concerned that you feel these issues more than what you deem “normal,” consider a visit to your doctor to discuss the possibility that you may be depressed.
While being a caregiver doesn’t automatically result in depression, it isn’t uncommon for caregivers to experience depression, given their circumstances.
You’ve stopped socializing with friends or other family members either because you don’t have time or you don’t feel like socializing.
Is the reason you’ve stopped socializing with friends or family due to time constraints or is it due to feeling like you can’t relate to them anymore?
Determining why you aren’t socializing helps you figure out how to move forward.
If the issue is that you don’t have time, I suggest inviting them to come to you or be part of what you are doing.
For example, if you need to run errands, reach out to a friend to see if he/she wants to join you. Or, invite a friend over for dinner. You have to eat anyway.
If you are stressed out that your house doesn’t look right or you need to clean, etc. etc. etc., I highly recommend this book. It helped me get over feeling like my home needs to be perfect before opening it up to others and the feeling that I need to be the one to do everything.
If your reason for not spending time with friends is that you can’t relate to your friends anymore, I suggest finding friends who are in a similar position. This post talks about making friends as you’re older.
At the end of the day, you feel like you haven’t done one single thing for yourself or had one single moment alone. You may also feel like you’re constantly running from one place to another or jumping from one task to the next without a moment to breathe.
This is a tough one. Likely, you don’t have a lot of free time to focus on yourself if you are a caregiver.
If it has been so long that you don’t even remember what it feels like to do things you like, start small.
Pick up a good book and start reading. A few books I have loved include: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” “The Goldfinch: A Novel” (this is a long book so you can enjoy it for a while), “A Man Called Ove: A Novel” and “Orphan Train.”
You can also try learning something new or attempting a free fitness or yoga routine courtesy of YouTube.com. You can find more self-care suggestions here.
You are not alone
If you are experiencing any of the issues above, first know that you are not alone. Many caregivers struggle with the same issues. Of course, that doesn’t make it any better and no one wants to live like that long-term.
Luckily, there are some ways to combat caregiver overwhelm. Do you have any remedies that have helped you deal with overwhelm?
Recommended for you:
- 6 Ways to Make It Easier for Caregivers to Take a Break
- 6 Excuses That Prevent Dementia Caregivers from Taking Breaks
- Local Respite Care Services Give Caregivers a Break
Guest contributor: Being a caregiver is both physically and emotionally challenging. Kathy Macaraeg spent nine years working with both caregivers and their aging parents, giving her a unique perspective on their needs and challenges. After working one-on-one with families for nine years, Kathy decided to share her unique perspective with a larger audience through www.caregivingmadeeasy.com.
Image: Comfort Home Care
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