Caregiver Stress: how does it affect your health?

Tina Butt

This is a huge topic, but I think it is important to write about it so those of us that are caregivers can relate with one another. You are not alone, you may feel alone, but you are not alone!

The caregiver title falls under many umbrellas. Nurses, parents, children, friends, nursing assistants, anyone who provides “care” for another person(s). As a caregiver, you not only have to take care of yourself and your family, but you may be responsible for someone else’s life. How do you do it all? Caregiving should not be stressful, that’s what you are told right?! How can it not be stressful? How can you keep up with your daily life? Why isn’t there more hours in a day? As a Wellness Coach, I want to help ease some of these thoughts for you.

How did you land the role of “caregiver”. I was a caregiver when I worked as a bedside nurse. I cared for hundreds of patients in ICU and ER. I was able to alleviate their pain and temporarily make them more comfortable. I listened to them and held their hand, provided ADL’s for them, fed them, clothed them. I also had to provide guidance to their loved ones to comfort them during stressful times. I have also cared for ailing family members and friends that had been hospitalized or ill.

As I was in the role of caregiver, I also had to take care of my child, be a wife, be a child, an employee and a friend. I had to keep track of my daily schedule and the schedules of each family member. I had to write everything down so I could keep track of it or I would forget. How could I forget something as important as my daughter’s school activity? Because I got overwhelmed, that’s how. I was too proud to ask for help. People depended on me, how could I say no? How could I let them think I couldn’t handle it? If I didn’t help them, who would? I used to teach new nurses to “take care of yourself first so you can take care of others.” But, I was not following my own advice. Think about an airplane ride. Whenever there is an emergency, they teach you to put your oxygen mask on first, then help those around you. Why? Because if you can not breath, how will you help others to breath.

You wont be around to help the ones you love if you do not help yourself. Caregiver stress is a real thing. Anyone that has cared for others will admit it at some point. So, how do you deal with it? If you are like me you will not say no to someone in need. Do not be how I was. Stop, take a breath, think about your current situation. What can you change?

I had to learn when to say no. I learned what was most important. I have learned that I cannot save the world. If I would have kept trying to save the world, my health was going to deteriorate. Who would be there to take care of my little girl? She needs a healthy mom. So, I ask you to look at yourself in a mirror. Do you see me? Then, now you need to make some changes.

Look at the one(s) you are care-giving for; you need to delegate tasks to others. Whether it is another family member or if you hire someone to assist you. You cannot keep doing it alone, then get upset that “noone else cares. I am the only one that does anything”. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to you. Someone who cares for you! When life gets overwhelming:

  • Stop, look around, who can you call?
  • Learn to meditate. This is difficult in the beginning. I am just learning how to do it. A wise woman told me that if it is difficult, that means you need it. SO keep at it. (thanks mom)
  • Yoga- this is a calming practice. It can settle your mind to allow you to rethink and figure things out.
  • Make sure you are eating, drinking and getting rest. Remember if you are not taking care of yourself, your energy level will be too low to care for others.
  • Make time for a friend. Someone that cares. Someone that will listen. Someone that will care for you. Someone that comes to you.
  • Get local assistance.

Having learned this, I am able to enjoy my days, my family and my professional life. I am actually able to give more to the people around me. Being a caregiver is an honor! It should not be a “job”. Make it a healthy role, not one that leads to your illness. I am working on my path to wellness every day, are you?

Please share some thoughts that you have on caregiver stress. Do you have any other ideas that may be useful to others who are currently in this role and feel like they are overwhelmed and failing?

Tina Butt, Health and Wellness Coach and Healthcare Advocate

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