Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, with challenges that can intensify as time goes on. As this intensity brews, you may start to suffer just as much as your loved one in need. The grief of seeing a loved one’s health deteriorate and being responsible for their well-being can cause you to lose control and hit a low point. If stress starts to feel unmanageable, remember it’s OK to get help from friends and family or from online support groups and therapy.
Therapy is a Tool
Caregiving tasks, plus the responsibilities of your own life, like work and family, leave little room to assess your emotional and psychological well-being. Feeling like frustration and fear, guilt and grief, anxiety and depression can start to compound.
Although these feelings are normal, they may lead to caregiver burnout as your own health starts to deteriorate. Remote counseling and treatment can help you handle the distress that comes with this role. Online therapy isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a survival tool that can help you manage and work through your emotions to find solutions that improve your situation.
Your Wellness Matters
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) identifies six signs of caregiver burnout:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Frequently getting sick
- Emotionally impulsive and over-reactive
- Lack of exercise
- Social isolation
- Solely taking on the caregiving role
If you identify with caregiver burnout, then you may be running on crisis mode. This can negatively impact your ability to care for your loved ones. Others may be depending on you, but you also need to be able to rely on yourself. Caregiver burnout could worsen into a panic attack or a nervous breakdown.
Risk of Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation felt by a caregiver resulting from frequent interaction with someone in distress; this advanced stage of caregiver burnout can cause the caregiver to develop secondary traumatic stress. With this type of fatigue, empathy turns to apathy and disinterest in others. Outbursts, anger and even abuse toward a loved one may occur as patience and tolerance diminish. Take the red flags of compassion fatigue seriously; these include alarming or uncharacteristic behavior, self-destruction, thoughts of self-harm or harm toward others.
Advocate for Your Own Self-Care
Take care of yourself, emphasizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It seems so simple, but it’s necessary for building strength and resilience for the long term.
- Make sure to meet your own needs and even develop self-compassion. Criticizing yourself just exacerbates the distress. You’re not going to be the perfect caregiver. Reason with your expectations. Accept that physical, emotional and financial stress will exist but can be managed by developing coping skills.
- Value and establish balance. Caregiving can become all-consuming to the point that you neglect family, friendships, interests and healthy habits.
- Reach out for help if focusing on yourself seems impossible. Regularly schedule breaks, delegate tasks to others, enlist in-home services or out-of-home respite programs and say yes when someone offers assistance. Take advantage of this time to go out with a friend. Pamper yourself. Work out and enjoy a favorite activity.
Create Your Support System
Caregiving is inarguably an exhausting and rigorous job that no person can manage on their own. It would be unusual to not reach out for help. Your support team can include family members, friends, local/online support groups and a therapist who can serve as a trusted, professional outside resource.
With a support system in place, you may actually start to experience positive effects of caregiving. Richard Schulz, PhD and Paula R. Sherwood, PhD, RN, CNRN, identify these effects as discovering a new meaning to life, learning skills and strengthening relationships.
Take the first step and connect with a certified therapist by visiting ThriveTalk.com. Teletherapy through video conferencing is a convenient way to speak with a counseling professional anywhere, anytime. Making time for treatment can seem like a stretch, so online therapy accommodates your busy schedule and demands.