Whether you are a mother of children or a partner caring for the spouse with declining health, or perhaps you are a child, taking care of aging parents; you are doing the selfless, amazing work of caregiving! Being a caregiver is a universal activity, one we will come to know sooner or later. At any point in your life, you will have received care from someone, or be called upon to give care to someone. It is a task of great significance and often, you don’t feel the importance of your role until it is complete.
In general terms, a caregiver monitors, advocates and assists, often while balancing all the other responsibilities of life. It is a rewarding undertaking, but like anything in life, it can become difficult and demanding of our personal, emotional resources.
You must be mindful of your own mental health as you give care to those around you, regardless of the circumstances. The constant need to be serving and helping, though good, can take a toll.
How do you recognize that you are getting close to burning out? Here are some signs to watch for. If any of these resonate with you, it is important that you take the necessary steps to take care of yourself. A loved one in need, is in need of a healthy you! You can’t do much if you are struggling yourself.
Sleep issues- Do you have trouble falling asleep? Is your mind racing, going over each detail of the day? Do you fall asleep quickly but awaken several times in the night. Not only does disrupted sleep make it hard to function, it can be a cascading effect that creates a strain in being able to cope with even the smallest dilemma.
Short fuse- Do you find yourself feeling very short on patience? Snapping back in incongruent ways is a sign of emotional overwhelm.
Anxiety and panic fills your day- Do you find that you are anxious about everything? Do you feel panicked often?
Do you find yourself unmotivated? Is it hard to get going or keep up the stamina to perform the acts of caregiving that are necessary?
Do you often feel isolated, detached and lonely? Being hyper-focused on our duties to care can leave us feeling very alone and often relationships will change.
Are you teary and weepy? This is a telltale sign that you are overwhelmed and have way too much on your plate.
So, what can you do if you are feeling any of these?
Reach out to people who care and professionals who can help. Sometimes, all you need is a listening ear. We all need our stories to be witnessed. When we don’t have someone who witnesses all the joys and triumphs as well as difficulties and setbacks, we end up feeling isolated and alone. This is not the same as someone who can ‘fix’ the problems…it’s just having someone to listen unconditionally and without judgement.
Find out what resources are available to you in the community. There are often programs that have volunteers who can help with respite. If medical issues are involved, check with your healthcare and insurance providers to determine what programs could be beneficial for your situation.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or even set up people who can take over for a week or two so you can regroup and recharge.
Consider counseling. Sometimes, this can be a very powerful tool of self care that we often underestimate.
Caregiving is such a rewarding service but you have to be mindful of your own health as well. This goes for mothers and fathers of young healthy children, parents of a special needs child or adults caring for adults. When you know your limits and how to get yourself back on track, it can be a beautiful and life changing memory you will cherish for years.