Caregiving for a loved one is a rewarding but stressful job, and stress has a way of sneaking up on you. Caregivers should stay alert for signs of caregiver stress, which include changes in eating habits, feeling overwhelmed, experiencing frequent negative emotions, not sleeping well, loss of interest in hobbies and social isolation.
In addition to being aware of the signs of caregiver stress but also tips to avoid caregiver burnout. It’s also helpful to reach out for support from people and organizations who have your best interests in mind, including those that offer caregiver respite in Pennsylvania.
Caregiver Stress and Caregiver Burnout Tips
Experts identify the following as the most likely areas where you will notice changes that could indicate too much stress.
Changes in Eating Habits
When you make changes in your eating habits that result in big weight gains or losses, it could be a sign of stress. A common habit is stress eating, which means trying to make yourself feel better at the end of a hard day or week by eating junk food. An effective way for dealing with stress-related food issues is to plan meals ahead of time for both you and your loved one, and only keep healthy snacks in the house.
This is a feeling everyone has from time to time: How will I do everything I am supposed to do today? However, if you are feeling this way frequently, it’s a sign that stress has taken over your life. It’s also a sign that it’s time to reach out to family members and discuss ways to get help with your caregiving duties (hire someone to do the cleaning or shopping, for example).
Frequent Negative Emotions
Depression and anxiety also trouble caregivers. While sometimes “feeling blue” is something everyone experiences, if these feelings trouble you often, it could be a sign of stress. In some cases, taking time to get outside each day, exercising regularly and eating healthy can help. In more severe cases, you will want to see a professional about steps you can take to feel better.
Not Sleeping Well
Sleeping is extremely important for physical and mental health, but not getting enough sleep is a problem for many people. It also is one of the most common signs of caregiver stress. Sleep issues can include not being able to fall asleep, waking frequently or regularly having stressful dreams or nightmares. Many things can influence sleep. Some tips for giving yourself the best chance for sleep include:
- Going to bed and waking at about the same time every night
- Removing all electronics from the bedroom – and no swiping through your smartphone when you get into bed!
- No caffeine after a certain point in the day (that point is best determined by you)
- No meals within a few hours before sleep
- Getting regular exercise
Loss of Interest in Hobbies
Many caregivers get so caught up in providing care for their loved one that they fail to make time for themselves and their interests. This can lead to flagging interest in anything other than their duties and an overall feeling of tiredness. It’s important to make time for the things that you enjoy, as well as to get respite from your duties so you can recharge your batteries.
Spending time with friends and enjoying social interaction has been linked not only to happiness but also good cognitive health. You can take time to meet friends or use respite care services to spend time with others. Whatever steps you take, it’s important to remain social. These are some of the signs of caregiver stress and a few tips for dealing with them. It’s important for caregivers to stay on the lookout for these signs and to take preemptive steps to ensure they don’t become an issue. And for those who want to support the services Hope Grows offers to caregivers, consider making a donation during this holiday season or in the New Year.