Caring for a loved one can be physically and emotionally demanding. In fact, caregiver burnout is a real condition that may cause anxiety, exhaustion, changes in mood, withdrawal and depression. So while you may be happy to care for your loved one, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself too.

On average, loved ones spend about 24 hours providing care each week, in addition to their obligations to work, daily responsibilities and other family members. Here are a few suggestions that may help you manage additional stress you might be experiencing.

Caregiver speaking with a friend over coffee

Connect with someone you trust. Share your thoughts and frustrations with a friend, relative or coworker. Talking with someone you trust can help you sort through your feelings, put things into perspective, release tension and make your emotions less intense. You could also consider talking to a professional, like a therapist, who is outside the situation and won’t have opinions about your family members or how you should be living your life. Whomever you choose to share with, the main benefit is talking rather than bottling up emotions and stress.

Make time for yourself. Set aside time each day to participate in a hobby. Start with something small, such as taking a 20-minute walk outside to breathe fresh air and clear your mind. Then work up to giving yourself more time like taking a few hours to go see a movie, have lunch with a friend or take a fitness class. Caring for yourself is one of the most important, and most neglected, ways you can improve the care you provide.  

Ask for help. Make a list of relatives or friends who you trust to care for your loved one when you need to take a break. Adult day care centers also provide quality care and social interaction for your loved one if you don’t have friends or family available when you need a break. By having someone you trust provide the care, you’ll feel more comfortable taking breaks to rest, refresh and recharge. 

Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can negatively affect your health, but adequate sleep can slash stress, magnify memory, decrease depression, curb cravings, improve health and diminish anxiety. Take naps during the day or ask a relative to stay overnight and look after your loved one so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Join a support group. Support groups help you and your loved ones share, interact and learn from one another in a supportive setting. Look for a support group related to your loved one’s illness. Your local Agency on Aging may have a list of these groups. You may even consider joining an online community.  

Turn on some music. Listening to music can relieve stress, but it can also spark memories for your loved one, leading to fun moments shared together. Read more about ways to listen to music from your phone or tablet, and suggestions for playlists.  

When you’re caring for a loved one, you are an important member of their care team. If you are in need of healthcare advice, please call 1-866-KINDRED, where a Registered Nurse can answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

By Blair Klayko