Manage the stress of caring for a loved one

Are you feeling worried and overwhelmed? Tired and stressed? Maybe you’re gaining or losing weight. Or you’ve been having headaches or your body aches. As a caregiver, it’s easy to become so focused on the needs of your loved one that you don’t realize the toll it’s taking on you.

Too much stress, especially over a long period of time, can cause caregivers to burn out. They may experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. They don’t eat well or get enough sleep or exercise—all of which can jeopardize their own health and ability to provide care.

Ways to cope 

Gayle Maloney, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, is a dietitian care manager at BCBSRI. She works with members who have ongoing health conditions like diabetes. She also works with their caregivers—and she offers some tips for managing caregiver stress and preventing burnout:

  • Get a good night’s sleep – Avoid the temptation to cut back on sleep time to get more done. A well-rested caregiver is a more effective one.
  • Take time for yourself – Do something you enjoy to help you relax and refresh.
  • Ask for help – Make a list of specific things you need help with and ask someone to help you. Find out about community resources, such as respite care.
  • Eat well – Nourish your body with wholesome food and a balanced diet.
  • Get some exercise – Relieve stress by going for a hike or another physical activity you enjoy.

Go easy on yourself

It’s normal to feel frustrated or even guilty sometimes, but be sure to remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can in a difficult situation. Whatever you can do to relieve the burden will help:

  • Share the responsibility with friends and family.
  • Always say “yes” when someone offers to help.
  • Speak up about how you’re feeling and what you need.
  • Join a support group to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

Get help when you need it

Asking for help doesn’t always come naturally, especially if you’re in the habit of taking care of others. Call on friends and family to help you with daily activities such as meals, transportation, and chores. The Rhode Island Department of Health’s Guide for Caregivers also provides resources for managing all aspects of caregiving.

Remember, managing the stress in your life is just as important as any of your other responsibilities. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.

Links for caregivers