A conclusive study indicates that the number of senior citizens in the U.S. needing specialized care will double in the next decade. However, the caregivers required for the task are not proportional to the increase, and the available professionals will be stretched thin. This means that family members will have to bear the burden of caring for their aging parents or other senior loved ones. Caregiving undoubtedly takes a toll on individuals and may lead to burnout or mental health struggles. This article explores ways to improve mental health and wellness for caregivers.
Caregivers Versus Self Compassion
While taking care of someone else has its rewards, such as the sense of fulfillment, it can also take a negative toll on the mental well-being of the caregiver. A study of caregivers found that 21% of respondents who cared for their aging parents experienced feelings of depression. This shows the strain caregiving has on individuals as they face psychological issues that they hide under a brave façade.
Signs You Are Experiencing Burnout or Are in Mental Distress
- Isolation, loneliness, and helplessness– Isolation can signify depression or mental health struggles. Putting other people’s needs first and forgetting to take care of yourself is a sign of burnout. As much as a caregiver is required to give specialized care to the person they are looking after, they should also not neglect their social well-being.
- Rudeness and irritability– Sometimes, caregiving may feel like too much effort and can be time-consuming, making the caregiver irritable. This can result in them becoming rude to the person they are caring for or others around them.
- Resentment– This is a common feature for people who have to provide care to others, especially family members. Resentment is usually directed to the care recipient and can be a sign of a caregiver in mental distress.
- Loss of interest– When a caregiver faces burnout which entails emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, they lose interest in things they once enjoyed, such as spending time with friends or family or a hobby.
Other Signs of Depression/Mental Health Struggles
- Skipping meals
- Mood swings
- A sense of grief or loss
- Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
- Stomach problems
Ways for Caregivers to Improve their Wellness and Mental health
Here are some self-care techniques that you can employ as a caregiver to live a more fulfilling life and to discharge your services better.
- Practice meditation or mindfulness: We have found this great link to videos that walk you through relaxation exercises. If you are feeling overwhelmed, we strongly recommend that you take 10 minutes for yourself and complete some of these techniques. You will be amazed at the difference it makes by completing some breathing exercises or meditation techniques. (Try Box Breathing – do the following for 4 seconds each – exhale, hold, inhale, hold. Repeat those steps a few times. You will be amazed by the difference it makes!)
- Ask others for help: You are not in this alone. If you have siblings or other family members, don’t be afraid to ask them to take over for a day, or better yet, create a schedule to delegate responsibilities. Asking for help can be hard for some people, but you will thank yourself later if you do.
- Set boundaries. If you do not feel mentally strong enough to deal with other people’s problems or complaints, simply tell them you cannot take on any extra stress. Don’t fear letting them down. If they respect you, they will understand.
- Bake: Put on your apron and bake some cookies or make your favorite meal. This is a great exercise to do with your children or grandchildren.
- Creative expression: Crafts, scrapbooking, sewing, knitting, or other creative expression are great ways to relieve the stress and get your mind off what is going on in your life.
- Declutter or clean: Declutter your home! We know it sounds like cleaning, but ridding your house of unnecessary items will not only free space up in your home, but it may even give you a sense of calm being surrounded by fewer items.
- Dress up: We all did it as little kids, but why not put on a great outfit and hit the town for some fun with family and friends! Dressing up is an easy act of self-care that can do wonders for your spirit.
- Take it outside: Gardening is another great way to calm your mind while seeing the growth and change of something you created. And if you plant fruits or veggies, you can reap the fruits of your labor when they are grown!
- Soothing Bath: There is nothing better than a hot, relaxing bath at the end of a busy caregiving day! Pamper yourself. You deserve it.
We’ve created a printable fridge reminder with a simplified list of ways you can improve your mental health and wellness.
You Are Not Alone. Help Is Here.
Are you a caregiver in distress or need help? Join our caregiver support group! This group enables you to share your experiences and the challenges you face with other people in the same situation. Like they say when raising a child, the same applies to caring for senior loved ones – it takes a village! If you need mental or emotional support, please do not hesitate to sign up for our support group. Self-care is critical for caregivers, and we are here to help.