Now that we understand what caregiver stress is, it is important to take a look at how it can affect us and what we can do to treat our current stress levels and alleviate stress in the future.
The following are a few of the signs and symptoms you may experience as a caregiver – followed by what you can do to help yourself. Remember, if you don’t take the time to help yourself, you won’t be able to help others. While it may be difficult to ask for help sometimes, it is vital as you continue to try to find the balance between your personal life and your caregiving role.
Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
Caregiver stress can manifest itself in several different ways, and the signs and symptoms may not be the same for every person. For example, you may be feeling overwhelmed or anxious one moment, but then be filled with anger the next.
When you are feeling overwhelmed or angry, mistakes can happen. You can give your loved one the wrong medication, or you can begin to participate in unhealthy activities yourself like drinking or smoking.
Other signs and symptoms that may be present due to caregiver stress include:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed or bogged down
- Feeling isolated and alone
- Feeling as if you have been deserted by others
- Abnormal sleeping patterns
- Significant weight gain or weight loss
- Feelings of being tired the majority of the time
- Suddenly losing interest in activities you previously loved
- You are easily irritated or angered
- You often feel worried and sad
- You experience continuous headaches and body aches
If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, it is important to talk with your doctor and find ways you can effectively reduce your stress levels. If you are overwhelmed and are in desperate need of health, you should reach out to family and friends in the area to help you.
Can Stress Affect My Health?
Stress symptoms can affect your physical, emotional, and mental health and can even influence your behavior. To help cope with stress, you need to learn how to recognize the common symptoms (as described above), so you can learn how to better manage stress levels on a daily basis.
When you leave stress untreated, you may experience a bevy of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, lower immune functions, elevated cortisol levels, and an increase in cholesterol. It can also hurt your ability to focus and concentrate and can make you feel tired and irritable.
Depression and anxiety may also develop, which will increase the likelihood of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. With the higher risk for chronic diseases due to your elevated stress levels – especially combined with feelings of anxiety or depression – can cause other health problems to manifest as well, including problems with your short-term memory.
Preventing and Relieving Caregiver Stress
Once you learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress, you can then take the steps to prevent and relieve it. You will first want to learn better ways you can help your loved one. Some places even offer classes for caregivers that provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to prepare yourself and learn how to better care for others.
If you find that it is becoming too overwhelming, you should seek help. There are often caregiving resources available in the community that can help by offering you a break from your caregiving duties so you can also take care of yourself.
You can also consider joining a support group for caregivers. You can share stories, trials and tribulations, joys, and concerns with people who understand what you are going through.
Above all, you need to set aside time to take care of yourself and your own needs, or you won’t be much help to anyone. Be sure to stay in touch with your family and friends, continue to participate in activities you love and enjoy, and find time to remain active, exercise, eat healthily, and get enough sleep.
Finally, be sure to keep your regular checkup appointments with your doctor and inform them that you are a caregiver. They will be able to discuss the signs and symptoms you may experience and help you find ways to cope.
Helpful Resources and Services
Family caregiving is recognized by Federal, state, and local agencies because they understand the immense value of this kind of service and occupation. There are also many organizations you can find within your own community that can help you care for your loved one. From transportation services to home care, there is help readily available to alleviate caregiver stress.
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