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Caregiver strain: taking your feelings seriously

Taking care of yourself is an important part of being a good caregiver. Here's what to keep in mind.


Types of caregiver strain

If you’ve cared for a loved one with a complex medical condition, you know the struggle: fatigue, embarrassment, frustration, fear and worry are all signs of caregiver strain. This often stems from issues like financial hardship, time constraints and lack of privacy.

It’s not selfish to consider your own needs. In fact, taking care of yourself is an important part of being a good caregiver. You become a better partner and caregiver when you think of yourself as someone who is worthy of extra care, too.

Here’s how these common sources of stress might apply to you.

Emotional difficulties

Caregivers help loved ones through stressful events and sometimes even crises. This emotional labor can cause feelings of sadness, anxiety and anger.

Resource depletion

Caring for a loved one can drain resources — including money, time and energy.

Lifestyle balance

Caregivers must strike a delicate balance between their own desires and the needs of their loved one.

Relationship strain

Caregiving doesn’t just affect you and your loved one; it can negatively impact relationships with your spouse, siblings, extended family and friends.

Ways to Cope

Whatever form your caregiver strain takes, here are some ways to protect your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Seek expert advice

You’re not the first person to face this. Draw on others’ experience to plan for many different needs. Good places to start are the National Caregivers Library, the AARP’s caregivers webpage, the Family Caregiver Alliance, and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Delegate your work

The goal of caregiving isn’t to do everything yourself. When possible, invite others to help care for your loved one.

Make time for yourself

Set aside time to lay down the burdens of the day. Do things that replenish your energy — or do nothing at all.

Relieve stress in healthy ways

It’s easy to slip into unhealthy habits to relieve stress. Find a pastime that brings you peace and occupies your mind in healthy ways.

Think of the positives

Caregiving can sometimes cause negative thoughts and feelings. Remind yourself about the positive parts of your life to help you cope.

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