You’re a caregiver. You send care packages to your child in college. You watch your grandchildren. You have a loving relationship with your spouse. And you help your parents now that they’re growing older.
Sure, it’s a lot of work, but you’re handling it.
10 Signs Caregiving Is Stressing You Out
Caregiver stress is caregiver stress, no matter whether you’re taking care of children, your spouse or your parents.
Are you showing these signs of caregiver stress?
You refuse to accept that anything is wrong. You deny mom and dad are no longer safe at home. You deny the Sunday school teacher who replaced you isn’t doing a good job. You don’t want to see any problems, because, quite frankly, you can’t handle any more.
You become irrationally upset for no good reason. You take it out on the people you love most, because you don’t know how to handle it. And, worse, sometimes when you know you’ve lashed out and you’re absolutely wrong, you try to find reasons why the other person deserved the treatment they received.
#3 Social withdrawal
You don’t do the things you used to do, because you don’t feel you have the time or energy. You just want some time to yourself with no demands.
Apprehensive about the future, you spend nights awake worrying. What if mom falls? How can I make my department’s meeting and take mom to her doctor’s appointment at the same time?
You don’t have the energy to lift yourself out of this fog that surrounds you. You can’t see your life improving.
You’re constantly tired and would love nothing more than to spend the day in bed doing nothing and thinking nothing. You attribute your lack of energy to growing older, but you know that’s not the real reason.
You lay awake at night thinking of everything you have to do the next day. You worry about all your loved ones. What if you fail them?
Every little thing bothers you. You feel as if you’re living with your skin off, and every interaction, every touch, every word, every reminder hurts.
#9 Lack of concentration
You’re beginning to think you may have early Alzheimer’s. You’ve been reprimanded at work for mistakes you never would have made a year ago. You lose your keys and can’t remember where you parked your car at the grocery store.
#10 Health problems
You’ve put on weight and you feel the people at work don’t look at you the same way. You’re not sure your spouse believes you when you say you’ve got a migraine, which you never used to get before. Is your body breaking down, too?
Consider stress-related health problems. Stress increases the risk of or worsens obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, heart problems, headaches, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, and accelerated aging.
The effects of premature aging are not minor: One study showed it ages people undergoing caregiving stress 9 to 17 years!
Stress also leads to premature death. One study showed a 63% higher rate of death among caregivers than non-caregivers the same age.
What Can You Do About Caregiver Stress?
Now that you recognize the source of your behavior and symptoms, you can address it.
There’s plenty of advice out there about how to alleviate caregiver stress. We’ve even written 10 Tips to Reduce Caregiver Stress and 10 Tactics to Manage Your Health as a Caregiver. It’s all good advice.
However, there’s one final tactic to use when nothing else seems to work: Just say no.
You put yourself in the role of caregiver, so you can take yourself out.
“It’s all well and good for caregiving experts to say, ‘make sure you take care of yourself’ but they skip a step when they give this advice. Because, let me tell you this. It’s impossible to take care of yourself if you don’t have good boundaries,” wrote one caregiver.
And “no” doesn’t mean you won’t ever make your spouse dinner or take your dad to get his prescription or watch your grandchild; it can be as simple as taking a breather to regroup and reorganize your life.
“No” may mean taking a vacation with your spouse and leaving your cell phone off. “No” may mean persuading your parents to consider moving to an Assisted Living community. “No” may mean telling your college-age child they can wash their own laundry when they’re home on spring break.
Yes, you will feel guilty, but you probably already feel guilty anyway. How much help will you be if stress damages your health and relationships?
What Are the Advantages of Saying No to Caregiving?
Happiness Coach Jennifer Kass says, “If we say ‘yes’ to others asking of our time and energy and we’ve not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack—which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn’t serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren’t honoring our own needs and boundaries.”
She adds that setting boundaries can remove the anger or resentment of the person who is constantly giving in the relationship.
How to Set Your Boundaries
Kass developed 3 ways to change the negative habits—in action and thinking—that lead to bad relationships. They are:
Identify your fears
Are you acting out of love or fear or a combination of both? Examine your relationships: Are you running over to your mom’s house to deliver sour cream when you’re exhausted because you fear being considered a bad daughter? Do you fix dinner for your spouse because you’re worried they won’t love you if you don’t?
Change your perception
Stop looking at the world and your relationships through fearful eyes. Instead, look at the other side: Wouldn’t your mom love you just as much if you confessed you’re exhausted and you can’t get her sour cream? Wouldn’t your spouse love you just as much if you ordered in or went out for dinner?
Act from a basis of love, not fear.
That means you have to love yourself enough to place importance on your own well-being. Look for alternatives that don’t leave you stressed-out, exhausted and depressed.
Try a stress-free alternative!
If caring for your aging parent is putting stress on your relationships, why not investigate an option that may turn your relationship with your parent around? Assisted Living lets you spend every precious minute enjoying your relationship with your parent, instead of taking care of your parent.
If your parent lives at The Arbors Assisted Living Residential Communities, no longer will you have to take them to their doctor’s appointment or worry that they’re going to fall and break a hip. Instead, you may become a little concerned because they’re not calling you as often, because they’re too busy having fun (and that actually happens frequently).
You won’t have to worry that they’ll become injured or frightened if the weather is bad, because we’ll be there for them. You won’t have to modify their house to try to make it safe, because our buildings are designed to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And be assured that we will support their independence and respect their privacy.