Whether you’re a caregiver that’s paid or unpaid, the act of continuously putting others before yourself can be exhausting.
You may be assisting a loved one that is dear to your heart or maybe you’re taking care of other people’s loved ones, either way, the continual act of caring for someone else takes a toll on your own well-being.
It’s not that you take your ability to care for granted, I’m sure you’re happy that you’re the one caring and not the one being cared for, but we can’t pour into other people’s cups without refilling our own.
So what can you do when your tank of love is running empty, when the pull of caregiving starts to overpower your own ability to care?
Let’s first take a look at some of the common caregiver stressors, because all caregivers are in this together.
Common Caregiver Stressors
There are no clear boundaries
We all know that there is a shortage in caregivers at the moment. Across the board from adult daycares, nursing homes, to in-home caregivers, the lack of employees right now means that your hours are probably getting stretched longer than you originally expected. Leading to a lack of time for yourself and your own loved ones.
For those of you that are a caregiver for your own loved ones this can feel like there is no “escape” from the daily tasks. Not to mention the fact that you have your own job, children, house, relationships, etc. to maintain beyond your caregiving duties.
2. You’re not feeling appreciated
Consider this: A man rides his bike to work every day, and every day when he arrives at the office a fellow employee offers him a water bottle while they chat. After months of this going on, one day the coworker doesn’t give the biker a water bottle and the biker feels confused, almost even neglected by this.
When things happen for months on end, we expect them to happen. This is part of the natural human adaptation process, however, once this adaptation occurs it’s easy for our manners to fall to the wayside.
It’s not that the person isn’t grateful, it’s just that it becomes routine. And it’s this routine that can put more stress on you. You no longer feel appreciated for the extra effort that you’re putting in because it feels like everything you do is supposed to be done.
3. You’re too tired to care for your own needs
Caring for others may come pretty naturally to you, maybe you even get a sense of worth from doing it. However, when it comes to caring for yourself you don’t even know where to start. Especially when so much of your energy is going towards others.
It’s not that the issues you’re dealing with are going to go away completely, however there are ways to help yourself feel better while you’re dealing with them.
Coping With Stressors
Receiving support for yourself can take many forms. Maybe for some of you this means taking an hour every two weeks and going to counseling to have a reliable person to lean on. Not only can they be a shoulder to lean on but they can also help you set boundaries and work towards having a more balanced schedule.
For others it may be an intentional weekly lunch date with coworkers or family members to be able to vent and then discuss ways to make things easier to manage. Even simply discussing the highs and lows can be a great way to feel heard and seen.
It’s not that you need to dwell in the difficulties of your caregiving, but being able to have a consistent person to go to can take off an emotional load. This lightness can help you feel more at ease during the stress of it all.
2. Give yourself compassion
It is normal to feel anger, frustration, exhaustion when you’re taking care of others, even when those people are your loved ones. All of your feelings during this time are valid, and you’re definitely not the only one experiencing them.
Give yourself the space to feel your emotions rather than trying to deny them. When we try to bury our emotions they become ruminating thoughts that lead to regret and guilt, but when we allow ourselves to recognize how we’re feeling we can then work through them and begin to change our perspective.
Reframing our thoughts doesn’t mean that the difficult emotions won’t come but it can help be a tool for us when the feelings continually arise.
3. Ask for help
Most of us have this underlying belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness, which causes us to suffer in silence because we feel that we should be able to do everything on our own.
There’s beauty in being able to ask for help and not feel as though our value comes from being so independent. Build up your community of people that want to support you during these times. Whether it’s someone pitching in to assist with the caregiving or just having a friend bring you dinner once a week, people can’t help if they don’t know what you need.
Give your loved ones the opportunity to support you through this time.