You need to take care of you.
If you’re feeling stressed out in your caregiving role, you’re not alone, but it doesn’t mean you should suffer caregiver burnout to the point of depression. It happens more often than you may think: According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. One quarter to one half of those studied meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression and are at risk for emotional, mental and physical health problems.
By nature, caregivers are giving people who often don’t take time to address their own needs. But how well you take care of yourself can have a huge impact not only on your overall well-being, but on the person you most care about. Here, seven ways to de-stress and take care of you.
1. Shift your focus.
By allowing time to focus on you, you’re more apt to recognize early signs of chronic stress and caregiver burnout, explains psychologist Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli, who has worked with families and caregivers in hospitals and community mental health settings. “Many people don’t realize how gradually stress and burnout can creep up, or recognize the need for self-care until it’s too late,” Civitelli says. “Half the battle is being proactive and preventing burnout, which is better than needing to recover from it later.”
2. Set aside “you” time.
Civitelli suggests, “Even when you don’t feel you ‘need’ it because you’re a caregiver, you need it! Take some time doing something you love.” Having something visibly written on your calendar, like a book club meeting, will be a reminder that you’ve committed that time. Stick to it.