• Alexandra Maye, BA, RN

Breathe, Stretch, Shake, Let It Go Because Caregiver Strain is REAL

Caregiver Strain is Real. Whether it is caring for someone young , old, or in-between, taking of people when they’re not well AND RELATED TO YOU, can be stressful. Who wants to see someone they know and love at their worse? Who wants to see a mentor/father/mother/grandfather/auntie/grandmother/spouse/*insert relation here* go from happy and accomplishing tasks on their own to more melancholy, slower, and frustrated? Their sickness may be short-term with wellness on the horizon or continuous with no end in sight. Either way the stress on the caregiver is there.

Sometimes it feels selfish to feel stressed and tired, but I have learned that caregivers need self-care and BREAKS too.

When I’m not traveling for business most of my days are spent taking care of one of my favorite family members. I love being of assistance, helping out with day-to-day tasks, and being a listening ear. However, at times, it can be taxing as hell. Doctor’s appointments, morning care, evening care, late nights, rumination on their health all add up on the mind.

Caregiving is a 24/7 job that takes a toll emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I am still trying to find the balance and be present in my me-time moments. However, even when I’m not physically there, the "fix-it" in me is constantly trying to figure out how that day could have been more effective. Although, I’m always preaching about self-care (working on taking my own advice), it’s sometimes challenging to take my own advice. Thoughts of “I can do it”, “People have it worse”, or “At least I’m healthy” runs through my mind and I tend to put self-care on the backburner. I realized the true importance of self-care once I began to have really bad breakout all over my chest. Maybe it was because I went a local china buffet every night for about 4 days straight because I was too tired to cook at home after completing my caregiving duties or because I stopped doing my my daily 3 mile run. I’ve realized since then, the importance of meal-prepping or at least finding a healthy option if eating out is necessary as well as keeping up with my running schedule as though it’s a job or a class. I figured out a few things that have helped take the stress off, but honestly, I would love to hear from others how they deal with caregiver strain.

I’m a generally patient person and it’s no fun when I feel myself getting irritated over small things. Below are five ways that are help me deal with with caregiver strain.

1. Get Away When Possible – whether it’s a park, Starbucks, vacay, or quiet place in the house, it’s imperative to find your place of solstice and solitude without anyone requesting anything of you.

2. Disconnect from the situation – When I would come back from weekend trips or date days with bae, I would realize that I spent so much time worrying about a situation 300+ miles from my location, that I wasn’t present in the moment during my trips. I have since learned to asked myself, “Alexandra, can you really change anything from where you are right now?” “Is worrying going to help this situation?” The answer is usually no and I try my best to disconnect.

3. Talk About It – Having those few trusted buddies to lean and cry on always help. I tend to be a crier, so it is nice to have someone who will listen to you, not judge, and just be there for you.

4. Find a way to fit other family members in the caregiving activities. – Initially I liked to play superwoman and micromanage every task, but I realized that other family members were willing and ABLE to help out and each brought their strengths and new ways of looking at a task into the picture.

5. When In Doubt, Pray. – Somethings just can’t be figured out and need prayer. In these moments I’ve learned to be still and ask God for guidance, strength, perseverance, and peace.

What tools/tips/apps/support groups do you use to prevent and/or lessen caregiver strain? I would love to know. Each One, Teach One. --#BeAmayezing Sunshines and remember, Self-Care is not Selfish. You cannot pour from an empty vessel.

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