How can I tell if caregiving is putting too much stress on me?

If you have any of the following symptoms, caregiving may be putting too much strain on you:

  • Sleeping problems—sleeping too much or too little

  • Change in eating habits—resulting in weight gain or loss

  • Feeling tired or without energy most of the time

  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy such as going out with friends, walking, or reading

  • Easily irritated, angered, or saddened

  • Frequent headaches, stomach aches, or other physical problems

What can I do to prevent or relieve stress?

Take care of yourself. In the process, you'll become a better caregiver. Take the following steps to make your health a priority:

  • Find out about community caregiving resources.

  • Ask for and accept help.

  • Stay in touch with friends and family. Social activities can help you feel connected and may reduce stress.

  • Find time for exercise most days of the week.

  • Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine.

  • Look to faith-based groups for support and help.

  • Join a support group for caregivers in your situation (like caring for a person with dementia). Many support groups can be found in the community or on the Internet.

  • See your doctor for a checkup. Talk to her about symptoms of depression or sickness you may be having.

  • Try to get enough sleep and rest.

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in saturated fat.

  • Ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin.

  • Take one day at a time.

Caregivers who work outside the home should consider taking some time off. If you are feeling overwhelmed, taking a break from your job may help you get back on track. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives. Ask your human resources office about options for unpaid leave.

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