Working as a caregiver for the elderly, disabled, or ill is a great way to give back to your community while providing comfort and an easier way of life to those in need.
While working as a caregiver is rewarding in itself, it can also quickly become stressful and overwhelming on the caregiver themselves.
Knowing how to properly combat caregiver stress and various health challenges you are likely to face as a caregiver is essential to prevent burnout and feeling discouraged from helping those who have a genuine need for the services you provide.
Caregiving Challenges You are Likely to Encounter
Caregivers provide immense amounts of time and energy to patients they care for each day. Even if you feel as if your career choice is rewarding, you are likely to run into caregiving challenges that make you feel less-than-thrilled to continue moving forward with your position.
Some of the most common challenges you are likely to encounter as a caregiver include:
- Feeling Less Than Appreciated: Working with the elderly, disabled, or individuals who are mentally or physically ill can be difficult when you do not feel appreciated or needed at times. It is not always possible for patients to express manners or their appreciation, leaving caregivers feeling less-than and unworthy of their positions.
- No Progress: If an individual you are caring for is not making any progress, you may begin to feel as if you are simply not good enough at doing your job–which is often far from the truth as those in need of caregivers may never make the progress you want for them.
- Social Isolation: Caregivers work long and arduous hours which can quickly become draining while transferring into the real world after workdays. Social isolation is common among caregivers who work full-time with specific patients. You may feel drained and unable to participate in common social outings or activities that were once a source of joy to you once you become extremely overwhelmed while on the job.
- Defiant Patients: Patients are not always easy to work with, especially those who are elderly or those who struggle with mental ailments. Working alone as a caregiver can feel frustrating and impossible at times, especially with patients who are unable or unwilling to work with you.
Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
Knowing how to identify the signs and symptoms associated with caregiving stress is essential to prevent burnout and feeling as if you no longer belong in the career you have chosen.
Some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms of being stressed out as a caregiver include:
- Feeling Overwhelmed: Even if you are familiar with high-stress work environments, you may begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with your job once you become too stressed.
- Isolation: Feeling alone, alienated, and isolated by friends, family members, and even coworkers is common when working long hours as a full-time caregiver.
- Body Aches: If you notice an increase in the number of headaches you experience and if your body begins to ache after a long and stressful day, you are likely overwhelmed with your position.
- Weight Gain/Loss: If you do not have underlying health issues or a metabolic disorder but you have been rapidly gaining or losing weight, this is likely to due to increased stress in the workplace and in your everyday life.
- Increased Anxiety: Feeling anxious, worried, irritable, and sad more often and without warning is a sign that you are overstressed.
- Extreme Fatigue: Do you feel tired even after getting enough rest for the night? Are you experiencing extreme fatigue that is not like you in combination with stress, anxiety, and depression? You are likely experiencing caregiving stress .
- Loss of Interests in Hobbies and Socialization: Experiencing bouts of depression and social isolation are extremely common when an individual becomes overworked and too stressed. Working as a caregiver demands your time and energy, which can quickly turn into a loss of interest in hobbies and activities that were once a source of joy for you.
Potential Health Challenges You May Face as a Caregiver
Working as a full-time caregiver can leave you feeling extremely stressed, even when you enjoy your job. In addition to feeling extremely stressed and overwhelmed at times.
Due to that face, you are also at risk of additional health challenges such as:
- Anxiety and Depression: Anxiety, irritability, social isolation, and bouts of depression are common among overworked caregivers.
- High Blood Pressure: When you do not take enough time for yourself, your body’s blood pressure may continuously rise.
- Fatigue: Stress can wear the body down, causing extreme fatigue that never seems to go away.
- Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies: When you spend all of your time caring for others, you may find yourself neglecting your own body and its needs when it comes to proper nutrients.
Foods to Combat Stress
Incorporating the right foods to combat stress into your everyday diet is imperative, especially if you work full-time as a caregiver or even overtime most days.
Some foods to eat on a daily basis when working as a caregiver to help combat the stress you experience include:
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds have proven to help regulate blood pressure while putting less strain on the body’s heart. Nuts are also a great source of vitamins and healthy fats, optimal for a snack while you are working or on-the-go. Some of the most healthy nuts include Almonds, Macadamia Nuts, Pecans, Walnuts, and Cashews.
- Salmon: Salmon is a great source of omega-3, which helps to drastically reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Eat at least two servings of salmon each week for the best results.
- Spinach: Spinach is not only packed with plenty of vitamins, it also helps to regulate blood pressure and cortisol in the brain (responsible for stress triggers). Spinach provides plenty of magnesium, optimal for lowering stress and everyday irritability.
- Dark Chocolate: Incorporate a few servings of dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) into your diet to reduce your fight-or-flight mode while helping to regulate the cortisol levels in your brain.
- Herbal Tea: Herbal teas provide great sources of different roots and plants to sooth the body and stress receptors in the brain.
Vitamins to Combat Stress
Taking vitamins regularly is a way to prevent excessive stress signs and symptoms that can lead to the detriment of your health.
Common vitamins to combat stress that can be taken each day before and after work include:
- Vitamin B Complex: Vitamin B Complex is extremely beneficial for those who are feeling irritable and stressed while at work and during everyday activities. Vitamin B Complex works to provide a sense of calm and stability while reducing feelings of anxiety, irritability, and stress.
- Magnesium: Magnesium supports both nerve and proper muscle function, necessary for caregivers who are relatively active and always on-the-go. Additionally, magnesium helps to support getting a good night’s rest while providing your body and brain with the break it needs each night.
- Vitamin B5: Vitamin B5 focuses on reducing anxiety and assists with reducing stress throughout the body by working with the body’s adrenal glands.
While working as a full-time caregiver is never easy, it is extremely rewarding and dignified when done right while caring for yourself simultaneously. With the right stress-reducing foods, activities, and self-care solutions, continue providing caregiver services to loved ones or those in need throughout your community.