An estimated 44 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year. Most families are not prepared to cope with learning their loved one has a mental illness. It can be physically and emotionally trying and can make us feel vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others.
Each May our nation brings awareness to mental health, and this month we will do the same and dedicate our awareness to the caregivers out there who are taking care of loved ones. A caregiver’s job is hard and it requires a strong mind! Caregivers are angels on earth!
Caregivers, or those that provide care for others, may be at an increased risk of developing emotional, mental, and physical health problems. In this blog, we shed light on the importance of caregiver mental health and provide useful tips on how to protect it.
Let’s jump right in. Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health disease.
It’s important to know that caregivers have higher levels of depression than people who don’t have caretaking responsibilities. We are shedding light on these issues so that we can educate and help our caregiving community!
These are some common signs of caregiver depression and mental health issues:
- Avoiding other activities because you feel guilty about taking time off from caretaking
- Sleep problems such as insomnia and poor sleep quality
- Extreme tiredness
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Irritability and tension
- Inability to concentrate/ memory problems
- Anxiety about the loved one’s future treatments
- Feeling overwhelmed, worthless, or inadequate
- Negative thoughts about the persons you care for
- Gaining or losing weight
- Abuse of alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications
- Frequent headaches, indigestion, or muscle pain
- Inability to enjoy favorite activities
- Suicidal thoughts
Caregivers who are depressed are more likely to develop anxiety disorders, resort to substance abuse, and experience chronic disease. This is why we are bringing awareness to this topic. We love our caregivers and we need all caregivers to be informed and aware enough to recognize these signs!
Caregivers- be mindful of these situations. These are situations that might trigger mental illness or depressive thoughts:
- Living in the same household as the care recipient
- Spending a high number of hours caregiving
- Experiencing financial difficulties
- Social isolation
- Lacking appropriate coping skills
- Lacking caregiver support
Caregiving can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be exhausting. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your mental health, and this goes for everyone!
That is what you are doing right now if you are reading this! It is important to remain realistic about your patient’s illness. Educate yourself about their condition and ask questions to prepare yourself for the reality of their prognosis. You may also want to learn new skills to help you feel more confident in your caregiver role.
Talk to your doctor if you are having emotional, mental, or physical difficulties. Even if you don’t feel sick, it’s important to get regular checkups, including health tests, screenings, and vaccinations, and to obtain relevant health advice. This will help you prevent disease and catch any potential medical conditions early on.
Join a support group
You know the saying “you are who your friends are.” Well, it’s kind of true! Joining a support group allows you to receive validation and encouragement from others who understand what you’re going through and it’s a place to seek advice on how to deal with difficult situations and share your own experiences.
Maintain a healthy diet
This goes for everyone… healthy nutrition is essential for preventing stress, burnout, and other mental health issues. A nutritious diet will also give you enough strength and energy to provide care for your loved one. Try to avoid processed foods and stick to whole grains, unrefined carbs, fruits and vegetables, quality proteins, and healthy fats.
Take time for self-care
Try to find time in your busy schedule to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and remain physically active. Do not feel guilty taking care of yourself. Self-care is essential for protecting your physical and mental health as well as preventing future health problems.
Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation is a common issue among caregivers. Lack of sleep can cause you to make mistakes when caring for your loved one. On the other hand, consistent, quality sleep has numerous benefits for both mental and physical health. It can help reduce your stress levels, enhance your memory, combat depression and anxiety, curb your food cravings, and contribute to better overall health.
The benefits of physical activity are endless. It can help you live a happier life, feel more energized and improve your cognitive function! Join a gym or find other ways to be physically active every day.
Find a balance
It’s important to maintain interests and hobbies outside of your role as a caregiver. Plan for something fun every day because taking care of others can be tiring! Don’t hesitate when offered vacation benefits – take advantage so that you are able to stay healthy in your mind as well as physically by getting some restful time away from all the responsibilities associated with your career.
Lastly, to prevent long-term health consequences, it’s crucial to have optimism, compassion, and empathy. You can practice deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to help you cope with difficult situations and stay positive.
We hope this information was helpful. We put this information on our website to keep you informed. Mental illness can affect anyone at any given time. If you or someone you know is in a crisis, get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).