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When a loved one begins to experience a debilitating illness, the situation can be devastating for the entire family.

Easing the Stress and Anxiety of Caretaking

When a loved one begins to experience a debilitating illness, the situation can be devastating for the entire family. It's only natural that we want to reach out and help in any way that we can. Whether your dear one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, bipolar disorder, or any other illness that demands extensive care, stepping up to be that person's caretaker is a noble act that comes with many precious rewards.

Many people feel a sense of privilege as they take care of an aging parent, sibling, or other family member. Some feel that it's a way to give back for all the care they received long ago in their younger years. And it can feel very good to be trusted and counted on. Caretaking for a loved one is a meaningful experience that most would not trade for the world.

However, many find that this new role can become demanding and incredibly draining over time. Feelings of frustration at the overwhelming tasks involved in caring for another person can prove to be stressful and anxiety-producing, and we may end up feeling very alone and confused.

For this reason, it is critical to accept a little help sometimes for our own sanity and well-being. Thankfully, there are many ways to get that help. You can identify issues that need your attention, practice good self-care, and seek professional help in the form of a qualified therapist.

Caretaker Burnout

Without quality help, some caregivers can experience burnout, a state of being that features a number of unpleasant effects. Some of the many symptoms of caretaker burnout may include:

  • Frustration: This can often be directed at your loved one, which can prompt more feelings of guilt
  • Sadness and depression: These are natural responses to your situation, reflecting a circumstance that may not always have a good prognosis
  • Anxiety: You may be dealing with excessive worry and fear related to the loved one and their illness
  • Resentment: You may experience feelings of anger towards the loved one who is ill and the changes that have come
  • A sense of being trapped: When you are the only caretaker, you may feel very alone
  • Overwhelm: Caretaking comes with seemingly endless responsibilities and tasks
  • Substance abuse: Some turn to substances to ease stress and anxiety, but this approach can often backfire
  • Feelings of inadequacy: You may doubt your ability to be a good caretaker, even though you are doing your very best
  • High stress: This can impede your own health and mood, and affect others in your life as well

The Value of Self Care

One helpful strategy for dealing with caretaker burnout may include giving yourself permission to take care of YOU. You may find that there are many accessible ways to do this, both on your own and with other people, such as friends, coworkers, or a professional therapist.

For a caretaker of a loved one, it's even more important to practice excellent self-care as you navigate the challenges of your role. Although it may seem close to impossible, you'll find that providing care for yourself is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Here are a few ideas to get you started on a better path.

  • Take quality time off to refresh and recharge. Ideally, this should happen on a regular basis in order to be effective. Take a walk, watch a movie, or indulge in a nap sometime during the day.
  • Utilize local resources such as support groups and activities through community centers.
  • Maintain your social life to help you stay connected. This can be your lifeline to wellness!
  • Don't forget fun in the form of laughter and play.
  • Rest is key for optimal health.
  • Keep things simple and avoid overcomplications with daily life.

Benefits of Therapy for Caretakers

While barriers to counseling certainly exist, taking advantage of mental health resources can help to mitigate difficult emotions and situations. Counseling in particular is a great choice to address issues that may otherwise go unchecked.

You can experience less isolation with a qualified practitioner. With a therapist, you can vent feelings, balance life decisions, and learn to establish healthful boundaries all within the safety of a confidential relationship. Therapy, among other things, can even be a key component of your self-care routine.

Taking care of oneself is a multifaceted and ongoing project, and it's one with many gifts. As a caretaker for a loved one, your techniques for caring for yourself are important for your own wellness. But working with a professional also has its own unique benefits.

  • Therapy can improve your health along with your relationships (especially the one you have with yourself!).
  • Your work with a qualified therapist will help you to process and normalize your feelings about your life circumstances as they relate to your caretaking.
  • Therapy can help direct negativity into positivity and even productivity.
  • Communication skills can be greatly enhanced through therapy, benefiting all aspects of your life.
  • One can learn to stay grounded and balanced amidst the chaos of taking care of a loved one. These skills can assist with lowering your daily stress.
  • Therapy can validate and reinforce your sense of purpose as you care for someone you love.
  • Therapy can ease your feelings of isolation through a meaningful connection with another person.

Whether you have just taken on your role as a caretaker or you've been at it for years, working with a therapist will be a valuable tool for your personal wellness toolkit.

Mary Shull offers a variety of options for her counseling services. These include traditional in-person sessions, connecting online, and even her unique walking therapy through a beautiful and serene natural area. >Mary's gentle approach to therapy will reassure you as you learn to give yourself the same care and love that you give to others. End the cycle of anxiety and stress and open yourself to a better experience of life.

Do you have any questions or want to learn more? Call Mary Shull at (215) 297-8361 today.

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