Being a caregiver can be not only complicated but life-consuming. Caregiver stress syndrome is a condition characterized by physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion of an individual as the result of neglecting their own physical and emotional health because the efforts are focused on caring for an ill, injured, or disabled person.
All caregivers can experience this syndrome without exceptions. Caring for someone else is demanding. Several factors can lead to caregiver stress or burnout, such as:
- The constant demands of the person who is in their care. Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of care their elderly, sick, or disabled family members need is a common experience.
- Lack of boundaries between their role and life. When taking care of a family member, setting up your limits can be complex. A caregiver must remember that they are a person too, who needs space to fulfill not only basic needs but safety, self-esteem, belonging, and joy.
- Setting unrealistic expectations. Being a caregiver can be very arduous, and is made only more difficult when an individual holds unrealistic expectations of what they are able to accomplish in a day.
- Viewing caregiving duties as an obligation. When a caregiver views their duties as something they “have to” do, it adds an additional mental burden to what is often an already full plate.
Additionally, given the demands on caregivers’ time and energy, most neglect their self-care by sleeping less, eating too much or too little, or not exercising.
A study carried out by the Journal of Aging and Health, which examined the effects of caregiving stressors on caregiver health, showed caregivers have a greater risk of mortality than non-caregivers.
Be aware of the symptoms:
Even though stress can be good for health, as it helps to cope and respond to a change or challenge, long-term stress of any kind can lead to serious health problems.
Watch out for the symptoms. If you feel overwhelmed, alone, sad, or tired most of the time; if you are sleeping too much or too little; you are gaining or losing a lot of weight or if you become irritated or angered easily, don’t wait to ask for help. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms at any level, it is vital to have a conversation with your physician emphasizing that you’re a caregiver. They will be able to understand your needs and prescribe the next steps on your healing journey.
What to do next?
Although caregiving can be very challenging, it also has its rewards and It feels good to be able to care for a loved one. Additionally, a relaxation and meditation practice can help caregivers to tap into those feel-good feelings more often.
Individuals meditate to reduce psychological stress and stress-related health problems. Recent studies have shown that Mindfulness Meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety, depression, and pain and of improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life markers.
Meditation training programs vary in several ways, however, Mindfulness Meditation is ideal for caregivers as it is the practice of being fully present in the moment. Mindfulness Meditation includes three elements: breath, body, and thought. It is about paying attention to the present moment, as well as to your thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
How meditation helps caregivers
Recent research, where 100 mothers of children with disabilities were the object of study of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program conducted by Vanderbilt University, showed that their anxiety and depression levels were considerably reduced. They also improved their sleep and well-being. If you’re a caregiver who is experiencing one or more of the symptoms previously mentioned, consider trying mindful meditation, it will help you to improve your mental and emotional health.
Probably the biggest advantage of mindful meditation is that it can take place anywhere. However, meditation like any other practice requires preparation. If you are planning to start meditating, consider the following easy aspects:
- Place. Mindful meditation can be done while you walk, in bed, or even in your car while waiting for someone.
- Timing. Meditation can take 5 to 10 minutes (or more if you wish). Start with small and achievable goals. Once you become familiar with them, this practice will be easier.
- Posture. Mindful meditation allows you to practice according to your needs and limitations. You may consider the following meditation postures:
- Siting down. Sit in your chair with a straight back and with your feet flat on the floor. They should form a 90-degree angle with your knees. Sit up straight, aligning your neck with your spine. If necessary place a pillow behind the lower back or under the hips for added support.
- Standing up. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slightly open your feet (with knees facing forward), and slightly bend the knees.
- Lying-down. (This is the easiest position to relax): Lie on your back with your arms extended alongside your body. The feet should be hip-distance apart. Placing a pillow underneath the knees will elevate them and help you align your spine.
- Relax. Meditation is about relaxing and being present. While you are doing so, focus on that and do your best to release intrusive thoughts as they come (Llorca, 2022).
- Breath. Focusing on your breath is a simple way to start. Count one full inhale and exhale as one breath. Count each breath until you reach the number ten and then start over.(Llorca, 2022).
- Listen to guided meditations. Listening to guided meditations can be helpful for those new to the practice of meditation. The best part is that they can be found on youtube or the internet. Here you can find a guide to get started.
Our final advice is “be patient and constant”. As with any other activity, meditation requires time to show results. With persistence, in a couple of months, your stress levels should lower considerably. Remember that each person may have different symptoms. Do not ignore the signs of mental health issues. At 24/7 Nursing Care, we are here for you.
As a caregiver referral service, we can help you find the care that is right for your loved one, taking some of the stress off of you. For a free in-home consultation, call us today – at Miami-Dade County (786) 518-3622 or Broward county (954) 949-1332.
- Caregiver Burnout: Steps for Coping With Stress. (2021, December 3). AARP. https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2019/caregiver-stress-burnout.html
- Caregiver stress | Office on Women’s Health. (2019, June 3). Https://Www.Womenshealth.Gov/. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/caregiver-stress#:%7E:text=Caregiver%20stress%20is%20due%20to,other%20family%20members%20or%20friends.
- Cronkleton, E. (2017, May 24). Meditation Poses: In Your Desk Chair, on the Floor, and More. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/meditation-positions#sevenpoint-meditation
- How to Meditate. (2015, February 15). Well Guides – The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-meditate#:%7E:text=Mindfulness%20meditation%20is%20the%20practice%20of%20actually%20being%20present%20in,present%20moment%20without%20any%20judgment.
- Llorca, K. (2022, March 28). How To Start A Meditation Practice. Miami Mom Collective. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://miami.momcollective.com/health-fitness/how-to-start-a-meditation-practice/
- Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. (2020, April 22). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858#:%7E:text=%22Meditation%2C%20which%20is%20the%20practice,disease%20and%20high%20blood%20pressure
- mmLearn.org. (2020, November 11). A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation for Caregivers. https://training.mmlearn.org/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-meditation-for-caregivers
- NCBI – WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic. (2014, July 21). Pubmed.Gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25049350/
- TheKey | How to Use Mindfulness to Help with Caregiver Stress and Burnout. (2022, April 8). The Key. https://www.thekey.com/learning-center/care-experts-and-insights/how-to-use-mindfulness-to-help-with-caregiver-stress-and-burnout