4. You know you should exercise, but you just don’t have the time. No one functions well in crisis mode day after day. Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to find a way to dial down the tension.
The fix: Force yourself to get moving. Exercise is the best stress reliever. Not only will you feel better right away, the surge of endorphins that exercise triggers lifts your mood, clears your head and helps you sleep better at night. A brisk 30-minute walk or jog on the treadmill, even a 10-minute walk around the block, jump-starts your brain, soothes nerves and powers up your immune system.
5. You can’t remember the last time you met a friend for dinner or a movie. Everyone needs a break from time to time, so why don’t you give yourself one? Caregivers — motivated by a mix of love, loyalty and a dash of guilt — rarely do.
The fix: We are not suggesting a two-week Caribbean cruise, though that would be lovely, right? An overnight visit with a college friend, a night at a bed and breakfast, even a few hours to write in your journal, sip a cup of hot tea while you read a book or watch reruns of your favorite sitcom, can be restorative. One caveat: Taking a break doesn’t mean running errands or doing chores. It’s you time.
6. You’re the go-to caregiver. Always. This may be the hardest jobs you’ll ever have, and it can take time to adjust and come to terms with it. But try going it alone and you’ll quickly hit bottom.
The fix: Establish a network of relatives, friends or people in the community you can call on. Schedule a family meeting or video chat about who does what and who pays for it. Let everyone know you will not be available to host holiday meals, organize the church book drive or any other draining activities that you’ve normally handled. Keep a to-do list with you and whip it out when others ask if they can help. Your neighbor might be happy to spend a few hours at your house while you go to the gym. A friend can buy groceries when she’s at the store.
Meanwhile, join a local or online support group so you can connect with sympathetic ears and glean ideas for coping better. Be aware that there are a wide range of programs and professionals out there who can help make the job easier for you.