Caregivers need care, too

care giving is like gardening

Caregiving is Hard

Caregiver stress is a real thing. Whether you’re caring for a loved one or chose a career as a caregiver (such as doctor, nurse, therapist, or teacher). As rewarding as it can feel, it’s also super stressful. Oftentimes, we can lose ourselves in all we do for others. As a result, we may even feel guilty taking time for self-care. You are your own gardener and only you can make sure to water and fertilize the garden that is your life.

So why is the topic of coping as a caregiver so important? Because care-giving can also cause mental health struggles. Namely, anger, frustration, burnout, sadness, and loneliness. These feelings don’t make you a bad person. They just mean you’re human. No one is immune to stress! Similarly, no garden is immune to drought and disease.

You may be wondering how someone who gives so much kindness to others could possibly experience any negativity as a result. Bad things don’t happen to good people. If you haven’t seen it firsthand or experienced it yourself, you may live your life by these karmic standards. If so, that’s understandable. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people like you, but they can if you forget to care for yourself. Beautiful gardens in magazines and on TV don’t just happen. Gardeners have to work hard and suffer the god-awful stench of fertilizer to ensure those plants flourish. While it’s abusive to our noses, fertilizer is a disgusting necessity.

Signs of Caregiver Stress

Since it’s so easy to forget about yourself, you may be unaware that your emotional well being is struggling. You may have on rose colored glasses that make it appear as though your wilting garden is healthy. It’s significantly important to be aware of the signs of caregiver stress:

  • Feeling overwhelmed all the time
  • Feeling worrisome about everything
  • Fatigue that seems to cling to you like pests on plants
  • Sleep disturbance whether it’s too much or too little
  • Weight fluctuations resulting from appetite changes
  • Feeling short-tempered or even jealous of those who get all the compassion you want
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Sadness or feeling like you are in a fog
  • Procrastinating taking care of your own responsibilities (ahem… caring for your garden)
  • Physical symptoms: headaches, muscle pain, or other medical concerns

Is it shocking to go through that list and check off those signs as something you are personally experiencing? Does seeing the physical symptoms worry you? Since you’re dedicated to helping others, the last thing you want is to be sick, too. However, prolonged stress from caregiving can cause your physical health to suffer, leading to your own medical issues. Emotions and physical health are deeply intertwined. If these signs hit home for you, it’s time to trash those rose colored glasses and take a real look at your garden.

Caring for yourself

So now you may be wondering how and when you can care for your needs, too. It’s important to remember gardeners don’t live in their gardens. Regular care for their plants is much quicker and easier than only checking things out every few months. No one has time to pull weeds all day long to get things back in working order. Taking time for yourself doesn’t make you selfish and you should do it regularly. Now you may be wondering what self-care and stress management could look like for your busy self. Let’s look at some stinky fertilizer- I mean, self-care– that can get your garden to flourish again.

  • Monitor your emotions.  Take time daily to journal your moods and learn about physical symptoms that your body uses to tell your brain something
  • Meditation is great to clear your mind
  • Yoga is good for both your body and your mind
  • Accept help from others. You don’t have to do everything on your own!
  • Dispute your own standards of perfectionism– there’s no such thing. Stop beating yourself up and letting your plants die.
  • Celebrate small wins because you deserve it and life is full of small victories.
  • Have a solid support network and use it
  • See your doctor for regular medical checkups
  • Schedule time for your own self-care and do whatever helps you feel relaxed and rejuvenated
  • Plan fun activities that give you something to look forward to
  • Focus on positivity and gratitude to improve your happiness

Sometimes it’s hard to hold ourselves accountable and make ourselves tend to our gardens. It’s very easy to forget all of this, especially when your stressed. Make a commitment to write it down. Make a contract with yourself detailing how you are committed to self-care. It can also be helpful to write down the negative emotions you regularly experience and how you can cope. Put this note in a place you will regularly see it so you reduce risks of forgetting.

A compassionate and understanding counselor can help guide you through caregiver stress. Counselors can give you the fertilizer you need and help you get your garden healthy again. Stop procrastinating your own self-care and plug your nose to get through the fertilization process (figuratively and literally because… yuck!). Now is the time to have a garden as beautiful as your soul. If you’re ready to take care of your needs, schedule an appointment with a counselor who understands the struggle today either through the client portal or call the office at 770-283-8386. We can help you liven up your plants so you can continue being the awesome caregiver you are.

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Nadya Clontz, APC brings her heart and humor into her work with chronic illness warriors, emerging adults (17-24ish), and LGBTQIA+ folx. Read more of her blog posts or schedule an appointment with her.

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