When Caring Hurts Your Well-Being
You can care so much that it hurts, especially when you care for a senior or someone needing at-home healthcare. You feel your loved one’s pain, see the daily struggles and suffering, and it grieves you. Then it haunts you. There’s a name for when caregiving significantly affects your well-being: PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, a state in which you keep remembering a disturbing experience or your body reacts to the upsetting event.
PTSD effects are both psychological and biological. You can experience fear, anxiety, nervousness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, irritability, sadness, feelings of isolation and guilt, or changes in how well you sleep or how much you eat. Other symptoms can include crying spells, nightmares, increased heart rate, muscle tension, rapid breathing and an inability to stop thinking about traumatic events. You might experience any one of these health signs throughout the day or night, or several symptoms at once. Most commonly, doctors find, the afflictions leave you jumpy, seized by flashbacks and emotionally detached or numb.
Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association) stresses four ways to manage PTSD and feel better:
- Self-care, including getting enough rest, connecting with friends, exercising and expressing fears by journaling. For example, some physical activity three to five times a week, at least 30 minutes each time, can ease depression.
- Medicines like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) lower anxiety, and sedatives can usher in restorative sleep.
- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy with a mental health professional, can help you change your thought patterns and process emotions.
- Support groups give you an outlet for your troubles, the understanding of others, a healing confidence and techniques to manage symptoms.
Caring can, indeed, cost, but it doesn’t have to harm anyone’s well-being.
What best helps you manage the stress of caring for an aging loved one?