Making Sure You Take Care of Yourself, Too

When you’re taking care of a friend or loved one, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. And it’s not surprising why. You may be spending a lot of time helping with all sorts of tasks, such as shopping, cooking, paying bills and driving to doctor appointments. So it may seem like there’s little time for you. However, it’s important to remember that keeping yourself healthy, emotionally and financially, is key to being able to continue supporting your friend or loved one.

Seeing the Signs of Stress

About 8.4 million Americans are caregivers to an adult with a mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder, according to a survey from the National Alliance on Caregiving conducted in partnership with Mental Health America (MHA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Seventy-four percent of these caregivers report feeling high levels of emotional stress. Could you be one of them? Here are some signs to look for:

  • Often feeling sad
  • Easily becoming irritated or angry
  • Worrying a lot
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Being tired most of the time
  • Losing or gaining weight
  • Experiencing frequent headaches or body pains
  • Decreasing interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs

Ways to Reduce the Stress

Maybe you’ve seen some of the telltale signs of stress and you’re wondering what to do about it. You may be tempted to dismiss it as “just part of my role” as a caregiver and try to ignore it. Or, you could believe that focusing on your own needs is in some way selfish. Looking a little deeper at your thoughts around self-care can be a good first step. After you do, you can try out these strategies for making the stress more manageable: