Serving as a caregiver for an aging family member is highly rewarding, but it also takes a lot of energy, time and patience. Constantly juggling a hectic schedule with seemingly endless priorities can be very stressful at times. As a result, it’s not uncommon for family caregivers to get overwhelmed, placing them at risk for caregiver burnout. Staying physically and emotionally strong as an informal (unpaid) caregiver starts with finding healthy ways to unwind and decompress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a family caregiver, here are several ways to take care of yourself.

3 Stages of Caregiver Burnout

The ALS Association has identified 3 stages of caregiver burnout:

Frustration – The caregiver feels frustrated and disappointed because of their care recipient’s lack of progress. He or she can’t accept the fact that the quality of care and effort they are providing isn’t improving their loved one’s health or mood.

Isolation – The caregiver increases their efforts based on unrealistic expectations. The caregiver may start to feel like they are being second-guessed or underappreciated by others, leading to unhealthy emotions like loneliness, resentment and depression. However, the caregiver is unable, unwilling or hesitant to seek help from others.

Despair – At this point the caregiver feels helpless and completely overwhelmed. He or she has trouble concentrating as the quality of care they are providing diminishes. They even stop taking care of themselves, lose interest in activities once enjoyed, become socially isolated, and feel emotionally and physically exhausted most all the time.

Enjoying a Healthier Caregiving/Life Balance

To ensure a higher quality of life for you and your senior, here are several reliable ways to enjoy a healthier caregiving/life balance:

Exercise

Regular exercise is not only a great stress-reducer, it promotes a stronger immune system, better night’s sleep, facilitates healing and boosts self-esteem. Whether it’s taking a long walk, riding a bicycle or practicing Yoga, be sure to exercise 3 to 5 times per week.

Contact a friend

Committing so much time and effort to caregiving can prevent you from staying in touch with close friends and maintaining key relationships. Set aside time each day to reach out to others with a phone call, text message