Millions of American adults currently serve as caregivers for aging in place loved ones, and most also manage a household and hold down a job. As a result, many informal caregivers battle stress, anxiety and fatigue that eventually place their health and wellbeing at risk. If you currently find yourself in this challenging position, it’s important to set goals that protect your wellbeing so you can continue providing the level of care that your loved one deserves. Here are 4 goals that should be at the top of every caregiver’s list.

What Causes Caregiver Stress?

Serving as a family caregiver is a daily rollercoaster ride of emotions and experiences. As this pattern continues month after month, it can cause caregiver stress, a condition that’s oftentimes associated with these risk factors:

  • Depression
  • Spending too much time on caregiving
  • Social isolation
  • Role reversal
  • Financial difficulties
  • Workplace complications caused by caregiving commitments
  • Living with the person receiving care
  • Neglecting one’s spouse and children

Left unaddressed, caregiver stress can lead to full-blown burnout which can negatively impact a caregiver’s quality of life and happiness.

4 Ways to Avoid Caregiver Stress

As a caregiver, you’re not going to be any good to your loved one if you allow yourself to get burned out. Here are 4 effective ways to avoid caregiver stress:

1. Accept Your Limitations

Caregivers oftentimes feel guilty and overwhelmed because they have unrealistic expectations. Focus on the care you can provide by learning as much as possible about your loved one’s condition. Break up big tasks into smaller ones that you can reasonably complete. Prioritize responsibilities, make lists and set a daily routine. Learn to say “no” sometimes and remember to celebrate small victories like getting your loved one to eat all the food on their plate.

2. Take Care of Yourself

Take time to care for yourself so that you can continue nurturing your loved one. Some of the ways to do so include:

  • Exercise regularly. Working out 3 to 5 times a week will improve your sleep patterns, accelerate healing, improve immunity and endurance, and lower stress.
  • Get checkups. Make sure that you get a complete physical at least once a year.
  • Socialize. Set aside a few hours every week for some quality time with your spouse, kids and friends.
  • Eat right. Don’t rely on fast food to sustain you. Instead, eat a well-balanced diet that’s rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Don’t self-medicate. It’s easy to turn to drugs or alcohol to help you escape from the pressures of life for a while. But doing so can lead to its own set of problems including dependency and addiction.

3. Speak to Your Boss

If you are employed, sit down with your boss and discuss your caregiving challenges. Most bosses are understanding when it comes to taking care of an elderly relative, and yours may even be in the same situation. Topics that you may want to discuss with your supervisor include:

  • Working part time instead of full time
  • Taking some time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Coming in later, leaving early or working more from home
  • Limiting caregiving-related tasks to your lunch breaks