A caregiver is anyone who provides support, both physically and mentally to another person in need. This could be for anyone such as an ill partner, a disabled child or an elderly relative. As the the world is getting older and living much longer, more caregiving is needed and being provided by people who aren't necessarily qualified in health care. Studies show that on average throughout ones life, about 1 in 3 people provide care to an other adult as an informal caregiver.
Whilst giving care can be very rewarding and can also give us a great sense of wellbeing knowing that someone we love is being well looked after, there is a flip side to that coin. It’s totally normal to have conflicting feelings - feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, sadness and frustration. That being said, it’s not normal for these feelings to last over long periods of time, taking over one's own happiness and wellbeing. Because being a caregiver is a tough task, especially when the person we care for is a close family member, some doctors think of caregivers as the “hidden patients”.
According to a USA senior care study, 65% of family caregivers appeared to have above average or significant levels of stress after committing to this role. The results showed that caregivers are much more likely to suffer with mental health issues.These could include stress overload, depression, prolonged anxiety and other issues. On occasions caregivers can even find themselves having complacent feelings towards themselves and even the patient. This can be brought on by many factors - whether it be through the frustration of seeing someone you love deteriorate or difficulties in communication with someone with dementia. It is important to remember that the frustration is natural however it is important to harness these feelings as it is the illness of the patient making us feel this way not the person. Kindness and empathy is always key.
So what steps can you take to put yourself on the path to a positive mental equilibrium and help you deal with these stressful emotions? In our opinion there are many coping strategies and positive influences you can find to help you.
• Work out: Exercise and enjoy something you like to do (jogging, dancing, biking, gym, swimming, etc.) for a minimum of half an hour at least three times per week.
• Meditate: Meditation actually gives you more time to do you the important things by making your mind calmer and more focused. A simple ten or fifteen minute meditation session regularly can help you to overcome your stress and find clarity of mind and inner peace.
• Counselling & Support: Without proper support, stress and depression can be a caregiver’s worst enemy, but resources like counselling can help you provide high-quality care and achieve emotional stability.
• Take a Break: Take single days, long weekends or even a week's holiday to a nature retreat. And when you're away, unplug your brain from your responsibilities and reset your mind. Talk to your friends about the things you love, go to that restaurant you’ve been dying to try since it opened, take power naps, basically do whatever relaxes you and makes you happy.
• Eat Well: Nutrition is key to great mental health. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, fish, nuts and whole grains for energy boosts. It’s important to stay away from fast food and sugar as quick "pick-me-ups" because those quick highs will give your an even faster crash in energy.
Any one of these positive steps can help assist with the stresses of caregiving but at Discover Strengthen Heal, our Caregiver's Respite retreats will cover all of these steps plus more! Once you commit to the desire to take care of yourself and sign up to one of our healing nature excursions, we will do a range of spiritual yet stimulating activities depending on your chosen location - walks in breathtaking natural environments, hiking, bicycle rides, yoga, meditation and journaling among others. Our passionate team will hold valuable workshops such as - nutrition, stress management techniques, and various alternative therapies and counselling sessions.
Our trips are designed to provide an environment where people can focus on their mental and physical health,
and general wellbeing. Just knowing there is help in a beautiful natural environment is calming and beneficial to all our clients, and we thrive on seeing the amazing results after our excursions.