Family caregiving can cause a lot of mental, physical, and emotional hardship. As a result of this stressful role, one of the most common health issues that caregivers face is depression. Not only is being a caregiver stressful, but this stress impacts other factors of your life which can predispose you to depression. In order to be the best caregiver you can be, it is crucial to take care of yourself.
Symptoms of Depression
Below are some common symptoms of depression:
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Frequent tiredness
- Insomnia or changed sleeping patterns
- Loss of interests in activities that once brought pleasure
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Changed eating behaviors
- Unable to regulate emotions, such as anger
- Difficulty concentrating and thinking
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts at suicide
- Physical problems that are not solved by medical treatment, such as recurring headaches
Why Caregiving Puts You at Risk for Depression
There are many biological factors that contribute to depression that are out of our control. Depression may be connected to our genetics, the way our brains are wired, and our past experiences. But the stresses of caregiving can get in the way of physical exercise, sleep, eating healthy foods, and maintaining social relationships. Any deficiencies in these activities can have consequences on mental health since maintaining these activities can help you avoid depression. For instance, suffering from insomnia, or the inability to sleep, can make you more likely to be depressed. Additionally, the time constraints that caregiving imposes on you can cause you to resort to quick and convenient fast foods, and it can leave you little time for physical exercise. Eating healthy and exercising are one of the most crucial ways to promote good mental health. Lastly, caregiving can be a very isolating experience, leading to loneliness and reduced social interaction. Current research is now exploring the benefits that socializing with other people, in person, can promote good mental health.
Caregiving radically changes the rhythm and routine of your everyday life. It is, therefore, important to be aware of how such changes can lead to serious health problems like depression.
Since caregiving can often get in the way of activities that are healthy for you, it is important to be aware of what you can do to help prevent depression:
- Make sleep a priority: Get at least 7 to 8 hours of good sleep. Avoid using bright phones or computer monitors before bed as this can negatively impact sleep quality. To help you fall asleep, set aside 10 minutes in bed to do deep breathing and meditation. Or write down everything that is bogging you down on a notepad and set it aside before you go to bed. This will help you put aside stressful thoughts and allow you to compartmentalize your priorities.
- Socialize: Try your hardest to keep in touch with close friends and family members with whom you get along. Being part of a supportive network of people is important to promote mental health. Try seeking out local clubs or groups in your community who participate in a cause or hobby you enjoy.
- Exercise: It is important to stay active to support your physical and mental health. Aim for three times a week. Choose an activity that you are able to do, like walking, swimming, jogging, etc. and perform this exercise for about 30 minutes. Exercise will help you stay happier because it releases serotonin and dopamine, promoting happiness.
- Take time for yourself: Taking time for yourself can either mean spending some quality alone time or pursuing any of the activities listed above. Give yourself space from stressful situations so you can revitalize yourself.
- See a mental health counselor: Seeing a mental health counselor is as important as getting regular checkups from your primary care physician. A mental health counselor can give you methods and techniques to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. They can also be an objective third party to rely one to help you think through difficult situations. If you have health insurance, talk to your insurance companies to see if you qualify for mental health visits.
One last option, to help you alleviate the burden of caregiving, is to hire a professional caregiver to help out. Nurse Registries like ElderCare at Home refer licensed caregivers who are qualified to care for your loved one. You can set your own schedule to determine how often you need help. You might find that having a professional caregiver for a few hours a week can make all the difference. Feel free to call us at 888-285-0093 with questions or visit our website to learn more.
 Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/symptoms/con-20032977
 Source: http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/caregiving-depression#1