Around the world, women take care of other people. It’s a natural human expression of love that can be a source of great joy – and a source of exhaustion and stress over time. Although men are taking on more caregiving for children and family, women still handle the majority of childcare, elder care, and informal care to spouses, parents, in-laws, friends, and neighbors.
So, if you’re feeling exhausted, there may be good reason. It is not unusual to feel tired, frustrated, resentful, even overwhelmed when providing care for a family member. Just make sure you’re staying in touch with your own needs so you don’t risk falling into low moods, or anxiety and depression.
Caregiving Can Be a Balancing Act
According to the Mayo Clinic, about twice as many women as men experience depression and anxiety. This may relate to the weighty caregiving roles and responsibilities women take on, hormonal changes a woman’s body experiences through menstruation, childbirth, or menopause, and many other factors. Although women and men can develop many of the same mental health symptoms, they experience them very differently. If you find that any of these symptoms are sneaking up on you and persist beyond two weeks, it’s time to seek professional help.
- Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness
- Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Excessive fear or worry
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Extremely high and low moods
- Aches, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear cause
- Social withdrawal
- Suicidal thoughts
Share the Care, Learn to Ask for Help
Whether you’re navigating care for a parent with memory loss, dealing with a loved one’s illness, or seeking services for a child with special needs, asking for and accepting help can be difficult. If you find yourself feeling depleted, talk with your primary care doctor or gynecologist. They can refer you to a mental health professional, if needed. Here are a few more self-care tips to help you stay balanced.
The Caregiver Checklist
- Find a therapist and talk regularly. Therapists can be a support to caregivers by helping set and track selfcare goals while you’re caring for a loved one.
- Keep up with your own medical needs and appointments with your doctors.
- Give yourself permission to take small breaks. This can be a daily walk, a lunch date with friends or quiet time to read or have a cup of tea.
- Practice regular self-compassion breaks and medication. Cultivating self-compassion builds resilience.
- Consider in-home respite care to provide companionship and nursing services for your loved one, and explore short-term nursing care for safe healthcare management while you’re away.