The work of parenting and caregiving can be incredibly challenging. As a caregiver, you give a great amount of energy to the people you care for, so much so that it can be hard to prioritize self-care. However, the importance of self-care cannot be understated for caregivers.
Compassion fatigue is a very real phenomenon, causing caregivers to become burned out to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. This fatigue can block your ability to feel empathy for others. The saying, ‘you can’t care of others if you don’t care for yourself’ is a reality in compassion fatigue.
In 2019, DBSA engaged peers and caregivers in a study with the Milken Institute. Of the caregivers that were surveyed, 92% reported experiencing a mood disorder themselves. This finding may reflect the fact that the tendency to develop depression or bipolar can be inherited. Caregivers attune closely to the emotions of their loved ones. Strain on caregivers can cause feelings of fatigue, sadness, guilt, and difficulty concentrating, which are all symptoms associated with depression. If you are a caregiver who is feeling these symptoms, there are options that can help, beginning with self-care.
Self-care will look differently for everyone. As you begin to think about self-care, think about what conditions you need to feel your best. Remember to start with the basics. Consider your sleep habits, diet, and ability for downtime. If those areas feel strained, consider ways you might improve them. The media may talk about elf-care in terms of expensive candles, spa packages, and yoga retreats. But in reality, self-care doesn’t need to have a price tag. At its essence, it means nourishing your mind, body, and spirit, however that can happen for you.
When caregivers learn to prioritize their own self-care, they model that for their whole family unit. The skills you learn in self-care can be useful in helping your loved one, as individuals who live with depression and bipolar benefit greatly from a good self-care routine. Caregivers may benefit from seeking their own counseling and support. DBSA has support for parents and caregivers in both our in-person and online support groups, as well as the Balanced Mind Parent Network.