November marks National Family Caregivers Month, a time to appreciate family members and friends who care for those they love. While some people associate the phrase “family caregiver” with someone who is caring for an older adult, caregivers throughout the country provide assistance, encouragement, and support to people of all ages. For those caring for someone living with a mental health condition, checking in on a friend or family member can literally be the difference between life and death.

If you are caring for someone living with a mental health condition, you already know the stress and challenge it brings to your already busy daily life. Caregivers, no matter if they provide extensive or minimal assistance, are especially vulnerable to depression, anxiety, a weakened immune system, and increased blood pressure. This set of conditions is sometimes referred to as Caregiver Burnout or Caregiver Fatigue and can lead to hospital stays or unplanned visits to your own doctor. Here are signs that you need rest or extra support to keep yourself healthy and capable of caring for others.

Sleep Disruption
Are you sleeping too much? Are you unable to fall asleep? Are you wide awake at 3am? Any combination of these could mean you are experiencing Caregiver Burnout. Sleep disruption is one of the first signs of caregiver stress, and without proper sleep, you don’t have the emotional coping skills to continue to handle the stress of your day. If you are not sleeping well, or if you are exhausted and sleeping too much, talk to your doctor about it.

Angry Outbursts
Caregiving is an emotional task, and you are likely to feel frustrated, worried, nervous, and scared on a regular basis. However, if you are noticing a feeling of resentment, or if you have been especially angry to the person you are caring for, or towards someone else in your life, you are likely experiencing Caregiver Burnout. Make an appointment to talk with a therapist who is experienced with caregiving stress to get the support you need.

Feeling Sick All the Time
Have you had a cough that you just can’t shake or chronic pain that won’t go away? Your body is likely giving you the heads up that you are stressed out and need to rest. You are no good to anyone if you are physically ill and unable to perform your caregiving and daily tasks. Make an appointment with your doctor, and come up with a plan to make rest a priority on your weekly calendar.

Caregivers across the country are doing hard work every day. We see you, and we are cheering you on. Most importantly, we are begging you to get the support and respite you need to keep yourself healthy and able to care for those around you.

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