We’ve all been caregivers at some point in our lives, right? It could be for a sick family member or a close friend. And while it’s a rewarding experience, it can also take a toll on our mental health.
Sometimes we get so caught up in caring for others that we forget to take care of ourselves. This can cause physical and emotional exhaustion, ultimately leading to burnout. But don’t worry; Dr. Natanya Wachtel gives practical advice to cope with caregiver stress.
Recognizing the need to address the crucial yet often ignored issue of caregiver stress, Dr. Natanya launched the TV segment Mindful Moments in January 2023. This show streams on Apple TV, Amazon, Hulu, and Roku. Dr. Natanya guides distressed caregivers by sharing mental health tips through weekly episodes, encouraging them to reflect, pause, and be more mindful.
Dr. Natanya notes both the short-term and long-term effects of caregiving stress, ensuring her viewers that it is a normal part of the caregiving process – “Providing constant support to another human is essentially doubling the work our bodies are designed to do. We all have a finite amount of energy, both mental and physical. But when we refrain from taking regular breaks, we run on fumes and aren’t giving our own bodies what we need,” explains Dr. Natanya.
Many caregivers feel shame about their stress in fear that it will indicate incompetency and selfishness on their part. Dr. Natanya believes removing the guilt around this problem would enable caretakers to tackle it more constructively.
Acknowledging the mental and physical symptoms of overwhelming stress helps to deal with it – “giving your own body and mind the care they need is one of the most important components of being a good caregiver,” Dr. Natanya further notes.
One seemingly controversial but necessary step to managing the pressure is learning to say ‘No!’ when required. This tactic will enable caregivers to establish personal boundaries, protecting their peace of mind. They will also have time to rest their body and mind appropriately.
It may seem like a simple word, but often emphatically saying no to your family or extended social circle can be the most daunting task. Dr. Natanya recommends affirming oneself in such cases, as she tells her viewers, “You need to remind yourself that you are allowed to turn some requests down if you are feeling you are getting just too overwhelmed with responsibilities or places you have to be or things you have to do.”
Our days should not revolve around closely packed to-do lists, mainly catering to the needs and requirements of other people. As a caregiver, one has to sacrifice a major space of their physical and mental existence for another person in need. In such a scenario, carving a room for a breather, no matter the size, is enough to limit the detrimental effects of prolonged support to another human – Dr. Natanya elaborates, “When you say no to put another responsibility on your to-do list, you are opening a very important opportunity to have time for yourself, and signal to yourself that your needs matter.”
Thus, it is crucial to establish and practice enforcing well-established boundaries. You must prioritize your needs as a human being so that you can function as a healthy and happy individual while providing the necessary support. Curious about more? You can visit Dr. Natanya’s YouTube channel to get a clearer picture of managing caregiver stress. You can also visit her website to learn more about her future plans.