Balancing the Care We Give Others, With The Care We Give Ourselves

By Whitley Lassen, PsyD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
February 18, 2022

Caregivers play an essential role in caring for people with mental or physical disabilities, disorders, and diseases, and their mental health and wellness are often overlooked. The National Alliance for Caregiving estimated that about 65.7 million people serve as caregivers, which equates to 1 in 5 adults being in a caregiving role. Being a caregiver can certainly be very rewarding, but in order for caregivers to thrive, they may want to consider balancing the care they give to others with the care they give to themselves. 

We are all susceptible to experiencing physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion, otherwise known as burnout. However, while being more susceptible to burnout than most, caregivers are also up against the caregiver burden. Caregiver burden is described as the unique stress and psychological symptoms experienced by caregivers looking after individuals with mental or physical disabilities, disorders, and diseases. Caregivers often experience high levels of strain being in the caregiving role, which can have an impact on their own stress and potentially disrupt their own well-being. 

Not every caregiver will experience burnout or caregiver burden, but it’s important for caregivers to be aware of their mental health and well-being. Taking inventory may be the first step in preventing burnout or caregiver burden. The Caregiver Health Self Assessment Questionnaire, which was developed by the AMA, is an assessment tool that can help caregivers look at their own mental health and physical health risks. Additionally, caregivers should be aware of some of the common physical and psychological signs and symptoms of stress. 

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Low energy
  • Upset stomach
  • Aches and pains
  • Difficulty sleeping

Psychological Symptoms

  • Excessive worry 
  • Feeling low or sad
  • Increased irritability 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding friends and family

If you’re a caregiver and you notice these signs of stress, be sure to take action to rebalance the care you are giving yourself in order to prevent burnout and caregiver burden. In order to provide great care to someone else, it’s imperative that you take good care of yourself.

First-Line Strategies for Self-Care 

  • Exercise daily 
  • Eat well 
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Recharge yourself
  • Connect with your social supports 
  • Take time for your own self-care

It’s vital for your mental health and well-being as a caregiver to take time for yourself and allow space for a break from being a caregiver. NAMI suggests that being out of “caregiver mode” for as little as five minutes in the middle of a day packed with obligations can be a meaningful reminder of who you are in a larger sense. Not only will you benefit from rebalancing the care you give to yourself, but so will those you give care to because you can only provide great care if you are caring for yourself! 

If you are experiencing burnout or caregiver burden, you are not alone! Reach out to your support networks and ask for help. Check out NAMI or the Family Caregiver Alliance to find a caregiver support group nearby. Connect with a therapist on K Therapy to create a plan to rebalance the care you are giving to yourself! 

Additional Resources for Caregivers

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Whitley Lassen, PsyD

Whitley Lassen, PsyD, MBA is a licensed clinical psychologist with 15+ years of experience providing therapy to clients using evidence-based interventions, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Dr. Lassen also has extensive experience in behavioral health leadership and received an MBA from the University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business, with a concentration in healthcare administration.