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Mature woman smilingBeing a caregiver can be a rewarding, but challenging experience. It’s difficult in many instances to find a balance between taking care of someone else and taking care of yourself.

Experiencing caregiver stress is not uncommon, and can leave you feeling anxious, depressed, angry and overwhelmed. It can affect your physical well-being, too, by causing lack of sleep, weight gain or loss and headaches. It is important to make sure that you are caring for your own health as well as your loved one.

As a caregiver, it can be easy to feel guilty that you are not providing enough. But, instead of focusing on what you are not able to fix or deliver, try to focus instead on what you are able to do for your loved one. Know that you are doing all you are able to, and it is appreciated. Be realistic in your expectations of yourself. Chronic diseases, by nature, do not get better and go away, despite all of the care and help you are providing. Understanding that this is the case can help you create achievable standards for your care.

Don’t be too proud to accept help. Any and all assistance will help take some of the pressure and stress off of you. If other family members volunteer to pitch in, accept the offer if you can. And if they don’t, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. They are probably willing to assist, but just don’t know you need it. In addition to help with care, seek support from others in a similar situation. You may be able to find strength through members of support groups and friends who are in or who have been in the same situation. Respite care or other types of part-time assistance can be extremely helpful in providing more time for you to take care of your own needs.

Above all, monitor your own health as you monitor your loved one. Don’t feel bad about taking time to evaluate yourself — your well-being is equally important, and you can be sure that the person you are caring for wants you to be healthy, and doesn’t want you to help them at the cost of your own well-being. Self-care is vitally important for everyone, but it’s especially critical for caregivers.

Caregiving is a complicated, difficult process. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, and ask for help when you need it.