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Taking on the role of caregiver is a lot—both physically and emotionally. With us, you can better see the path forward and focus on your loved one.

How to take care of yourself: mental health and caregiving

 

Major health issues aren't something we plan for. It's especially true for something as serious as kidney disease. There are countless doctor’s appointments, tough decisions and lifestyle changes to make—not to mention any treatment your loved one may need. None of this is easy.

While the focus tends to be on your loved one, all this can affect your physical and mental health, as well.

 
 

This experience has probably caused a lot of emotions and worries. You might be feeling:

  • Stressed
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Guilty

If these feelings are making it hard to deal with day-to-day life, it can lead to caregiver burnout. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better able to care for your loved one.

Learn how stress, anxiety and depression can affect you

If you don’t take care of your mental health, it can lead to serious physical health problems. Stress and anxiety can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack.1 Depression is linked to a lower quality of life and increased mortality.2

Depressive symptoms and mental health problems are consistently reported to be higher among caregivers than among their non-caregiving peers.3 These conditions are serious, but they’re treatable. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor.

Take care of yourself to avoid caregiver burnout

Not taking care of yourself can lead to caregiver burnout. This can also jeopardize your physical health.4 Caregiver burnout is physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. It looks a lot like stress, anxiety and depression. It happens when you don't get the help you need. It can leave you feeling negative, cynical or unconcerned.

How to care for yourself as a caregiver

A lot of your focus will be on the person you’re caring for, but you need to take time out for yourself. Making time for yourself can be good for you. It can make you a better caregiver.

Here are some tips: 5, 6

  • Connect with family and friends, even if it’s just over the phone.
  • Join a caregiver support group.
  • Focus on the good things in life and try to maintain a positive outlook.
  • Stay active. Try walking, jogging, your favorite sport or yoga. Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
  • Try relaxation exercises like deep breathing and visualization. There are even apps that can help you get started.
  • Laugh. It’s the best medicine. Surround yourself with upbeat people, play games and watch funny movies and shows.

If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY: 711). You’ll get free and confidential support, available in over 150 languages — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more about self-care

 
 
 

1American Psychological Association. Stress effects on the bodyAccessed August 23, 2022.

2Shirazian, S., Grant, C. D., Aina, O., Mattana, J., Khorassani, F., & Ricardo, A. C. (2016). Depression in chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease: similarities and differences in diagnosis, epidemiology, and management. Kidney international reports, 2(1), 94–107.

3Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). Caregiver healthAccessed August 23, 2022.

4American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Caregiver burnout: Steps for coping with stressAccessed September 30, 2022.

5National Institute of Health. Emotional wellness toolkitAccessed September 30, 2022.

6Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). Caring for yourselfAccessed August 23, 2022.