The effect stress can have on your mind, body and spirit can be frightening, especially since it is such a common part of daily life. Many of us live with stress as we try to juggle family, career and caregiving duties every day.
A big cause of stress?
Caring for a senior loved one. Caregiver stress has the ability to affect your relationship with others, including your spouse.
The Reality of Stress
Stress can take a real toll on your body, your mood and your behavior. According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic stress and “overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes.”
Common signs and symptoms of stress include:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Fatigue, trouble sleeping
- Upset stomach
- Sadness or depression
- Angry outbursts
- Social withdrawal
How It Can Affect Your Marriage
When you’re not feeling your best mentally and physically, it can be tough to be a good partner to your spouse. You may find yourself being curt with them or picking fights. In some cases you might not want any physical touch, which can be difficult for a spouse to understand.
The weight you feel while caring for a loved one and juggling your own life can be hard for others to understand if they haven’t experienced it themselves. It’s not easy to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes, especially when it comes to caregiving.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. There are steps you can take to protect your marriage while caring for a loved one.
Protecting Your Marriage
The first step in dealing with any problem in life is admitting that there are issues that need to be addressed. When you acknowledge that your marriage is slipping into “...or for worse” territory you are actually giving yourself the chance to make it better.
Talking to your spouse about your reality as a family caregiver can help them better understand your feelings and behavior. Together with your partner, you can come up with a plan to better manage your responsibilities. Whether it means easing up on your chores at home, cutting back on your hours at work or enlisting outside help for some tasks and household chores, the added support can make a big difference on your stress levels.
Joining an online caregiver support group can also help. You can connect with your peers through resources such as the Family Caregiver Alliance and the Alzheimer’s Association.
While caregivers rarely find it easy to ask for help, when you do you’re likely to find you are surrounded by people who love you and want to lighten your load. When you are feeling overwhelmed, talking to friends, family, religious leaders and therapists can have a great overall effect on the rest of your life.