The Caregiver Cup Podcast

The Caregiver's Stress Backpack: How to Lighten the Load and Prevent Burnout

June 27, 2023 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 167
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
The Caregiver's Stress Backpack: How to Lighten the Load and Prevent Burnout
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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Feeling weighed down by the stress of caregiving? Join me as I share a hilarious family story that teaches valuable lessons about handling stress and the importance of not overloading ourselves. Just like a canoe that can't handle too much weight, our minds and bodies can't handle excessive stress without tipping over. In this episode, I discuss the concept of a caregiver stress backpack and how we can learn to lighten the load.

I also examine the intense responsibilities that family caregivers face and the impact it has on their lives. With 71% of surveyed caregivers working while providing care, and 75% of them being female, it's essential to find ways to manage stress and prevent burnout. From preparing meals and assisting with dressing to providing social interaction, caregivers often feel like they're on a never-ending hamster wheel. In this discussion, I share my personal journey and the lasting effects caregiving had on my health, relationships, and career.

To help you navigate these challenges, I offer practical strategies for reducing caregiver stress and prioritizing self-care. By identifying your stressors, making small changes, and delegating tasks, you can lighten your stress backpack and create a healthier, more balanced life for yourself and those you care for. Remember, it's crucial to prioritize your well-being as a caregiver and take the necessary steps to become a successful and proud caregiver.

Get my free resource:  17 SHIFTS TO TAKE CONTROL OF CAREGIVER STRESS that will take you to the best version of yourself.

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Cathy:

Well, hello, my friend. In today's episode, we're talking all about the stress and how it feels. And when you don't have a release or lessen the load of this stress, it becomes heavier and heavier. Everything we do becomes hard, and even the simple things become harder. We start thinking about, oh my gosh, what's wrong with us? Or we start beating ourselves up and asking ourselves why can't I do the simple things that I used to do every single day? Well, in today's episode we're going to break it all down. I'm going to use an analogy of a stress backpack and talking about how, when we keep adding to this backpack, it feels heavier and heavier. And then I'm going to follow it up with some research today, and then at the end, i'm going to give you some solutions and share some things that are kind of hard to swallow, but share some things of how I feel like you can go ahead and take out things out of that backpack and make life a little bit easier for yourself. Are you ready to dig in? Well, let's get started. Well, welcome back to another episode of the Caregiver Cup podcast. In the intro, i gave you a little bit of an idea of what this episode is all about and all of that stress and how to carry on with caregiver stress, but also how heavy it can be. Well, this story that I'm going to share today about a family trip that I took up to my parents' cabin definitely has me chuckling, but it also has so many lessons learned that we can relate to when it comes to caregiver stress. So let me share the story with you. It was a hot July day and my family and it was before my boys grew up and left the house. I have three boys my husband and my three boys and I went up to my parents' cabin and during the day or during the night before, we decided hey, we're going to go ahead and go on the Pine River, which is a fun little spot where the campers up there go in northern Wisconsin, and you can go tubing on this river, you can go canoeing on this river and it winds into almost like a U-shape And so it's about a mile and a half long and it's just a great way to go and get cool on a summer day and be in nature, and many times if I saw deer coming down drinking their water and so on. So we packed up that morning. We got up and we packed up the canoe, the inner tube, we packed up the life jackets, we packed a cooler, we all put our swimming suits on and our water socks or shoes that you could wear in the water, and we were on our way. We grabbed our sunscreen and hats and sunglasses, and we were on our way. We jumped in my dad's pickup truck and it was about a mile and a half away, and so we were pretty excited. We got down to the parking lot where everybody unloads their gear, and it was pretty busy, but we know that, that everybody gets spaced out and you really aren't on top of each other. So as we waited in line, we all put on our life jackets and we placed the cooler and the canoe. We had to tie one inner tube to the back because Mark, my oldest, agreed to go on it because the canoe only handled so many people, and so we went ahead and did that. Well, eventually it was our turn to get into the water. The current was moving at a pretty good pace, but the water there was never over four feet in, really only in certain spots, and so we knew the river pretty well. It was so crystal clear and blue and gray, and I love the smell of a fresh water moving down the current, and we were out in nature, and so we all got out and went into it and we stood there and got loaded. My dad took the lead and my husband took the back end of the canoe. Mark was on my oldest Mark was on the back, behind Dennis on the inner tube, and so those three got in, and then I had James, who was my little one he was about five at the time and then Matt was ten-ish, twelve-ish, something like that at the time and those two got in and we had little pads at the bottom of the canoe, and so my mom and my mom and I then got into the two middle chairs and so we started. Then we all got in our way and Dennis pushed off because he was in the back and the canoe took and went sideways, and so we weren't going straight down and we were headed right towards a group of people that were in inner tubes and on a canoe, and so we're like oh, sorry, sorry, sorry, and instead of them just gradually pushing us off, there was like three of them that jumped out and then they gave us a good push In turn. What did that do? It tipped us all over. It tipped us over and right away. Thank goodness we all had life jackets on. The water was maybe three, four feet. It wasn't deep at all. I immediately got up out of the water and looked for my kids. They were fine. Matt actually had my youngest James and put him on Mark's lap on the inner tube. I looked and my mom was physically like, flaunting her arms around and she was screaming because her flip flops that she was wearing were rolling down the stream and our cooler was floating down the water and my husband is like stop, don't worry about your damn stuff. Let's just get the canoe back and make sure everybody's okay. We'll pick up your things. And it's just funny how people react. And then I look forward and I can laugh to this day. But my dad is still paddling underwater and I think what he was trying to do was trying to take the oar and push himself back up. But here he is and to this day I still laugh at that visual because he's just he's paddling like I got to figure this out. I got to figure this out. Well, eventually we got ourselves flipped over. We loaded everybody back up. We found the stuff later down the stream and everything worked out. But I'm sure that people on the shore had a chuckle because first of all, we were overloaded. We were overloaded What would think that it really was like a three-man canoe, but we put what? five, six people in it, plus an inner tube at the end. And so lessons learned is don't overload the boat, don't overload the boat. And another lesson learned, or just observation everybody handles stress differently and I laugh at my mom because my husband was swearing at her because she was going to run and get her stuff and I'm like no, you get back here, we'll get into the canoe, we'll get everybody upright and we'll figure it out as we go on. You can buy yourself another pair of flip flops and blah, blah, blah. It was so funny, but this has been an inside joke for our family for such a long time and even with my mom and dad being passed, it's just a moment of joy that just comes to mind. But how this all relates to this podcast, i promise it does, because when it comes to stress and caregiver stress and overwhelm, everybody handles it differently and it's similar to what the canoe did. Our body and mind will go ahead and notice the stress and do what it has to do. The canoe could not handle that fast push and that weight, and so it just tipped over, and so it just and that's the analogy that I have We never put that much stress on a canoe. We'll never put that much stress on a canoe again, and nor should we put that much stress on ourselves. So in the intro I talked about, we go through the caregiver life with a stress backpack on. Almost Envision yourself with this backpack. I'm not a big backpack person, but I can envision myself with this backpack called stress from caregiving. When you have a backpack on and you keep adding more to the backpack, what happens to your shoulders? That gets really heavy. Your shoulders start hurting and I'm grabbing my shoulders. Eventually, you keep putting more in that backpack, and what do you do? You start slumping over and your back starts getting stiffer because you're trying to carry that weight, and then, eventually, you need to start taking a breath or you're taking more breaths. There's a different way, though, to do this, when I think about the stress backpack and the caregiving pieces. How much is in your stress backpack? How heavy is it? Is there a better way to do this? Because once your backpack becomes too heavy, what do you do? You have to take it off, you have to sit down, you have to figure out how to lessen the weight. And so, my friend, today I want to go ahead and unpack this a little bit more. I want to go ahead and talk about the ability to handle stress, the ability to know when that backpack is too heavy, and the ability to know what you have to do when that backpack is too heavy. So the other analogy that I want to talk about is let's say that there's a group of climbers that are going to go ahead and climb this mountain, and so they drive up at the bottom of the mountain and they have their pickup truck, they all have their gear and their backpacks, and most professional climbers would have had this figured out before they got there. But let's just pretend that they now are there and there's four of them that are going to climb the mountain and they lay out all of their gear on the ground and they all have their backpacks empty, and they figure out who's going to carry what, how much they're going to put in each backpack and how they're going to carry it all right, and so you probably have a leader of the group that is going to lead the group, and then you have the other people Some of the mountain climbers have experienced. Some of the mountain climbers have different physical strengths and are different sizes, and so that weighs all into it. And so as they're packing their backpack, they're packing it as good as they possibly can, and they have to determine how much each of them can carry, and they look out for each other and then they may even have to look at do we have room for this? Do we have room for that? Is there anything that we potentially could take out to lessen the load? Because when they're climbing that mountain, if their backpack is overloaded anyone of their backpacks is overloaded they're putting themselves at risk. Think about them. They're climbing a mountain, they're probably attaching ropes and spikes and they're pulling each other up, and so if anybody it has too much in their backpack or they're too over worked from carrying a heavy backpack, that could put them in danger, but it also could put their whole team in danger, and this is what I want to talk about today. So I did some research and I wanted to share this stat and this research with you. There was an article in In A Place for Mom, and the article was named Data Portrait of I think it meant Data Portrait of a Family Caregiver in 2023. And it was data that was really insightful. The article that I read they pulled the data from Dr Erin Yellen Y-E-L-L-A-N-D. She's an associate professor of gerontology and director of the Center of Aging at Kansas State University and focuses on promoting optimal health, and so there was two statistics, the first one being 71% of the caregivers that they surveyed were working While caregiving 71% were working. And then the other statistic was of the people that they surveyed 75% of the caregivers were female, and this article was focused only on the senior care, and so I can't even imagine if we surveyed outside of that space. The article went on to say family caregivers who live with their senior loved one spent an average of 37.4 hours a week on direct caregiving duties. So the caregiver that lived with their loved one in addition to working 71% were working 37.4 hours were spent on caregiving duties. And then they also had people who don't live with their relatives. If they didn't live with their relative or their loved one or their elderly parent, they were spending 23.7 hours a week on caregiving duties. That was me when I was caregiving for my mom and my dad. So 37 plus hours if they lived with them, 23 plus hours if they didn't live with them in addition to working. So think about it If that person is working 40 hours full time in the United States, let's say it's 40 hours plus 37 plus hours of caregiving if they're living with them, or 23 plus hours if they were not living with them. My gosh, that's beyond thinkable sometimes to think about that, because I think about this. In addition to that is that if they had to work extra hours at work, or they had to work extra hours caregiving, that's unbelievable. That's 70, 80 hours a week working and devoting time to both their full time or part time job and caregiving. Then the survey went on to ask them what is their standard or the care that they most focused in on during that time, and so they gave us a list of the five top things that they spent most of their time working on, and this is a no specific order. Preparing meals for their loved one was one of their job responsibilities. Cleaning and performing household duties When you think about it, you're feeding your loved one, you're going ahead and doing the dishes, the laundry, cleaning the home, you know that kind of thing. And then another one was assisting their parent or their elderly loved one with their dress, their standard living stuff, their dress, their dressing, their bathing, whatever their daily health care routines are, to go ahead and make sure. And then, on top of it, the other one was transportation to and from medical appointments. You and I know that that's just not driving them there and driving them back. You and I know it's getting them into the doctor sitting in the waiting room, getting them into the sitting in with them during their doctor's appointments, getting them out if they're their wheelchair bound. It's a lot of work that way, whatever it would be. And then, which I found pretty interesting that I never thought about, the fifth one that they have listed here are activities designed for the loved one. That would not normal, that they would not normally do. And you want to think about the things outside of caregiving, just simple things like entertaining them, making sure that they're doing their physical therapy or their exercise in their home. They talked about reminiscent therapy, which might be things like pulling out the photo album or watching a movie, or getting them to think about and share stories of their past, crafts and projects, having entertaining them and having fun, and I think about that. That was probably 50% of what I did with my mom, because, especially seniors, they feel isolated. They need that social interaction as well. So when you look at the facts of this small but mighty survey, you are a caregiver putting in a heck of a lot of hours, right? If you were like me, i didn't have any time for myself. I envisioned myself. I'll share this in a minute. I want to one more point. People would ask me first, what are you doing on the weekend? Like we would have like a Friday meeting at work, or I go to the grocery store or bump into a friend and they're like happy Friday, what are your plans for the weekend? I would politely smile, grit my teeth and say something internal to myself and saying, oh, i just need this time to catch up and take care of mom, because you and I know caregiving is a 24 seven job. I want to use the visual, but sometimes it angers me. So if this doesn't bother you, i'm going to just share it. Envision yourself on a hamster wheel. Every day kind of feels the same. Sure, you might have to work Monday through Friday or Monday through Saturday and then you're caregiving at night, but then on the weekends you're working as well because you're trying to catch up with your home responsibilities. Maybe you're trying to get extra work in on your business or your job. You're going over to your parent home or you're taking care of your loved one on the things that you couldn't get done during the week, or you're chasing and getting groceries or whatever it would be. There is no break. There is no break Caregiving. There is no day off. There is no holiday time off. When you're caregiving, what I'm trying to get at is, sooner than later, that's backpack that you're carrying is overflowing when it comes to stress, when it comes to fatigue, when it comes to the things that you have to do, and sooner or later you can't carry it anymore. You can't carry it anymore. One of the things that, if you've been following me, i've been doing this six-month course with Mel Robbins. It's a group coaching program called LUNCH, and each and every day I get a journaling activity that I have to do with a video. And one day I got these questions asked of me so that we could take a step back and look at our processes and things that we were doing and were they really working for us, depending on what our project was or depending on what our goals were? So I want to read these because they relate to us in caregiving. When you wake up, how do you feel most mornings, especially after you carried that backpack all day long the day before? What are the emotions you feel when you wake up? What about your physical sensations? That, my friend, are good things to pay attention to when you wake up in the morning, because when you're overwhelmed, when you're stressed, when you're fatigued, your mornings don't feel good. Your mornings are struggles. I think about some mornings when I woke up. Everything felt hard. I mean, making my bed was hard, taking a shower was hard In the past I would just do what I needed to do And then the emotions and thoughts in your heads and your body aches, and whatever it would be. Those are signs that your backpack is too heavy. Another journaling prompt that I had and I flipped this a little bit and added caregiving into it was a question that was asked the following day What are some beliefs about your caregiving expectations that you are holding onto? Let me say it again since I flubbed it up What are some beliefs about your caregiving expectations that you are holding onto. What do you believe And what are you holding onto that maybe are only your expectations and not really your loved one's expectations, or not realistic expectations? This was a good exercise for me. I want you to really think about it And I'll put these two questions in the show notes, or two series of questions, so that you can go ahead and look at these a little bit more and make some more. You can take some time, because when you start looking at what your mornings look like and feel like and sound like, and then what beliefs are you holding onto and making an expectation for that really don't have to be you start getting some breakthroughs. My friend, it's not about being busy, but being focused and taking control of your time, becoming a master of your time. There will be times when you truly need to dig in. I call this grit time. There's going to be times where you have no other choice but you're going to have to figure out a way to carry that backpack or get a cart and carry that backpack because there's no other way. I think about the times my dad was in hospice, the times Dennis was in a stem cell transplant, the times where my mom needed extra care. There's grit time that you have no other choice, but caregiving isn't all like that. We have our peaks in our valleys, and when there is lower times of need for you or you have a little bit of breathing time or normalcy time, that's the time where you need to look at the grace and give yourself some grace, because if you are physically tired and beating yourself up all the time for things that you can't do, you can't focus in, you're not doing good enough. You deserve grace. You have to take a step back. You can't go on like this. You're going to burn out or you're maybe even in burnout. So then you have to face reality. How is it making you feel like you are doing it all and it's helping you? Let me rephrase it by saying when you put that much pressure on yourself to do it all, how does that feel? How does that really feel when you put so much pressure on yourself to do it all? My friend, i was there, i was there And I wanna talk about and this is really Kathy leaning into you over the table and being raw with you and being your best friend and best coach ever. Because there are two reasons caregivers are overwhelmed, stressed or call themselves busy, and I'm saying busy in a positive way, but in a way that I used to use I'm just busy. There's two reasons, first one being you believe all your worth is in what you do, what you accomplish and what you prove to people. Let me say it again You believe all your worth is in what you do, what you accomplish and what you prove to people. And I'm gonna break this one down in just a second. The second reason that you are really overwhelmed, stressed and feeling it is your nervous system is on edge and you don't even realize it. It's almost like you're in this panic and you just keep going and going and going and going and you're just ignoring it. And it's kind of like a person, like an athlete, that has an injury and they're just ignoring the injury because they're just gonna keep going and going and going and going and they're actually doing more harm than good. Okay, so let's break down the first one again Now. You believe all your worth is what you do, what you accomplish and what you prove to people. When I was asked this by a very close friend and a very good coach, it stung, it hurt, because it was the truth I believed. All of it was about what I did, what I did, what I accomplished and what I had to prove. I had to take a serious look at why I was doing it all, why I wanted to wear this badge of caregiving honor and wasn't open to finding help, finding efficiencies and lightening my stress backpack. To be honest, at first it was about the badge of pride for being this Wonder Woman caregiver, and my mom would feed me, my husband would feed me the comments by saying we're so lucky to have you. If it wasn't for you, kathy, i don't know what we would do, and I took pride in that. It was a promise I made that I believed that I had to do, but you know what That belief was. So not true. It costed me so much. It costed me tons and tons, and I'm gonna share those with you. I've never really spoke this much about it And I think this is part of my growth and my grief. But this is gonna be the raw side of Kathy, and I am not looking for sympathy, i am not looking for empathy, i'm not looking for anybody to come back and tell me a reason why I did it. I wanna tell you this because I want you to look at what you're doing today, and if you are doing something like this, i hope you reconsider some of the things that you're doing and maybe take some of those things out of your backpack and lighten that stress. And but what I wanna say first, though, is I wouldn't be on this podcast if I didn't experience this and make these life-changing issues. So it's a good thing, but also I wanna share. It was a bad thing. So, physically, let me share. Physically, i think I've shared a little bit about this, but I truly wrecked my gut health. I truly wrecked it, and I've been working on this now for years that my gut health because I didn't eat well, i let stress get to it, that sort of thing, and so it's gonna take me years to go back and get the healthy bacteria in my gut and take care of myself, and I'm on the road, but I know that I took many years to destroy it. It's gonna take many years to get better at it. Weight gain I mean, i gained 30 plus pounds in caregiving because of the stress, because of the way I didn't eat well, because of what I drank, everything from that perspective, and that's part of my gut health. That's part of why I became unhealthy. I had severe depression and was masking that and eventually had to go on medication. I had panic attacks and anxiety attacks that nobody knew about behind the scenes. I would have them in the shower. I would have them laying in bed at night. I was ashamed of them And I now know that that was my body's way of telling me Kathy, here's an alert, help yourself, do something. And I compromised my immune system. I ended up in the hospital several times because of it. One time I didn't know if I was going to make it out of the hospital because of it, and so I'm not telling this, like I said, for sympathy. I'm telling this because I want you to start listening to your body. Physically, mentally, i lost my confidence, lost my self-worth. I became an obsessive warrior, a doubter. I was angry and resentful. My poor husband had to listen to me bitch and moan all the time about little things And I was judgmental. And all of that, i lacked motivation and interest in the things that I love to do. Socially, i lost friends. I lost friends And I think it's part of the caregiving journey, but not part of the caregiving journey because I didn't want to go ahead and be with people because they knew me. They knew me. I look different from weight gain perspective. I talk different because my attitude and mindset were different. I was not a nice person to be around And I truly have been working now in the relationships with my kids as well, because I know that I wasn't there for them for many years. Isolation became my soothing place And the pandemic really was a help for me. It was like, okay, i don't have to leave, i can stay in my jammies all day and not have to talk to anybody, and I liked that piece. I thought that was my healing piece. But that was my escape. That wasn't helping me at all And I still feel anxiety and pressure now going to simple things and going to appointments and going out for lunch with a friend. I'm trying to heal from that. From a job perspective, i look back now and know that I missed promotions because of caregiving. I wasn't even recognized for them because I wasn't present at work or when I was present at work I wasn't doing my best work because I was tired, i was stressed, i was passed up for salary increases or I got the minimum amount. And I know you're going through a rough time and we're so sorry you have to. We wanna give you something, but we know blah, blah, blah kind of thing And you have that. I lost clients, i lost parts of my business because of the fact that I was so stressed and overwhelmed and I used to be so organized and so detail-oriented until the stress took over and I'm getting it back slowly and surely. Here's another one, and this one's hard for me to say, but I lost my Daisy girl. She was my nine-year-old black lab. That was my superpower. She was my soulmate from a for baby perspective, and I know that I was so distracted and stressed I didn't even recognize her symptoms until they were too late. And sure people could come back to me and saying that's part of life. But deep in my heart I know that if I would have been able to snuggle with her, if I would have been able to do more with her, i would have recognized it, and so that's a hard one to swallow for me. I missed events, i declined events. I didn't go to a lot of parties, i was numb and didn't enjoy Thanksgiving or Christmas or a lot of those things because they were an extra chore. That was just another thing that was in my backpack versus. I should have looked at that as like a place of celebration. I passed up on vacations that I easily could have taken and that would have gave me some respite time, which gets me to number two, and I promise I'll stop being a donor in just a minute I will, i promise. Gets me to number two, remember. Number two is your nervous system is on edge and you don't even realize it. Think about when you are in stress mode you keep going and going and going. It reminds me of when I was a waitress and when it was super busy and unbelievably crazy. You just kept going and going and going and you just let that stress just feed you. Well, when you keep going and going and going, i feel like stress and busy can be almost an addiction. I can't find any research on it, but I truly feel like once you're in caregiver stress, it becomes this addiction, meaning that your body is going to feed on it and it's going to want more and more and more and more. And then you, as a person, look for ways to cope with this Caffeine comfort food. Your body signals things and you might even Blurred out things that'll make you feel better. It is what it is, or I'm the only person that can do it, or Whatever it would be. I even found myself going. Yep, i'm gonna just focus on gratitude and journal gratitude. Don't get me wrong. It was one of the best things that I did, but it masked what the true feelings were, and so You begin to take on an attitude of this caregiver stress and you figure it out, and It affects you internally and externally, and so and if I think about that, it did for me too. At what cost? so your nervous system is in overdrive and is having a hard time running, and You may not be the nicest person to be around anymore, or you might be scattered, you might be moody, You might be angry, you may even look sick, or you may even I've resorted to just grabbing comfort clothes and throwing my hair in a bun and putting on very minimal makeup, and You just start believing that this is your life and you don't see any way out, and So that's kind of what I mean by the whole nervous system is on edge and you don't even realize it. Okay, enough of being that downer, enough of being that I Wouldn't be the person I am today without these experiences. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom. But what I don't want for you, my friend, is it to cost you Severely. I want you to be able to recognize it and take this information and start Figuring out how I'm going to carry this backpack and how much am I going to put in this backpack And where can I release some of this load. The good news is there is a solution. The good news is it is fixable. It starts, first of all, with an attitude and a mindset that gets you to think like You are a caregiver boss, you are a caregiver manager or you are the primary caregiver, whatever you want that to be. Think about it. If you are the primary caregiver and You think like a boss, think like that leader going up the mountain with the three other partners with them that leader doesn't carry the whole thing. The leader doesn't go ahead and Put all that weight in their backpack. When you think like a leader and or an owner or a primary caregiver, you take the weight off your backpack and you distribute it amongst a team, or you distribute The tasks that you have, or you're at that bottom of the mountain and you determine Do we really need to go ahead and take this along or can we live without it? That sort of thing. So you go ahead and focus in on the priorities that you need to do and what others can help you with, and It comes down to finding your resources and your team and then managing the process So that your loved one gets that quality care, and that's the top priority. What happens when you do that, as your relationship with your loved one improves and your quality time is there and you learn to show up as As as your best self, with an act of self-love, it's ultimately learning to love yourself through the actions you do for yourself. It's ultimately that, when you're fueled by this, knowing you're worthy of Self-love, that's the feel you need to be an effective caregiver, that primary caregiver for this long caregiving journey. So what would it take to get to this leader, primary level of caregiving? What would it take? Well, my friend, i'm gonna share with you what I think it takes. The ideal situation would be to start from your new caregiver and Kathy's right at your doorstep, and I'm going to go ahead and saying the first thing that you have to do is Figure out how much you're going to go ahead and do yourself And how much you need help with and what their efficiencies are. That would be. The ideal thing is to have like a caregiving onboarding 101. Well, we know that that's truly not the way it goes. Most of us are just thrown into caregiving and we just are in the midst of it right now and most of us don't Go ahead and look at this until we're in overwhelm state. So we need to take a step back and look at The first thing. The first thing is identifying your stress. Thinking about your backpack and are you? Do you have sore shoulders? Are you slumped over Caring too much? is the backpack off your back and you're dragging it because you can't do it anymore? You have to identify your stress and I have this great resource for you that You can go ahead and work through. It's called the 17 Shifts to reduce caregiver stress and stay and say goodbye to caregiver burnout, and this is really a huge resource where you can understand your caregiver stress and find Practices to reduce it. So I want you to go out and download this free guide, which is, i think, over 20 pages, but you can download it and you can work through it. Go to cathylvan. com and take some time to go through it. I want you to identify where you're at with your caregiver stress. Once you do this, that's the first step. Then I want you to take a seriously, seriously take a serious look at your caregiver role. I want you to look at your role. I want you to ask yourself Why am I doing this? What is the reason I'm caregiving for my parents? That's the reason I told them I would be there for them So they got the best possible care. Then I want you to ask yourself What does it look like If you took a step back? What is the caregiving look like for you and how should you show up? Because if you're looking at it and we had this magical A snow globe and I looked at you through the snow globe and I could see you doing everything. I Would say my friend, you're doing too much, your backpack is too heavy. This may require you to find a friend. This might require you to find licensed help, like a therapist or a counselor, or finding a community to go ahead and help you The Caregiver Cup Circle maybe. Yeah, finding a community where you can go ahead and take a seriously, seriously, what is it with? seriously, take a really hard look at your caregiver role and saying what should I be doing? How should I show up? How am I showing up right now? And I what I don't want to do. Then, once you really look at it, then you take one step and you figure out how can I take something out of my backpack and lessen that load. What could I do? It could be help. It could be efficiency. It could be a restructure. Think about a caregiver, take about take. Think about a leader. How many times do they restructure their team, restructure their responsibilities? What could you do? It could be something as simple as I'm going to order groceries. From now on, i'm not going to take this hour every day, i'm going to order the groceries so that buys me time for myself, whatever it could be or it could be, you know, bringing in the family and creating a calendar and rotating whatever it would be. Start small. One thing. What I've learned is when you do one thing at a time and you commit to this one thing at a time for two to four weeks, you can go ahead then and measure to see if it's working or not. Because if you just go ahead and say I'm going to do this, this, this and this, it's too overwhelming, maybe I go ahead and saying, okay, i'm going to ask my brother to go ahead and take my mom to hair appointments And I'm going to see if this is going to work. And that's what I did at one point. I did, and so he agreed to take mom on Fridays for her hair appointments. After two sessions I kind of asked mom, how is it working? What's it doing? My mom felt guilt and shame for it, so we had to talk about that. And then my brother said, well, i can't make it every week. Well, then I pulled in the grandkids, we found a rotation, and so it may have to be massaged and work through. And that's just a small example. But when you start small, it will feel uncomfortable, you will feel shame or guilt or pushback, but you focus in on the facts, you focus in on the time that you're getting and what you're doing with that time, why you want to lower your stress. When you do that, you might have to get creative too, because maybe when you take your mom to the appointment, or my brother took my mom to her hair appointment, i now had two hours on a Friday And instead of putting in more work, i use that as my personal time. I use that as my decompression time. I went ahead and did that And so I got creative of what I did with that, versus putting another thing in my backpack And I want to go ahead and say and I explained this already but when you stop after maybe a couple weeks and assess it, talk to your loved one, talk to that person and say how is it working? Do you think it's something we can sustain Or do we have to go ahead and kind of think of a different way? It becomes easier. Your team starts buying in with you. You start forming a relationship, you start going ahead and saying, and then you start showing gratitude and you start saying thank you. You don't believe how much this is going to help me, because now I can go ahead and focus in on getting my work done on Friday, so I don't have to pull out my laptop and finish my work project on Saturday morning at 5am, whatever You can think about that, because caregiving is a marathon. It's a marathon. It's not something where we're only doing it a month or two. Usually we're doing it for a long haul. Now there are some exceptions, but most of us are doing it for the long run. So pay attention to when that backpack starts getting heavy, when it becomes too heavy to carry, when it starts feeling like I have to figure out what to do. Think about when you have a backpack or a purse and you go ahead and dump everything out of it and you clean it. You can't believe that you have things in there that oh my gosh, there's an empty gum wrap or with gum in it inside of my purse, or I have a melted chocolate, piece of dark chocolate in there, or I have Kleenex's that been used in there. When you clean it out, how good that feels. And then you start organizing it and you know where things are and you know what you want to keep and you know what you don't want to keep. That's what it's about, my friend. It's about going ahead and looking at how am I doing today as a caregiver? What can I do to go ahead and manage this stress so it doesn't cost me physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually, relationship-wise, whatever it would be, and when I do that I'm going to feel so much better. It's not going to be easy, but it is a way to go ahead and be that leader, that primary caregiver, and then you're going to be so proud of yourself, you're going to have the self-worth, you're going to have the confidence, you're going to go ahead and lead like a leader. So I hope you found this episode informational and helpful for you. I would love to hear from you and I'd love to hear both sides What is caregiving costing you right now And what are you going to do to lighten that stress backpack load, or what systems or help have you implemented now that you can now carry that stress backpack? Because we know stress is going to be there, but it shouldn't go ahead and hurt your back. It shouldn't go ahead and feel like you have to go ahead and stop and take breaks to carry it. You should be able to go ahead and take and distribute some of that to a system or an efficiency or a person, or talking with somebody about the emotions and feelings and thoughts that you have. That shouldn't weigh you down. So you have a good rest of the day and remember this podcast is all about thinking about yourself and putting yourself in the spot where you can be a successful caregiver, and that caregiving cannot start until you start taking and putting yourself first. Bye for now.

Managing Caregiver Stress
Insights on Family Caregiving Responsibilities
The Cost of Caregiving Stress
Reducing Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Self-Care for Caregivers