April is Stress Awareness Month. The month is a national effort to raise awareness about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress. In honor of Stress Awareness Month, we wanted to give some tips for caregivers who may be dealing with stress from caring for a dying loved one.

It’s no secret that being a caregiver for a loved one during the dying process is emotionally exhausting and often the source of chronic stress as you spend months focused on caring for someone as you slowly watch them pass away. Caregivers give their all to their loved ones and provide care in every sense, from physical to mental, emotional and spiritual— and everything in between. This selfless act is taxing and can cause depression and anxiety. Here are some ways to cope:

Recognize the Stress

As you go through the caregiving process, learn when to recognize the symptoms of stress and when they are beginning to interfere with your everyday life. According to the American Medical Association Guidelines, you should stop and take a step back if you start experiencing any of the following:

  • A change in sleeping patterns— either sleeping too much or too little.
  • If you are not making time to eat or you are overeating 
  • Experiencing mood swings, irritability, and feelings of anger.
  • Increased anxiety that won’t go away.

If you begin to notice any of the above symptoms, ask a trusted friend or family member to step in and help with your duties— even for a few days so you can practice some self-care and rest. Experts suggest that tending to your own needs can help prevent caregiving stress and burnout.

Organize Your Tasks

Time management is key to successfully managing your caregiving duties and balancing them with your other needs. If you are feeling overwhelmed with all of your mounting and often conflicting responsibilities, try breaking the everyday challenges into smaller tasks, and try to take each task as it comes. Time blocking is an extremely popular method these days where you set out chunks of time to work on tasks and move on to the next when your timer runs out.

Make Time for Yourself 

We understand that it can be hard to fathom even thinking about your needs during the dying process of a loved one. But, it is vital to keep yourself healthy, happy, and able to continue your caregiving duties. Wake up earlier to get a walk-in before work or go on a walk at night when your duties are done, pick up your favorite book, take a yoga class, a bubble bath— whatever your favorite form of self-care is, you need to make time for yourself more now than ever before. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.