That said, I have some suggestions to try in conjunction with help from a counselor or therapist to help head off caregiver burnout. I would suggest that you see where you can minimize your workload. Your mother wants nobody else with her but you, but she may not realize that you need to take care of yourself, too, and that if you have help taking care of her, it may increase your ability to take care of yourself, which will enable you to have more stamina to care for her. Also, your grandchildren need you, and your marriage needs to remain strong, so if you are able to find some practical help with your mother, everyone should benefit. Often people can find support from services for seniors through their religious communities and in other places in the local community.
It's also vital that you build some stress management strategies into your day and carve out a little time for yourself. This may sound unrealistic when you're already pushed to your limit, but there are several stress relievers that are quick, and those that take a few minutes out of your schedule can supply you with enough of a mental and emotional break that you might have more energy to meet everyone's needs -- including your own.
Here are some suggestions to try:
Breathing ExercisesBreathing is one of my favorite stress relief strategies, as it can be done anytime, anywhere, and is free. You can utilize your stress relief breathing even as you're dealing with stressors throughout your day, and minimize the effects of chronic stress. Here's more about the benefits of breathing exercises, and a breathing exercise to try.
MeditationMindfulness and meditation have been proven to bring many health benefits and relieve stress. Meditation takes some time on a regular basis, but can have powerful results -- it can not only relieve stress that you're feeling in the moment, but can help you to become less reactive to stress you experience in the future. Mindfulness is a way of bringing meditation into your daily life, and can be a good solution for those who feel they have no time for meditation. Read more about meditation and mindfulness here.
ExerciseGetting regular exercise is a wonderful way to take care of yourself and keep stress levels low. Not only does it keep you fit and in shape, but exercise can supply a break from your stress, an outlet for frustrations, can get you into a meditative state, and help metabolize your body's stress hormones, thereby minimizing the effects of chronic stress. Here's some more on the benefits of exercise, and here are some exercises for busy people.
Social SupportSocial support has been linked not only to the relief of stress, but to better health, greater longevity, and increased life satisfaction, among other benefits. Having a little support can be crucial in getting through a crisis or managing long-term stress, like what you're facing. Getting practical support -- help with things like meals and caregiving tasks -- can free up time and energy (thus relieving feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed), while getting emotional support can help you relieve emotional stress. Talking to friends and family and asking for help, utilizing available services in your community, getting help from online and in-person support groups, and talking to a counselor, therapist, or even life coach or doctor are all ways of getting social support. If you're feeling suicidal or seriously overwhelmed, you can call a crisis hotline; try 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255 in the United States.
Here are more general suggestions for stress relief for caregivers.
Take care, and please let us know how you're doing.
Rao K, Apte M, Subbakrishna DK. Coping and Subjective Wellbeing in Women with Multiple Roles. The International Journal of Social Psychiatry September 2003.
Rimmele U, Seiler R, Marti B, Wirtz PH, Ehlert U, Heinrichs M. The level of physical activity affects adrenal and cardiovascular reactivity to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. October 13, 2008.
Van Dixhoorn, Jan. Whole-Body Breathing: A Systems Perspective on Respiratory Retraining. In Lehrer, Paul; Woolfolk, Robert; Sime, Wesley. Principles and Practice of Stress Management, Third Edition. (pp. 291-332). New York, New York: The Guilford Press.