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When Parenting Causes Caregiver Stress

caregiver stress and burnout

Co-Dependency

When Parenting Causes Caregiver Stress

Stressed Dad, Adobe

When Parenting Causes Caregiver Stress

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The Peace Corps was wrong. Parenting is the toughest job you'll ever love.  Many of today's parents are often more involved than ever. Even healthy parents, who aren't affected by addiction and the horrible dance of enabling, get exhausted. Throw addiction into the mix, and it's a miracle that we even get out of bed in the morning.

We prevent, advocate, and educate. Some of us are even getting seconds on parenting by raising grandkids. We work hard to do our best, but we crash even harder. When we crash, who's left standing to pick us up?

Parenting Is Exhausting

When the kids are little, it's exhausting. They never sleep. And they cry for any number of reasons. What worked to sooth them yesterday no longer works today.

When the kids are teens, it's exhausting. They always sleep. And they cry for any number of reasons. What worked to sooth them yesterday no longer works today and you can feel them hating you from across the room.

When they are adults, they're still your kids. They're out there on their own, making their own choices and you have no control. Until they move back in with you. Then they're in your house, still making their own choices and you don't have as much control as you think.

In addition to caring for our children, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 44.4 Million Americans provide unpaid care for another adult. They found that one in three caregivers suffer from depression.

What Is Caregiver Stress?

Per Helpguide.org, most caregivers suffer from one or more of these symptoms:

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Overreacting to minor nuisances
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling increasingly resentful
  • Drinking, smoking, or eating more
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Cutting back on leisure activities

Operating under prolonged periods of intense stress puts you at risk for burnout. In recovery, we learn that accepting unacceptable behavior also leads to burnout.

Burnout is a normal response to the imbalance of giving too much of your assets: time, money, love, and energy to others and not enough to yourself.

You may be burnout if:

  • You have much less energy than you once had.
  • It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around.
  • You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break.
  • You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore.
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction.
  • You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available.
  • You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for.
  • You feel helpless and hopeless.

Relieving caregiver stress has one answer: Take a Break! We know we need to, but we refuse. Why?

Four Reasons Why We Settle For Stressed

We may check every box on the burnt-out list, yet many of us still won't give up. Why? Perhaps one of these 4 reasons apply to you:

  1. Martyrdom - A contemporary definition of martyrdom is, "A display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration." Sometimes the sympathy of exhaustedly caring for another person is the only attention we get.
  2. Fear and Distrust - For adult children of alcoholics or survivors of child abuse, it is almost impossible to ask for help. We are afraid to trust anyone with our feelings, problems, and especially our children.
  3. Addicted to Drama - Drama brings a surge of hormones to which our body can become addicted.
  4. Shame - Raising a rebellious teen isn't something everyone wants to talk about. Living with addiction is particularly isolating.

What Will Make Us Stop?

We are not machines. We're people with limitations. We can either do the required preventative maintenance or our bodies will shut down.

That's what happened to me. When I was 37, my doctor told me I had adrenal fatigue, and I scoffed. I thought it was some fru-fru diagnosis and continued charging through life. I didn't slow down or ask for help. Nor did I hire a sitter so I could have a break from my small child. My husband and I didn't go on date nights, and I didn't take time for myself.

When I was 40, I was hit with excruciating abdominal pain and eventually ended up in the ER. My pain was caused by a large adrenal tumor! After a painful surgery and exhausting recovery, I was forced to stop.

Today, I am slowly getting better about taking time for myself. Recovery teaches me to live one day at a time and enjoy life. I now know many of my past behaviors were caused by my codependency. Sometimes, I still do too much, but when my body insists on a time out, I can embrace the break.


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Pam is the author of two books: Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and Find Your True Colors In 12 Steps. She's also a contributing editor for Reach Out Recovery. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.

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