Caregiver Stress Syndrome (CSS) is a syndrome found in caregivers involving pathological, morbid changes in physiological and psychological function. This syndrome can be the result of acute or chronic stress, directly as a result of caregiving activities.
The Reality of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout and fatigue are very real. Many parents struggle through this overwhelming fatigue on their own simply because they may not recognize the many symptoms they are experiencing as something legitimate. Regular respite may be at at a minimum, too infrequent to lift the physiological and psychological stress that accumulates often leading to depression.
Unfortunately, most of the information out there is for caregivers working with aging parents. Little is discussed about the role of caregiver strain on parents of children with special needs.
Although I have a background in mental health nursing, my first suggestion is not always medication. I lean toward suggestions with a more holistic and natural approach.
When we are buried in the care of our special needs children (with many of us bearing the added responsibility of caring for our aging parents), we tend to neglect our basic needs. One of those neglected basic needs is may be an inadequate diet, leaving us depleted in essential nutrients that enhance neurotransmitter function thus contributing to an altered mood. The following is a list of nutrient co-factors that enhance neurotransmitter function:
- B-complex vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
- Essential fatty acids (omega-3’s)
- L-theanine (amino acid)
- Cysteine (amino acid)
A comprehensive and integrative approach offers improved symptom resolution. Finding an integrative health care practitioner who will evaluate your history and physical and coordinate care for your individual needs is indeed a challenge. If you cannot find one, here are some options to explore:
- Talk therapy / counseling
- Body work methods, such as craniosacral therapy (CST), osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT), chiropractic, therapeutic massage
- Acupuncture, auriculotherapy
- Herbal remedies, such as St. John’s wort, passionflower, valerian, aromatherapy
- Targeted amino acid support , such as SAM-e , 5-hydroxytryptophan, GABA
- Nutritional supplements, e.g., vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids
Making changes in your daily life can make help make an impact. Here are our suggestions to get started.
- Eat a low glycemic-load diet with adequate protein and vegetables. This may be easy for families already on the GF diet.
- Start a high-quality multivitamin-mineral regime, including omega-3’s (EPA and DHA).
- Have your vitamin D level tested regularly and, depending on your levels, expose your skin safely to the sun or supplement with vitamin D accordingly.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Exercise 4–6 times a week for 30–60 minutes, preferably outdoors.
- Avoid alcohol and other recreational drugs, opting instead for drug-free relaxation methods such as transcendental meditation, yoga, or qi gong.
Shift the focus off others if only for a brief time and put that focus back on you. Think about how your current circumstances may be affecting your outlook on life. Ask yourself if you are adequately nourishing your body, mind and spirit? If so, does it help you feel better or worse? Are you sleeping well? Are you eating right? When you get free time, who are you spending time with or how are you spending that time?
Be gentle with yourself and take time to discover what feels right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.