6 Tips to Help the Exhausted Caregiver Stay Alert

A caregiver sits in a coffee shop trying to stay alert in order to go back to his caregiving tasks.

Contributed by Nora Stasio

When you’re a full-time caregiver, vacation days are few and far between. For many of us, weekends are exactly the same as weekdays. It’s easy to become exhausted after days, weeks, and months of the same busy routine. And when that fatigue sets in, it affects your brain. You may begin to find you’re not thinking as clearly as you used to. But that’s understandable – no, you’re not going crazy! You’re just worn out.

Here are 6 tips that should help tired caregivers stay alert and feel more energized in order to competently care for loved ones.

1. Checklists and Schedules

This might seem obvious, but writing checklists and schedules can be extremely helpful. Every night before bed, try to come up with a list of important tasks that need to be tackled the next day. Then, turn that list into a schedule. See if you can plan out the quickest route to complete every task. Write all of this down in a notebook or type it into your smart device. Having a ‘checklist’ or ‘reminder’ app can sometimes be a lifesaver. Having to retain all that info inside your brain, with no point of reference, will only add to your stress. Take care of the planning the night before, because once the day gets going there might not be a moment to think clearly and productively.


2. Healthy Alternative Caffeine Sources 

When most of us are tired, our first instinct is to drink coffee. It makes sense and falls easily into a routine, but you don’t want to overdo it on any one substance. You can get caffeine and natural energy from other sources, like tea and dark chocolate. As an added bonus, both are high in super-healthy antioxidants.

Studies show that green tea in particular is full of beneficial nutrients, including those that support memory and overall brain function. One cup a day will do you a lot of good. Also try some dark chocolate – it typically contains more antioxidants and less added-sugars than milk chocolate. These antioxidants work to detoxify the body by eliminating free radicals. With all that ickiness out of your system, you should feel lighter and more focused.


3. Water and Vitamins

 Dehydration is a leading cause of fatigue. Drinking a full bottle of purified water can enhance mood, increase energy, and improve cognitive performance. Make sure you have plenty of water bottles on hand as you go through your day in order to stay alert. Pack enough for yourself, as well as those you care for.

And while you’re drinking all that water, why not swallow a multivitamin? If your body is lacking in any important nutrients, you may be not feeling as strong or thinking as clearly as you could be. Reduce stress and encourage detoxification by taking a daily multivitamin that suits your particular needs.


4. Eat Small Frequent Meals.

You don’t want to go hungry for too long, because your blood sugar and energy levels begin to drop as a result from a lack of food in the system. Also, eating a meal that’s too large, rich, or heavy has the effect of weighing you down and making you sleepier. Try grazing throughout the day on healthy items to give you frequent bursts of energy. You don’t need to eat more than a paper cup’s worth of food when you plan to eat 4-6 times a day.  Maybe the night before, you can pack yourself 5 small tupperware containers with different snack combos inside, like nuts and fruit, veggies and hummus, rice cakes and cheese, etc. You might also want to fix a salad. Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and spinach are considered “brain foods,” packed with the kinds of nutrients that can help you stay alert on a long day.


5. Stretch Throughout The Day.

It’s no secret that fatigue can take it’s toll on your joints and muscles. If you’ve been having any aches and pains, do yourself a favor: have a good stretch once, or even several times a day. Shake up your body, get that blood flowing, and your brain will wake up too. This is just one of many reasons people swear by yoga, so you may want to try that!


6. Don’t Multitask.

It may seem like a good idea, but experts argue, multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. When your brain is attempting to focus on two tasks at once, neither task can receive your full attention. As a result, performance on both tasks suffers and the outcome is sub-standard. Plus, it actually increases stress on your brain to have to split focus. If you’re already tired as it is, you shouldn’t be making things harder for yourself. Doing too much at once can leave you feeling overwhelmed with frustration. Focus on doing one thing at a time, and doing it right. Then cross that one task off your list, probably quicker than you would have if you were multi-tasking, and move on with your day.


For more healthy tips, check out my previous article, “7 Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Stress While Caring for Others.”