Updated: Oct 6, 2022
By Rosanne Burke
Caregiver burnout is common. In order to prevent burnout from happening to you, you must first understand what burnout is and be able to recognize the signs.
According to Merriam-Webster, burnout is “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” In other words, you feel like you can’t go on as a result of the situation that you’re living in. Stress and frustration are common elements of the caregiving experience.
Here are some signs to watch for:
1. Caregiving has become your whole life. You do very little else outside of caregiving.
2. You always feel tired or exhausted even if you do manage to get a good night’s sleep.
3. You get sick often.
4. You worry about the future.
5. You’re not eating well.
6. Your emotions are all over the map. You get angry one minute and burst into tears the next.
7. You think you can do everything yourself and turn down help from others.
8. You cancel your own doctor’s appointments because you don’t have time.
9. You think you’re the only one that can provide care to your loved one.
10. You don’t stop to think about the impact that caregiving may be having on you.
If any of the above sound familiar, you may be headed towards burnout. It’s important to get help before it’s too late. As the expression goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
What can you do to avoid caregiver burnout? Try these suggestions.
Build a team. Find people in your community who can help you. Are there family, friends, volunteers, church members, or paid agency workers that can help with chores and errands, or spend time with the person you care for so you can get some respite time? It’s important to recognize early on that caregiving is a marathon not a sprint. You can’t do it alone.
Exercise. You have heard it before but it bears repeating. There is probably nothing better that you can do for your physical and mental health than a 30 minute walk in the park, dance class or laps in the pool.
Take a break, relax, and make time to do the things you enjoy. If you don’t think that you have the time, start with 10 minute breaks and go from there. Read a good book, listen to your favorite music, step outside and enjoy the fresh air. Make ‘me’ time a priority.
Be your own best friend. Accept that the laundry doesn’t have to be done every day. It’s okay to buy some readymade meals. Maybe you can hire someone to help with the housework. Give yourself a break and let go of trying to have everything perfect all of the time.
See your doctor. Get a regular checkup. Don’t skip your own medical appointments with the excuse that you’re too busy. It’s important to get regular blood pressure checks and bloodwork done.
The stress of caregiving is real. What would you add to this list to help avoid burnout? Do have self-care strategies that have worked for you? Share them with us. We would love to from you!