Caregiving demands can be overwhelming and often exhausting, especially if you feel that you have very little control over the situation.
In this blog post, we are going to take you through the steps that you can take to manage stress and regain balance and joy back into your life.
What is caregiver burnout?
Although caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, it also involved stressors. As caregiving is often long-term (years or even decades), the emotional challenges challenges can take its toll over time.
Often, it can feel very disheartening when you feel that there isn’t any hope that your family member will get better or if, despite your best efforts, attention love and care, their condition gradually deteriorates.
If the stress of caregiving builds up over time, it can start to have an impact on your health, relationships and even your state of mine, which can lead to burnout – a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. Reaching this stage can result in both you and your loved one suffering.
This is why it is very important to take very good care of yourself. Looking after your own emotional and physical health is just as important as looking after your loved one.
Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout
Recognising the signs of caregiver stress and burnout is very important, so that you can take the necessary action to prevent things from escalating, and instead, you can focus on improving the situation for yourself and for your loved one.
Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty sleeping
- Anxiety, depression and/or irritability
- Overreacting to minor incidences
- New or worsening health problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- An increase in resentment
- Drinking, smoking, or eating more
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout
- Your energy levels are considerably less compared to what you had before
- You tend to catch frequent colds or illnesses going around quicker than once before
- You’re feeling constantly exhausted, often napping or frequently take breaks
- Your needs are neglected, because you no longer have the time of you no longer have the motivation
- You no longer feel the same level of satisfaction from caregiving
- You have trouble relaxing
- You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
- You feel extremely helpless and hopeless
Although caring for a loved one won’t always be stress-free, these tips can help you to avoid the symptoms of caregiver burnout.
1. Avoid caregiver burnout by feeling empowered
The number one contributor to burnout and depression is the feeling of hopelessness. As a caregiver, it can be quite easy to fall into this feeling, especially if you feel stuck in a role you didn’t expect or when you unable to change things for the better. No matter the circumstances, you aren’t powerless, especially when it comes to your state of mind.
Below we share 6 different ways you can empower yourself as a caregiver:
- Acceptance: You may often find that you feel a sense of unfairness of a loved one’s illness or the burden of caregiving. You may often ask yourself “why?”. However, spending a lot of energy dwelling on things that you can’t change and for things that you aren’t able to get answers for, won’t help you to feel better. Avoid the emotional trap of looking for someone to blame or feeling sorry for yourself.
- View caregiving as a choice: Acknowledge that you have made a conscious choice to provide care to your loved one. Focusing on the positive reasons behind that choice will help to alleviate any resentment or burdens that you feel. Acknowledging this can help you to develop meaningful reasons and motivations that can help you sustain yourself through difficult times.
- Look for the silver lining: List the ways that caregiving has made you stronger as a person, and how it has enabled you to grow closer to the person that you’re taking care of.closer to the person you’re taking care of. View yourself as the primary carer for your loved one that is working hard to enable your loved one to enjoy their life through your support and love.
- Find a balance: When other areas of your life are more rewarding, it can make accepting difficult situations a lot easier, therefore it’s very important not to lose interest in the activities that gives you meaning and purpose, whether it’s your family, friends, career or your favourite hobby.
- Focus on the things you can control: Rather than focusing on things that you can’t control, focus on how you choose to react to problems. Take time out every so often to allow yourself the headspace to breathe if things get on top of you.
- Celebrate the happy moments: If you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself that all your efforts matter as you are making a different to the life of your loved on. Acknowledge that you are making your loved one feel safe, comfortable and loved.
Feeling appreciated can go a long way toward not only accepting a stressful situation but enjoying life more.
Studies show that caregivers who feel appreciated experience greater physical and emotional health. Caregiving actually makes them happier and healthier, despite its demands. There are key things that you can do if the person you’re caring for is no longer able to feel or show their appreciation for your efforts:
- Picture how your loved one would respond if they were able to: If your loved one wasn’t ill or in pain, remind yourself of how your loved one would feel about the love and care that you’re providing.
- Celebrate your efforts: If you aren’t receiving external validation, find ways to celebrate them by rewarding yourself. You can create a list of all the ways that your caregiving is making a difference to your loved one’s life. Refer back to this list when you start to feel low or lose motivation.
- Seek support from a family member or friend: You can receive positive reinforcement from friends and family who will listen to your thoughts and feelings and who will acknowledge your efforts.
2. Ask for help and support
Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance can cause caregiver burnout. Here are 6 ways that you can avoid caregiver burnout:
- Consider respite care: If you have friends and family who live near you, ask for help. This can include helping you with the weekly shop, or bringing a cooked meal, or giving you a well-deserved break to take the time out for yourself. If you do not have friends or family who live near you, you can seek support from respite care services.
- Voice your concerns: Without voicing your concerns, thoughts and feelings, your friends and family members will not know how you’re feeling. Being upfront about what’s going on with you and the person you care for will help other to better support you during times of difficulty. If you have concerns, or you require support in how to improve the situation, voice them, even if you’re unsure of how they’ll be received.
- Share responsibility: It’s important to involve as many family members as possible. Even members who live far away can help in some way. You may want to consider dividing the caregiving tasks.
- Create a regular check-in: Ask a family member or friend to call you at a regular time that works for all of you. This will help to spread the tasks required and better coordinate them with other family members.
- Always say “yes” when assistance is offered: Don’t feel guilty for accepting help. Allow people to supporting you when the help is offered, as this can help to take the pressure off of you and alleviate stress.
- Be willing to give away some control: Trying to control every aspect of care can cause tension between yourself and those who are willing to support you. Try to give up some level of control to enable others to support you through the period of caregiving.
3. Give yourself a break
As a busy caregiver, having time for yourself may seem like an impossible luxury. However, it’s very important to schedule in time for yourself to rest and do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. It will not only help you alleviate stress and prevent caregiver burnout, it will also help you to be a better caregiver for it.
There’s a huger difference between being productive and being busy. Taking time-off regularly to recharge your batteries will help you to accomplish more in the long run. The break will help you to feel more energetic and focused on providing the best care to your loved one.
- Maintain personal relationships: It’s important to sustain relationships and friendships with friends and family. Don’t allow yourself to get lost in caregiving as this can lead to feelings of isolation which can lead to depression over a long period of time. If it’s difficult to leave the house, invite your friends and family over to visit with you as often as possible.
- Share your feelings: As previously mentioned earlier in this blog post, sharing and expressing your feelings can be very cathartic. It’s important to not feel like a burden to others when you are expressing your feelings. Confiding in them will help them to better understand what you are going through, which can often result in the additional support that you need to care for your loved one.
- Partake in activities that you enjoy: Making time for hobbies and actives that you enjoy can help you cope with the stress of caregiving. Whether it’s working in the garden, exercising or reading, taking the time out for yourself can help you to maintain a sense of self, purpose and enjoyment in your life.
- Look after yourself: Looking after yourself in small ways can go a long way towards alleviating stress and boosting your spirits. It can be as simple as taking a long bath, or lighting a candle of your favourite scent.
- Get out of the house often: Take the opportunity given to you by friends, family and respite care providers to give you time away from the home.
5. Take care of your own health
Think of your body as a machine. A good working machine requires the right fuel source and frequent and proper maintenance to run reliably. Neglecting your body will result in your inability to handle stress, low energy levels, low mood and can even cause long-term health problems.
- Ensure your keeping on top of your health: It’s easy to forget about your own health when you’re busy looking after your loved one. It’s important to maintain good health in order to be in the best physical and emotional form to be able to look after your loved one.
- Exercise: Following on from the previous point, it is important to exercise at least three times a week. Exercise is a great and powerful mood enhancer and stress reliever. Aim for exercising for 30 minutes at a minimum as this will help you to boost your energy levels and combat fatigue.
- Practice meditation: Practicing meditation or relaxation techniques on a daily basis can help you to relieve stress and boost your mood. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxations can help you to combat feeling overwhelmed.
- Eat healthy and wholesome food: It’s important to nourish your body with fresh vegetables, fruit, healthy fats such as fish and nuts and lean protein to fuel you with steady energy. Avoid sugar and caffeine – which can provide a quick boost in energy levels, but it’ll also cause you to crash even quicker.
- Maintain good sleep hygiene: Lack of sleep can be counterproductive because it will result in less energy, low mood levels which can have a negative impact on your productivity and your ability to handle stress.
6. Join a caregiver support group
Caregiver support groups are a great way to connect with people who are going through similar experiences as you.
Most support groups enable you to share your problems and listen to others who are experiencing their own struggles. Support groups help you to feel a part of a group of people who, through their own experiences, share their knowledge or invaluable tips for caring for someone with the same illness as your loved one.
If you require support, you can contact us to speak to a member of our specialist team that will endeavour to help and support your through your journey as a carer.