Caregivers often focus so intently on the needs of the individual receiving care that they may neglect their own health and wellness
Being a caregiver can be one of the most fulfilling jobs and although it has its positives, it can also have its negatives too. It is vital that you find a balance between caring for your loved one / client and maintaining your own mental, physical and emotional health. Without finding this balance, you will be at a risk of developing what’s known as “caregiver burnout”.
Feeling exhausted, unmotivated, constantly frustrated, and forgetful as well as having problems at work or with relationships are all signs of caregiver burnout,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, a New York-based therapist specializing in anxiety and depression
This can interfere not only with your ability to care for your loved one / client but it is also hazardous for your own health, raising the risk of chronic depression, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and premature death. Very often, caregivers can find themselves accustomed to the routine stress, worry and discomfort that comes with providing care for a loved one. And as a result, you may not acknowledge the warning signs of your own need for support.
Warning Signs include:
You no longer find pleasure in things you once found enjoyable, or you have no motivation to participate in previously enjoyed activities
Friends and family have expressed concerns about your well-being
You’re getting negative feedback at work
You're having problems with your spouse
You experience intense and recurrent feelings of anger, sadness, worry or fear
You have difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, notice drastic weight changes (significant gain or loss), or unexplained health problems
You find yourself using a substance to cope with, manage or suppress uncomfortable or painful feelings
Darren Sush, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst put together a list signals caregivers should know that indicate they’re at risk for developing caregiver burnout in the near future. These include:
Regular thoughts of anger or resentment toward the person you’re caring for
Irritation toward others who aren’t helping with your loved one’s care (both those directly related to the person receiving care, and those who aren’t involved)
Isolating yourself from people who aren’t involved in providing care to the person
Consistently arriving late to appointments or to visiting the person receiving care, or often leaving early
If you read the above and have found yourself relating to the above then it is time to take action in combating how you feel.
Here are some expert strategies to assist you in combating caregivers burnout:
Embrace gratitude. Make a daily gratitude list by writing down 10 things you’re grateful for. This could include anything from your family, legs to walk on or even a TV show you find entertaining. Focusing on what is good in your life as opposed to what is "going wrong with your loved one's health" helps relieve stress.
Read affirmations every morning. “Starting your day with positivity kick starts your day on the right foot,” says Hershenson.
Start the day with you. Hershenson says having a morning routine with time to yourself (going to the gym, having your daily coffee while reading the newspaper or stretching for 10 minutes) is crucial to fending off mental stress and fatigue.
Practice acceptance. Make a list of what you can control in the situation (getting enough sleep, eating well) and what you can't control (your loved one's health). Focus on what you can control to make changes where needed and try to accept the things that are out of your control.
“Self-care needs to be a top priority when caring for another person, otherwise neither the caregiver or the one receiving care will thrive,”
To find out more about caregiver burnout and how to combat it, take a look at the links below.