How to Tell if You're Experiencing Burnout
Here are some of the most common tell-tale signs of caregiver burnout:
- Sudden changes to eating or sleeping patterns
- Overwhelming fatigue, forgetfulness, or inability to concentrate
- Experiencing withdrawal or a lack of pleasure from relationships and social activities
- Getting flustered, angry, and irritated easily or quickly
- Developing a strong sense of hopelessness
Overcoming Caregiver Burnout
Arguably, it is more rare to NOT experience burnout as a family caregiver. The list of symptoms above are almost universally felt at one point or another by those responsible for providing care. While there are many routines and rituals that can be incorporated to prevent these things from happening, the reality is that being a caregiver is stressful. It is difficult to care for yourself when so much of your energy and focus goes to others. While feeling totally burnout at some point may be inevitable, you can always start being proactive about overcoming those feelings. Here are some ways you can relieve stress, care for yourself better and incorporate helpful, healthy habits in your life.
Keeping all your loved one’s friends and extended family in the loop can be tiring and time-consuming. You might be uncomfortable posting sensitive health information over social media, but still want a way to keep everyone updated without having to personalize each message. Take a look at websites like CaringBridge or MyLife Line as a solution. These sites allow you to share important health journey updates to a chosen group of people, control privacy and coordinate help for things like meals, appointments, etc.
Take advantage of respite services
We all need respite. The number one key to preventing or recovering from burnout is to take care of yourself and prioritize your needs as much as you can. Where possible, seek out the help of home care or adult day care professionals. If these services are too expensive, see if you can find a volunteer-based program through a local church or community center. If you can get a few hours each week to attend an exercise class, have lunch with a friend, see a movie or get some errands done, you could see a significant improvement in your mental health.
Get outdoors daily
Walking in nature, gardening, or even watching animals from a bench - all these activities have been shown to reduce stress and improve well-being. There have even been studies showing that viewing nature scenes hastens recovery from surgery. Trees and plants, water, fresh air, and sunshine have restorative powers, helping relieve pent up stress from caregiving. If you are extremely busy consider eating your lunch outside, getting up an extra hour early to take a quiet walk, or keeping the window rolled down while you drive to appointments. Squeeze it in however you can, wherever you can!
Write it down
Using your phone, a journal, or a set of index cards - take a few minutes each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for and be mindful about any intention you want to set. This positive reinforcement can have life-changing effects on your mindset, mood, and stress levels. Many people benefit from having a deck of cards with personal mantras written on them that they can easily access and repeat throughout the day.
Schedule solo time
As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. If you want to have a full cup to pour from, you must prioritize time for yourself. It can help to consider your alone time like a meeting with an important client or your child's doctor appointment. You wouldn't miss these things. You put them in your calendar and you show up. Whatever works for your schedule, just make sure to pencil it in your calendar and stick to it! If setting aside time during the day is simply not doable, consider creating a luxurious nighttime routine or waking up an hour early to spend time with yourself.
Lean on a support system
Therapists, lay ministers and support groups are a few sources of wisdom and support that help caregivers process complex emotions and situations. Caregiver support groups are especially helpful due to the shared experiences and empathy to be found there. Even if you can't find a local support group, there are many online ones to connect with.