Self-Care is the #1 Priority for Caregivers to Avoid Burnout…Even When You Feel Guilty for Taking Time Away from your Loved One
The demands of caring can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or you’re in over your head. If the stress of caring is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind, eventually leading to burnout. That’s why taking time to rest, relax and recharge isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Caring for a loved one can be rewarding, but it also involves many stressors: changes in the family dynamic, household disruption, financial pressure, and the added workload. So, is it any wonder that caregivers are some of the people most prone to burnout?
Dealing With Your Emotions as a Caregiver
It‘s important to recognize when your emotions are controlling you. Our emotions are messages to which we need to listen. However negative or painful, our feelings are useful tools for understanding what is happening to us. Even feelings such as guilt, anger and resentment contain important messages. Learn from them, and then take suitable action.
Caregiving often involves a range of emotions. Some feelings are more comfortable than others. When you find that your emotions are intense, and you believe you are on the road to burnout, they might mean the following:
- That you need to make a change in your caregiving situation.
- That you are grieving a loss.
- That you are experiencing increased stress.
- That you need to be assertive and ask for what you need.
Caregiving can take an emotional and physical toll on a person. Fear, guilt and anxiety are common emotions caregivers silently struggle with, intertwined with the genuine love they feel for the people they’re caring for.
Negative feelings can make us feel uneasy and guilty, but it’s important to understand that feelings of guilt, anger and resentment are natural and common. Unless these feelings control us, and our behavior towards those we care for, they are not bad.
How To Avoid Caregivers Burnout
Speak up. Don’t expect friends and family members to read your mind about what you need and how you’re feeling. Be honest about what’s going on with you and the person you’re caring for
Say yes when someone offers support. Don’t be shy about accepting help. Let them feel good about supporting you. It’s smart to have a list ready of small tasks that others could easily take care of, such as picking up groceries or driving your loved one to an appointment.
Organize homecare. Home care support is a necessity which enables a family caregiver to spare more time on priorities rather than routine tasks which can be done by a home specialist trained for that specific job.
Join a support group. Being with people who understand the impacts of caring. By talking to other carers, you will find that you aren’t the only one feeling the way you do, and this can be comforting.
Find ways to pamper yourself. Small luxuries can go a long way in relieving stress and boosting your spirits. Light candles and take a long bath. Book a massage. Get a manicure. Or whatever makes you feel special.
Find the silver lining. Think about the ways caregiving has made you stronger or how it’s brought you closer to person you’re taking care of or to other family members. Think about how caregiving allows you to give back and show your love.
If you don’t deal with all of your emotions, they will keep tugging at you until you stop and recognize them. Not paying attention to your feelings can lead to poor sleep, illness, trouble coping, and stress eating. When you admit to your feelings, you can then find productive ways to express them and deal with them, so you and your loved one can cope better in a future.
Taking care of yourself is your most important step as a caregiver. Caregiving can be stressful, even in the best of situations.
Here are some important things you need to find time to do-just for yourself:
- Take a class on caregiving to help avoid burnout. You will meet other caregivers and learn new ways to deal with challenging situations. Get advice on caregiving from experienced caregivers. As a caregiver, you may feel that you are entering daunting new territory. After all, you’re faced with new information to learn, adjustments to your daily routine, important responsibilities, and so much more. The good news is you’re not alone.
- Get some exercise. Keep mentally and physically fit. The truth is you’ll be best equipped for the responsibilities and demands of caregiving if you preserve your mental and physical health. Get lots of exercise regularly. Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness. If finding time for exercise is a problem, incorporate it into your daily activity.
- Eat healthy meals and snacks. When you are busy giving care, it may seem easier to eat fast food than to prepare healthy meals. But healthy meals are easy to prepare, and healthy eating will give you more energy to carry you through each day.
- Get enough sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep at night, take a nap during the day. Plan to get at least one full night’s rest each week.
- Get regular medical checkups. This includes dental checkups. Even if you have always been healthy, you need to stay healthy. Know about the signs of depression, and watch for them not only in the person you are caring for but also in yourself. If you have feelings of lingering sadness or hopelessness, talk with your doctor.
- Control the caregiving situation, rather than letting it control you. Although, you have volunteered to take care of someone else’s needs, you are not at the mercy of or under the complete control of that person. Rather, you have the right and responsibility to make yourself understood; to ensure that your own needs are being met; to protect yourself from excessive stress, physical and mental strain.
- Encourage your loved one to do as many things for themselves as they can. Try to identify what your loved one can handle without becoming overwhelmed and exhausted.
Caregiver Tips-Caregiver Tip No.1: Take Care of Yourself
Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers