The Caregiving Survival Guide
Are you on the brink of caregiving burnout?
Caregivers are to be admired and respected for all they do and sacrifice to support their loved ones. Sadly, overtired caregivers who do not seek support to deal head-on with burnout and stress can be susceptible to depression, serious illness, or even early death. By ignoring or refusing to take the time to seek support to deal with their overwhelming needs, thoughts, and feelings, caregivers can also put their families at risk.
It is such a selfless choice to serve as a caregiver who is dealing with the complex and frightening medical and emotional issues of a loved one. Although the patient is the one that directly experiences the physical and emotional pain throughout treatment, the caregiver cringes with every moan of their family member and every troubling word of the doctor, leaving them feeling sad and helpless much of the time. No wonder caregivers experience high levels of stress and are at risk for burnout.
Know the Signs of Caregiving Burnout
Caregiving Burnout can be defined as a noticeable decline in attitude and energy. While burnout may not be noticeable to the caregiver, it can be very evident to friends and family members, especially the loved one receiving support.
Some of the symptoms may include:
- Feelings of depression
- A sense of ongoing and constant fatigue
- Decreasing interest in work
- Withdrawal from friends and other social contacts
- Increase in use of alcohol and drugs
- Change in eating patterns
- Feelings of helplessness
Caregivers often ignore these symptoms and keep pushing forward out of dedication to their loved ones. They can act like superman or superwoman and try to heroically do it all. This is not a sustainable pathway as even the most successful superheroes have support teams. It is important for caregivers to recognize the symptoms and seek support to reduce stress and the risk of caregiving burnout.
As children, we are not typically taught ways to ease our minds and cope with stress. We are provided with instructions and supported to complete certain routine activities, such as tooth brushing. We learn that to avoid cavities and unwanted trips to the dentist, that it is important to keep our teeth clean. We engage in many routine activities to keep our physical bodies as healthy as possible. When in discomfort or pain, we know to take something to treat the symptom.
Even with the inanimate possessions in our lives, we recognize the need for routine maintenance to keep things running. We run virus scans on our computers. We take our automobiles in for oil changes and routine maintenance to keep them running smoothly. If a check engine light comes on, we take the vehicle in to see the mechanic to diagnose and fix the problem.
Unfortunately, there is no gauge or warning sign that goes off in our heads to tell us that it is time to cleanse ourselves of stress. That is why it is important to determine activities that can specifically work for you to restore balance and avoid burnout.
Caregivers can best support themselves and their loved ones by devoting a little bit of time to care for themselves. You can get started today by scheduling an enjoyable activity and placing it in your calendar. Seek support from family, friends, or paid caregiving professionals to help you follow through and complete your energy restoring activity.
The bottom line is that self-care is not selfish. By seeking support to take care of your own needs, you will be a more effective caregiver for the long-term.
Go forward with energy and care, fellow caregiver.
Certified Professional Coach and Caregiving Without Regret™ Expert A. Michael Bloom has helped to revitalize the careers of hundreds of family and professional caregivers with practical, tactical soul-saving coping strategies and supports them in saving lives, including their own. With a wealth of practical expertise as both a family and professional caregiver, Michael serves as a welcome and sought-after catalyst to guide caregivers and health and human services leaders to stay energized and committed to work that has never been more important or vital than it is today.