Professional tips to reclaim your me time if suffering from caregiver burnout, stress or fatigue.
Whether you work in the healthcare sector or you find yourself in a position of caring for someone in a private setting, being a caregiver is one of the most underrated jobs on the planet!
Caregiving can be rewarding but also extremely challenging and time-consuming, so it becomes essential to address caregiver stress and fatigue before it turns into something more serious.
Are you a caregiver?
On some days do you find yourself muttering “ I have no time for myself!”
Well, if you are one of the many selfless, compassionate caregivers in society, read on to find out how to look after yourself first and avoid total burnout.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Due to the unique challenges and demanding nature of caregiving, some people may be at risk for burnout.
Caregiver burnout is when the inevitable exhaustion starts to seriously and consistently impact every aspect of the caregiver’s life – health, mental well-being, relationships etc.
Basically, it’s your body and mind staying Stop!.
Left unchecked, caregiver stress can lead to a “burnout” of your entire system.
Just like a machine that is pushed too far, sometimes it will break down.
And we humans can only handle so much pressure and stress. Take the quiz to find out your stress score.
As mentioned, the role of a caregiver is both fulfilling and exhausting.
If you find yourself in this position of responsibility, whether for an aging parent, a chronically ill spouse, or a child with special needs, you’ll soon find that the demands can be relentless.
This makes it imperative to focus on your own well-being. It’s not a small issue.
It’s essential to keep yourself healthy if you want to work long-term.
Overlooking self-care compromises not only your health but also the quality of care you provide.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Burnout is more than just a bad day at the office.
The following are signs of caregiver burnout. (These signs may also show up for other types of ‘burnout’ associated with non-caregiving work, family, relationship or career troubles etc) –
- You have lost satisfaction from the work
- You are always on edge and cannot relax in any situation
- Irritability or anger shows up regularly in your caregiving work
- Your energy is significantly reduced
- A feeling of hopelessness or depression may creep in more frequently
- Your immunity is lower than usual
- Sleep does not refresh your exhaustion
- Noticeable changes (without explanation) in your weight
- Your self-care is put on the back burner (diet, sleep, exercise, relaxation and breaks, grooming, hobbies, healthcare etc.)
As you can see, caregiver fatigue is not fun, and it means something needs to be addressed urgently.
Your health matters, and so does your patient, so finding solutions for caregiver stress is vital.
Below we explore key self-care strategies every caregiver can consider to help maintain both the physical and emotional stamina for this vital work in the community.
Tips to Avoid Caregiver Fatigue
1. Emphasize Personal Limits
The journey of caregiving starts with understanding your own boundaries.
Clearly define what you can and cannot do, and make this clear to the people around you.
For example, if you find that you need your evenings to unwind, set that time aside and communicate it.
Scheduling and calendar apps can assist in managing your time and setting these important boundaries.
2. Allocate Time for Brief Respite
Engaging in caregiving often makes you lose track of time, leading to emotional and physical exhaustion.
Small, regular breaks can serve as effective stress relievers.
Even activities as simple as stepping out into the garden for fresh air or engaging in a five-minute meditation session on a mindfulness app can rejuvenate you.
Try and find something you enjoy, is realistic and that can easily fit into your schedule (following someone else’s plan might add further stress to the situation!).
3. Cultivate a Calming Atmosphere
Creating a tranquil and organized living space isn’t just about aesthetics; it has significant implications for your mental well-being.
In case you are not born organised, websites like CleanerDigs.com offer lots of helpful tips and resources for maintaining a clean, healthy home environment.
The atmosphere of your home can be a cornerstone for emotional stability and peace of mind.
Even if it’s just one room in the house, you will at least have one sanctuary to relax and escape to when you need to.
4. Master Relaxation Techniques
Navigating through tense situations often hinges on your ability to centre yourself swiftly.
Techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation serve as powerful tools to lower your stress levels substantially.
Traditional calming methods underscore the dynamic ways we can approach well-being in stressful moments.
There are many relaxation techniques available. Finding the ones that suit you is important.
Some people do not enjoy meditation, so some simple breathwork might be more suitable.
Try some ideas next time you feel overwhelmed and test what works in your situation.
5. Prioritize Hydration
As simple as it sounds, caregivers often forget to consume enough fluids.
The work is demanding and once you are in the flow of things, stopping for a quick drink is quickly forgotten among the caregiver’s ‘to-do’ list.
Hydration is crucial for physical stamina and mental clarity.
Make use of smart water bottles that send reminders to drink and ensure that you always have access to clean, healthy water.
6. Seek Support Openly
You’re never alone in the caregiving journey, although it might often feel that way.
Reach out to friends, family, or caregiver support groups whenever you’re overwhelmed.
Online forums, telehealth services, and resources can provide much-needed advice and emotional backing.
Someone said – A problem shared is a problem halved.
7. Integrate Physical Activity
Exercise may seem counterintuitive when you’re already stretched thin for time and energy.
Yet, even a short ten-minute walk or some light stretching can dramatically improve your mood and stamina.
Fitness trackers can serve as a motivational tool, helping you monitor your activity levels and set achievable goals.
In the crucial role you play as a caregiver, self-care should never be relegated to the back seat.
By emphasizing your personal limits, taking brief periods for respite, cultivating a calming atmosphere, mastering relaxation techniques, keeping hydrated, openly seeking support, and incorporating some form of physical activity into your daily routine, you’ll be better equipped to face the challenges of caregiving.
Remember, tending to your own needs is not an act of selfishness but a necessary measure for sustainable caregiving.
Lisa Gonzalez has had years of experience with volunteering in nursing homes and organizing local senior activities. She works with Elders Corps to provide care and well-being resources for seniors.