Caring for someone with a health condition can bring many rewards to your life, but it can also take a lot out of you—physically, mentally and emotionally. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs of caregiver burnout—and how to handle it.
You may be burned out if you …
- have trouble sleeping and lack energy
- can't seem to relax
- get sick often
- feel helpless, sad or angry
- lose your temper and patience or feel anger or resentment toward the person you’re caring for
- are withdrawing from friends, family and activities
- are losing interest in your favorite hobbies
- experience a change in eating habits
Here are some tips on preventing and dealing with caregiver burnout. Remember that if you want to take care of someone else in the best way you can, you must take care of yourself first!
- Talk with someone. Find a person you can talk with about your feelings, such as a friend, family member or colleague. You may want to seek professional help—speak with a therapist or social worker who can understand what you’re experiencing.
- Write it down. Use a journal as a way to release your thoughts and feelings. Record your fears, impressions, confusion and more.
- Join a support group. Share what you’re going through with others in a similar situation. Whether these groups meet online or in person, they'll offer a great way to meet people who will understand what you’re feeling.
- Make time for yourself. Just because you’re a caregiver doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time for yourself. Enlist a friend, family member or home health aide to relieve you of your duties. Still can’t get out? While your loved one is sleeping, try drinking a cup of tea, soaking in the tub or even surfing the Internet to relax.
- Get educated. Learn as much as you can about the condition. The more you know, the more you’ll be prepared for appointments, what’s ahead and the like.
- Recruit help. You don’t have to do everything yourself. If people offer help, accept it. If they don’t offer, ask them to lend a hand; they’ll likely be happy to assist you. Ask a family member to shop for groceries and have a neighbor pick up a prescription. The extra hands will allow you to focus on your loved one and yourself.
- Have people come to you. Make your life as easy as possible. Have dry cleaning picked up and delivered. Find a hairdresser who makes house calls. Order your groceries online, and consider hiring a cleaning service.
- Stay healthy. It’s critical that you see to your own needs so that you can be in optimal shape for the sake of the person you’re caring for. Eat a healthful diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, get plenty of sleep and exercise at least 3 to 5 days a week.
- Learn to laugh. Laughter really is one of the best medicines, so rent a silly movie, read a funny book or magazine or call a friend with a good sense of humor to help you let loose and chuckle.