8 Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
Burnout can affect anyone who’s dealing with the stress of bills, work, kids, and running a household. But Caregiver Burnout is an entirely different thing. It’s all of that same pressure- but in addition, caring for another person. Burnout is “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude.” If not properly taken care of, burnout can end in serious health issues. In order to not add any more stress on to you, we’ve come up with 8 Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout.
1. Forget Balance, Find Harmony
I’m sure at one point or another you’ve heard something along the lines of “The key to life is finding balance.” I’d now like you to throw that phrase out the window. With caregiving, there’s no such thing as balance. It’s not realistic to think you’ll spend equal amounts of time taking care of your senior, your family, yourself, and your household. A large reason people experience burnout is because they’re thrust into the position unexpectedly. You go from being a child one day to a full-on caregiver the next! Which is a very difficult and stressful experience. Instead, I challenge you to find harmony between caregiving and the rest of your life. Take some time to figure out what works for you, and what is too much. Don’t feel so pressured to be perfect, because caregiving is anything but that.
2. Recognize When It’s Too Much
An obvious, but key, step in avoiding caregiver burnout is to recognize what your breaking point is. It’s important that you be honest with yourself in this. I know it feels like you have to keep going, but trust me I’m here to tell you, you don’t, and you shouldn’t. If you don’t stop, you’ll push yourself too far and won’t be able to help anyone. If you’re feeling pressure from a partner or siblings, have a conversation with them. Let them know what is happening and work together to find a solution. You should never feel like you need to carry this alone.
Scheduling and time blocking has always done amazing things for my well being. With doctors appointments, errands, and so many other things going on you can quickly become overwhelmed and stressed. Writing out a list of all the things you need to do can be a great stress reliever. For me, it feels like I’m taking all the things whirling around in my head and putting them on to a piece of paper. From there, realistically schedule out your day or week so you know when you’ll be able to get to all those things, making everything feel a lot less overwhelming.
4. Ask for Help
Now that you’ve written out a to-do list and began scheduling, it’s time to be honest with yourself. Look at your list and find items that either stress you out or you think you’re not good at, and delegate them! Ask friends, family, community services or even hire a caregiver to do these tasks. Getting these things off your plate will take some time to get everyone adjusted, but in the end, will take a huge weight off your shoulders and keep you from burning out.
5. Switch Up Your Scene
Doing the same thing in the same place day after day can quickly wear you (and your senior!) down. Try switching up your routine. Depending on your situation, you may have more or less flexibility with how much you can change. Try getting out of the house together more, even if it takes a bit more preparation. Or if you feel like you’re constantly rushing around- plan a picnic at home! I had a client who told me she would put a blanket across her bedridden father and set up a “picnic” around him and they would watch the birds out the window.
6. Make Self Care a Priority
Since you’re scheduling- write in some time for breaks. It may sound kind of nuts to some, but when I’m at my busiest, I schedule in time for meals, breaks, and a self-care session. For a long time the idea of “self-care” seemed like a luxury I just couldn’t afford, there was simply too much to do. But this mentality is the fastest way to burn yourself out. So make it a priority to give yourself some time. Get your nails done, meditate, take a bath, get a drink with a friend, whatever works for you as long as it’s for you. If the idea of finding something relaxing is stressing you out- just block off an hour to do absolutely nothing, and do just that.
7. Take Some Time Away
This should be both large and small. If a full-fledged vacation doesn’t seem feasible, try incorporating small breaks into your day. When I was caring for my mom, sometimes when my brothers were with her I would go to a mall and walk around for a few hours. For whatever reason, the lull of everyone and everything was very soothing to me. Now, I find swimming to be an excellent relief from everything going on (and it’s a great workout!) Even just taking your lunch to a park with a good book twice a week. Whatever it is, find something that you can do that’s away from your phone, away from your worry (even if it never fully goes away) and gives you a mental break.
8. Don’t Do This Alone
Caregivers have a natural tendency to carry too much weight. While it’s not easy, you have to stop feeling like you need to get to everything alone. After months of being on edge and constantly available to my mom, I was feeling at my wit’s end. Finally, I said to myself “the world won’t stop turning if I exercise for an hour.” And you know what? It didn’t! My siblings, friends, and caregivers were able to care for my mom without me. Was it always exactly how I would have done it? Definitely not. I would come home to find McDonald’s wrappers everywhere with a guilty look on both my mom and brothers face. But they enjoyed themselves, and ultimately letting go of that control was better for everyone involved.