Caregiver Burnout: 10 Tips To Deal With The Stress
Being a caregiver is a two-edged sword. On one hand, taking care of elderly and ill patients can be very rewarding. However, on the other hand, it can many times lead to caregiver stress syndrome.
Yes, caregiver burnout is a thing. Research shows that caregivers are more prone to develop mental and physical illness compared to other people. Faced with long working hours and heavy mental and physical burdens, caregivers often neglect their own health and fall victim to stress, anxiety, and poor quality of life. The good news is, caregiver burnout is preventable. How to do that, we will present you the answer right now:
Some lifestyle changes can often be enough to prevent burnout in caregivers. Meditation, healthy living, socializing, sports, and some “you time” are sufficient to keep a balanced mind. Getting support from friends, family, or even caregiver support groups can also prove useful. Last but not least, accepting that you’re only human and have limits is an important way to prevent caregiver frustration.
Needing a break or asking for help is not something to be ashamed of. Caregivers are humans and need self-care too. By following some of our tips and adjusting the way you do things, you can be happier and healthier. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to properly take care of others in need.
In this article you will find the following:
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Many times, caregivers don’t notice that they have burnout syndrome. They think that it’s just normal work stress. Slight anxiety. A temporary phase that will pass on its own. However, stress and anxiety can put you in a vicious cycle of self-neglect.
There are no strict criteria to diagnose stress in caregivers. However, there are many caregiver burnout symptoms that might be raising red flags. If you have any of these symptoms, then you might be on your way into caregiver burnout, and should consider some preventive measures:
- Unhealthy eating patterns
- Unusual weight change (gain or loss)
- Poor sleep quality
- Feeling tired all the time (chronic caregiver fatigue)
- Feeling down and unhappy
- Feeling stressed and easily irritated
- Failure to maintain social commitments and relationships outside of work
- Loss of interest in non-work-related activities (e.g. hobbies, outings, music)
- Neglecting physical symptoms and failing to seek medical care
If these symptoms sound familiar, then it might be that you have caregiver stress syndrome. You need to take a step back and prioritize your health. To do that, we’ve put together some helpful tips to deal with caregiver fatigue.
1. Know Thy Limits
Acceptance is key to mental stability in all aspects of our life. As a caregiver, you need to accept that there’s only so much you can do.
You can try your best to provide an elderly or ill person with the best quality of life possible. However, there are limits to what’s in your power. There are things that you simply cannot control. Progressive and terminal illnesses often persist and bring your patients down despite all the effort you put into taking care of them.
By accepting that it’s not your fault, or even anybody’s, you spare yourself the guilt of feeling responsible for your patient’s deterioration. It’s one of the key ways to combat caregiver stress.
In the moments where you feel overwhelmed repeat this sentence to yourself:
Regardless of whether you’re religious or not, try to incorporate the serenity prayer to tackle problems in life:
“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle. – Christian D. Larson”
It’s a sure antidote against caregiver burnout.
2. Take Some “You Time”
Caregivers often get consumed with their work. Every waking second goes to patient care. However, this is a sure recipe for caregiver stress syndrome.
As a caregiver, you still need to tend to your human needs. You need time off to relax, meet friends, go out, read, listen to music. Time just to do something other than caregiving.
By taking some “you time”, you avoid overworking your brain and body. You maintain balanced mental health and never feel like you’re missing out on life. Hobbies, outings, music, and other recreational activities play an essential role in preventing stress in caregivers.
3. Try Meditation
If meditation is starting to sound to you like a solution for every problem, it’s because it is. Meditation is one of the oldest practices to combat stress and live a mindful life.
For millennia, meditation has been a way to achieve a sense of calm, peace, and balance of both the mind and body. There are many forms of meditation, however, breathing exercises are the most popular right now.
By redirecting focus to your breathing, you train your brain to live in the moment and not constantly worry about work problems and things outside your control.
Aside from being a research-backed cure for caregiver stress, meditation requires no other investment than your own time. You can use free applications, like Calm or Headspace, to perform guided meditations and breathing exercises.
4. Accept Help from Others
People who take care of others for a living, like nurses and caregivers, often get used to only giving help rather than also receiving it. They get so invested in their role that they automatically become exclusively caregivers.
As a caregiver, you also need help. You shouldn’t be ashamed of asking and accepting help from a friend, family member, or therapist. Whether it’s someone who’s just offering to listen to you or someone who wants to come to help you cook a meal, you shouldn’t turn to help down.
By allowing those who love you to take care of you, you can deal with caregiver stress and keep taking care of your patient.
5. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy body is the key to a healthy mind. Caregivers often neglect their physical health. It’s often a challenge to find the time and energy needed to take care of themselves and lead a healthy lifestyle.
They might miss doctor appointments, eat a lot of fast food, miss out on doing sports, skip meals, and sleep so little. If this sounds like a description of your lifestyle, then you might be going too hard on yourself.
You should take a step back and get your things in order. Your physical health is a priority. A healthy lifestyle can boost both your physical energy and your mood. Eating and living healthily is essential for a high quality of life. They can do wonders if you already work in a stressful job, like caregiving. You can try to:
- Go jogging more often
- Cycle to and from work
- Eat more vegetables, fresh foods, beans, and fruits
- Keep regular meal times
- Drink at least 2 Liters of water daily
- Sleep 7-8 hours daily
- Stick to your doctor appointments no matter what
6. Stay Social
We are social beings. We live to be social and connect with other humans. It’s how our bodies and brains have evolved. Contact with family and friends is an essential part of a healthy and happy life.
People who work in stressful and tiring jobs, like caregivers, often neglect their social commitments. Actually, social isolation can be both a cause and an effect of caregiver burnout. It can cause a vicious cycle. And you need to break it.
Call your family members regularly. Meet up with friends every other day of the week. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee after work. You can also plan a group getaway together to relax over the weekend.
Don’t avoid romantic relationships, even if you feel overwhelmed with your emotional commitment to your patient. The right partner can help create an effective support system for you to be a better caregiver and stay away from anxiety and burnout.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Share
Sometimes, the simplest of actions can hold the answer to all our needs. Simply “talking” can sometimes take caregiver stress away. It’s one of the best tips to deal with caregiver stress.
By letting go of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you can lift their burden off your chest. Finally, someone else will share them with you. A friend, family member, or partner. Once you see the healing abilities of talking, you won’t be able to stop.
Don’t expect others to always take initiative. When you feel like sharing what’s on your mind, give that trusted friend a call. This will help you deal with problems and avoid drowning in caregiver burnout and anxiety.
8. Join a Caregiver Support Group
Caregiver burnout is more common than you might think. Most caregivers will, at some point in their lives, experience caregiver stress symptoms. That’s why there are many support groups and online communities dedicated to this cause.
You can share your thoughts, concerns, problems, and questions with caregivers just like you. They can offer answers, support, and tips to deal with caregiver stress. The group members can become your support system – just like a second family.
You do not have the time to go to a support group in person. Here is a list of some online support groups that can help you:
Online Alzheimer support groups
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, another form of dementia, or other memory-impairment illnesses, here are some groups on Facebook that you could join. To treat an Alzheimer’s patient can be very challenging and you should share your struggles.
- Dementia Caregivers Support Group
- The Purple Sherpa Basecamp (Dementia Family Caregiver Support Group)
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers Support Chat Group
- Dementia Caregivers Support Group
Online family caregivers support group
As family caregiver, you come across a lot of struggles to do things right. Here are a couple of forums to share your thoughts and ask for help.
- AgingCare’s Caregiver Forum
- Caregiver Support Community
- Caring for Elderly Parents
- Working Daughter
- Caregivers of Narcissistic Family Members
- Caring for Spouse with Dementia
- Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA)
- Caregivers Connect
General online caregiver support groups
These groups are especially for professional caregivers.
9. Reclaim Your Identity
Working long hours sometimes means that your private life and work-life get mixed together. Your work is who you are. You lose the sense of self-identity. Those things really make you unique.
Don’t be “Jane, the caregiver”. Be “Jane, who loves music, photography, and puzzles, and who also works as a caregiver”. Don’t give up on things you love to be a caregiver. You’ll end up feeling alienated and depressed. Always prioritize things that give your life a colourful flavour.
10. Get a Pet
Well, this might sound counterintuitive, knowing that you already have too many commitments, but hear us out.
Adopting a pet can be very rewarding. Those furry companions can give us the mental support we need. They can be a great source of love and comfort and make everything just much more enjoyable.
If you’re a caregiver and you live alone, then consider getting a cat instead of a dog. Dogs are high-maintenance and shouldn’t be left alone for too long. However, dogs can be much more loving and fun.
Whichever pet you choose, it can be a stress-reliever and an added reason to be happy.
Being a caregiver can be physically and mentally draining. By making a few lifestyle changes and adopting a couple of new habits, you can prevent caregiver burnout and stress and stay on top of your game.
You have not found the answer to your query yet? Here are some questions related to “Caregiver Burnout” that might interest you.
1. Why is being a caregiver hard on your health?
Caregivers tend to work long hours and hence tend to neglect their personal life and self-care. They have irregular meal times, less exercise, and more fast food. Moreover, caregiving can be physically demanding and can stress the muscles and bones.
2. What is caregiver guilt?
Caregiver guilt is when caregivers feel guilty about their patient’s deterioration or lack of improvement. They feel responsible for things going bad; like there’s more they could’ve done. It is a common feeling among caregivers taking care of terminally ill patients.
3. Does being a caregiver shorten your life?
Being a caregiver by itself would not shorten your life. However, the unhealthy lifestyle that might become associated with being a caregiver can take its toll on your physical and mental health.
4. What percentage of caregivers are depressed?
Some estimates show that 1 in 5 caregivers have to deal with depression. That’s two times the rate in the normal population. And that’s only depression. Caregivers frequently also complain of anxiety, stress, and burnout.
5. What do you say to a stressed caregiver?
You should first try to understand what a stressed caregiver is going through. Avoid giving direct advice, and focus more on letting them talk about how they feel. Once they have it all out, and you both understand why they’re feeling stressed, you can, together, find ways to deal with the problem.
6. How do you cheer up a caregiver?
You can cheer your caregiver up with a simple “thank you”. A compliment to their new clothes or looks might also work. Most importantly, make sure that they feel appreciated and that you value what they do. Ask them more often about their problems and concerns, And lastly, you can consider getting them a gift.