Even the most dedicated caregiver is prone to periods of burnout every now and then. It’s completely normal. Taking care of others, even those who need minimal assistance is a great responsibility and stress is to be expected. The best way to avoid burnout is to recognize its signs and take steps to decompress before the pressure becomes overwhelming.
Here are some practical suggestions:
- Take time out to do something you enjoy every day.
Carve out half an hour every day to read a book, take a walk, have coffee with a friend or whatever else it is that makes you happy. Be disciplined about saving these 30 minutes for yourself — this is your time. The laundry can wait.
- Recharge your batteries — get some sleep.
Your body needs time to recharge every day. Make sure you are getting a solid amount of sleep every night and don’t hesitate to take a quick nap during the day when you feel tired. It’s one of the best ways to shake off stress!
- Acknowledge your feelings.
As a caregiver, stress and fatigue come with the job. Feeling rundown or overwhelmed doesn’t mean you’re a bad caregiver. It means you’re human. Allow yourself to feel frustrated without beating yourself up about it. That will only make it worse. The important thing to recognize when you start feeling that way is that it’s time to step back and take a break, even if just for a few minutes.
- Organize your home/caregiving tasks and make it a team effort.|
Caregivers often report that much of their stress comes from trying to juggle everything on their own. Caregivers need support too! Make out a list of what needs to get done at home and prioritize them. Figure out which things you need to do yourself and which things you can ask family and friends for help completing.
- Find a routine that works for you.
Having a lot to do and no regular plan to accomplish them is a common source of stress for anybody. It’s tougher on caregivers as your daily schedule is not completely your own. Do what you can to set a regular routine for getting your daily and weekly chores done. After a while, the habit of doing things in the same order helps to minimize the stress of having to do them at all.
- Focus on one person, one “To Do” at a time.
Sometimes it’s just the THOUGHT of everything on your To Do list that invites the anxiety in and makes you question whether you’re right for the job. Focus on the moment at hand — the person you’re with or the task you’re getting done. It’s easier to juggle lots of things when you compartmentalize them into more manageable subgroups.
- Talk to someone.
Sometimes we just need to vent a little bit at the end of the day to get the stress out. Don’t bottle up your thoughts — give them an outlet. Talk to your family, your social circle… even keeping a journal can help. By sharing what you’re thinking and feeling, you give others the opportunity to share their perspectives and help you see you’re not alone. You might even find that there’s another, more productive way of looking at things.
- Learn to say “no”.
At the end of the day, you’re just one person and you can’t tackle everything by yourself every time. When you’re feeling stretched too thin, there’s no shame in putting some things off for another day. There’s no upside to wearing yourself too thin.