How to Handle Caregiver Burnout When You Can’t Run Away
Most caregivers are in it for the long haul. The average time someone spends as a caregiver for a loved one can be between 5 and 10 years. That’s a really long time to spend putting the needs of someone else above your own. Unfortunately, many caregivers don’t have a lot of support, making it difficult to get time away.
No matter how much you love your caree, everyone needs a break, especially caregivers. When you are living in a stressful situation day in and day out, it can be overwhelming and it will eventually affect your health.
So what does a caregiver do if you are experiencing burnout but you don’t have back up caregiving options or you haven’t built your caregiver network?
Self-Care To Counter Caregiver Burnout
The best option to recover from burnout is, of course, to get away. However, if you can’t get away for an extended time, there are simple things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money that will help put you in a positive mindset.
While self-care may feel selfish, remember, you are no good to anyone if you aren’t healthy. Caregiver burnout is a real thing and it can affect how you treat your caree, as well as your physical health.
- Get Away: Even though you may not be able to get away for an overnight trip, or even a full-day, stepping away for a short time can help. If you are feeling particularly stressed out, can you take a short walk around the block? Your caree should be OK for 10 or 15 minutes. If you aren’t comfortable leaving the house, can you take a hot shower? That alone time will do a world of good for you.
- Do Something You Enjoy: Can you start taking a class or return to something you love? Is it possible to squeeze in an hour a week for something that you can look forward to and enjoy? If you can’t get away, consider taking an online class or following a YouTube tutorial. Engaging in something that you enjoy will take your mind off of your stress while sharpening your mind.
- Maintain Your Health: When I don’t take care of my health, I tend to feel worse. As much as I hate doing my stretches and love eating dessert, I feel so much better when I do my stretches and eat healthy meals. Caregiving can affect your overall health so it is important to take care of yourself. There are ways to eat healthy when you’re busy or on a tight budget, so don’t let those challenges stop you from taking care of yourself.
- Set Aside Time For Yourself: You probably wake up thinking of the needs of others and go to bed after you’ve cared for everyone else. I get it. There are times where I go days without getting a moment to myself, outside of my morning shower. That’s when I am most irritable. It is critical to carve out time for yourself, even if you only carve out 15 minutes a day. Take those moments and do something just for yourself. Don’t catch up on bill-paying. Don’t catch up on cleaning. Just focus on what you need. If you can’t think of anything to do for yourself, make yourself a hot cup of tea and listen to the quiet or your favorite music. Easy, cheap and fast!
- Count Your Blessings: People who have a positive attitude tend to feel happier. Maybe you’re not in a mindset to look on the bright side, but you can work towards it. Consider keeping a gratitude journal where you record things that make you happy or people or things you’re grateful for in your life. On a bad day, you can look back on the positives to remind yourself that life isn’t always terrible.
- Nothing is Permanent: It might help you get through the difficult times to remind yourself that no situation is permanent. Life is constantly changing. There will come a time when you are no longer a caregiver. You will look back on this time and be thankful that you had the opportunity to share yourself with your loved one.
- Life Could Always Be Worse: This may not work for you, but when I’m down about my illness or a difficult situation, I try to remind myself that things can always be worse. There are always going to be people in the world who are suffering worse than you or your caree. Alternatively, if your caree is suffering from health challenges, remind yourself that he/she is in a more difficult position than you are in this moment in time. It doesn’t erase bad behavior or the hardship you are living through, but it can help to put things into perspective.
It can be hard for caregivers to step back and focus on their needs. You’re naturally inclined to care for the needs of others. That being said, if you saw a friend constantly pushing him/herself without focusing on their needs, you would remind them that they need to slow down.
Surely, you’ve had people tell you that you need to care for yourself. It can be frustrating to have people say that because you’re probably thinking, I barely have time to breathe. There is no time to take a yoga class! And you’re probably right. There isn’t time to go to go to a yoga studio and take a one hour class. But what you can do is watch a yoga video on YouTube or on you cable OnDemand network.
Think of some of the big things you wish you had time for and find a smaller, easier solution that you can manage. You wouldn’t swallow a 12 oz. steak without cutting into pieces and chewing each bite.