How to Recognize Caregiver Burnout...
In today's post, you will learn to recognize caregiver burnout and find strategies to cope. Plus, I will teach you my 3 L’s for Avoiding Burnout In the first place!
We all know when we are stressed, right? We are usually tired, moody and craving comfort...food, wine or 6 days of sleep! Things seem to be magnified: tiny irritations become formidable foes. We have physical symptoms of headaches or stomach issues. We may be anxious and cry at the drop of a hat. Or we may feel lonely and isolated. These and other mental or emotional health problems emerge and we feel, well, OVERWHELMED.
I hear you. I see you. I FEEL you! Caregiving is HARD, folks. Caregiving fits the formula for chronic stress so well that it is used as a model for studying the health effects of chronic stress. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, they define caregiver stress as such: "Caregiving has all the features of a chronic stress experience: It creates physical and psychological strain over extended periods of time, is accompanied by high levels of unpredictability and uncontrollability, [and] has the capacity to create secondary stress in multiple life domains such as work and family relationships..."
Wow. So, yeah...this is NOT just "in your head". You are SO stressed that doctors and nurses and social workers STUDY the kind of strain you are under and try to formulate policies and procedures to address your stress!
So how do you know when that CHRONIC stress is headed to Caregiver BURNOUT? First, it is a step beyond chronic stress. It is a state of physical, emotional, and mental EXHAUSTION that may be accompanied by a change in attitude -- from positive to negative. From caring to unconcerned.
Are you experiencing any of the following?
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
These are extreme feelings and need to be addressed sooner rather than later by making an appointment with your family doctor, talking to a therapist, or seeking other medical advice.
How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout in the first place...
There are many strategies for dealing with chronic stress which are supremely helpful. There are tons of articles that address those strategies and are readily available through a simple Google search. For our purposes, I wanted to dilute them down to the 3 I find most helpful:
Watching videos on YouTube or reading humorous authors...listening to funny podcasts or talking to an old friend and recounting funny stories...anything that makes you laugh, DO MORE OF THAT! Laughter is healing! Many studies support this, and I personally find it helps in a multitude of ways! It lends a realistic perspective to how we see the world. We do not need to be serious all the time! Yes, we are dealing with heavy stuff as caregivers. Sometimes, we just need to lighten up our mood! Laughing makes a big difference. (Go watch Funny Cat Videos on YouTube and see if you don't feel better!)
Educating yourself about whatever acute or chronic condition your loved one is facing can make you feel competent, and therefore confident, in your caregiver role. This can mitigate those feeling of helplessness, worry, and fear that accompany facing the unknown. As much as possible, DEFINE what you need to know, and study up! Join a local OR online support group (I have a free one on Facebook for dementia caregivers here) and link up with other people who are facing your same struggles. There is a TON to be learned from others on a similar journey!
Uhm, this means SLEEP! (I needed an L word to make this easy to remember...forgive me!) Getting enough sleep is PARAMOUNT to good health, for everyone, especially caregivers! You have a lot going on and skimping on sleep will only compound whatever stressor you are facing. Google studies on sleep in your spare time...no, scratch that. SLEEP in your spare time! Sleep is healing and restorative. Do whatever you need to do to get enough sleep. Don't know how? Drop me a comment below and I will help you figure out some strategies!
Thanks for your kind attention! I hope you found something useful here for your caregiver journey! I look forward to connecting with you all around social media! Find the ways to link up below!
Love, joy, and GRACE!!