At some stage in our lives, many of us take on the additional role of caregiver—perhaps to help an aging parent or a chronically sick child. The demands of this caregiving role can be taxing, particularly when you have to juggle it within an already hectic schedule. This can lead to caregiver stress or “burnout”. The symptoms of caregiver burnout are both physical and emotional in nature and can take a serious toll on your well-being.
So what are the five top signs to look for to tell if you are “burning” out?
- Anxiety/Stress—this can manifest itself through changes in sleep patterns (often inability to sleep) and changes in appetite/weight (either significant weight loss or gain)
- Exhaustion—emotional or physical which can often to lead you to become sick more often
- Changes in Mood/Behavior—Irritability, hopelessness, and a feeling that your life is out of your control
- Withdrawal—Losing interest and withdrawing from activities and friends or loved ones
- Depression—feelings of guilt due to your perceived inability to perform your caregiving role and all other symptoms combined can lead you down the path to depression
To prevent burnout, you need to put yourself first and get help. Often caregivers neglect their own needs and this ultimately creates an emotional and physical strain. Help can come through many resources. You can ask for help—perhaps by reaching out to other family members to help carry the load, or relying on a friend or neighbor to lend a helping hand—even if it’s just something simple like helping you with an errand. Learn to delegate—you can’t possibly do everything yourself—set realistic expectations for yourself and understand your limitations.
It helps to talk about your feelings and challenges. Reach out to a trusted friend or seek out a professional therapist, social worker or a clergy member who can help you put things into perspective and even devise an action plan so you can feel in control again. There are also numerous support groups for caregivers and family members dealing with specific health-related issues. Through support groups, you can identify with other caregivers sharing similar experiences and realize that you are not alone—this will also help you steer away from any withdrawal tendencies you may have developed.
If possible, you can also look to hire outside help—at least on a part-time basis. If you consider hiring a professional caregiver for respite help, there are many budget friendly options that will allow you to secure help by the day or by the hour, or even just to drive your loved one to time consuming medical appointments when needed.
The bottom line is never to forget YOU in the caregiving equation. Always be sure to set aside some personal time to satisfy your needs and interests. Focus on your health by maintaining a good diet and enough exercise. If you do not remain healthy and happy, physically and emotionally, it is even harder for you to satisfy your caregiver role and keep someone else healthy and happy.
Learn more about our rewarding Caregiver Opportunities!