If you've ever acted as a caregiver for someone else, you are probably familiar with just how taxing of an experience it can be. Often, caregivers are so focused on the needs of their loved ones that they neglect their own well-being, which typically leads to what is called caregiver burnout. The term refers to the state of exhaustion resulting from prolonged caregiver stress, which can have serious consequences. In fact, according to an article published by Harvard Medical School, over 20% of caregivers say that the stress of caregiving has negatively impacted their own health.
Caregiver burnout can look and feel different for everyone. If left unchecked, caregiver burnout can easily spread to other areas of your life. Here is a list of the most common signs of burnout and may provide a useful diagnostic starting point:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Feelings of irritability, resentment, or hopelessness
- Inability to relax
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling tired and depleted
- Difficulty focusing
- Changes in appetite or weight
- More frequent sicknesses
- Increased substance use
Compromising your physical, emotional, and mental health will not only negatively impact your own well-being and quality of life but will ultimately make you less able to fulfill your caregiving duties, work, and be fully present with your family and friends.
Although caregiver burnout can't always be eliminated entirely, it is possible to manage and reduce stress for caregivers. The following steps are a great place to start:
- Prioritize your health.
Often, this is easier said than done. However, even small changes toward a healthier diet, better sleep, and more exercise can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
- Be compassionate—but also realistic.
Instead of beating yourself up over your perceived shortcomings or inability to do it all, look for ways that you can be kind to yourself and practice self-care. At the same time, be honest with yourself about your loved one's situation and your own abilities. Often, accepting your situation and shedding some of your unrealistic expectations may help to eliminate some of the mental strife you may be experiencing.
- Get help.
Look for home help, respite care, or day programs in your area that can help ease some of your burdens. If none of those is available to you, ask friends or family members to support you. Even if they can pitch in so that you can take a break for an hour or two, it could do wonders for your mental health.
Montrose Health Center is an excellent option when looking for a respite stay. We can provide the utmost care to your loved one so that you, as the caregiver, are able to take a break to refresh or vacation. For further questions, please call 319-463-5438.