Tips for Coping with Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Caring for others is something that you’ve always done. It’s simply a part of who you are. That’s why there was no hesitation when a loved one needed help. You stepped in without a second thought.
While being a caregiver is rewarding on a number of levels, there’s also the potential to experience caregiver stress and burnout. It’s important in the midst of caring for another person that you don’t forget that you need some caring too. Here are some basics that will help you understand how to take care of yourself and in turn be in a better position to care for the one you love.
What is Caregiver Stress Syndrome?
Caregiver Stress Syndrome is not uncommon among those who take on the task of caring for another human being. Essentially, it’s where you feel completely wiped out on one or more levels. Those levels may be physical, emotional, or mental.
The degree of depletion or exhaustion that’s part of CSS is one of the key factors. Everyone gets a little tired, but a good night’s rest usually does the trick. In that scenario, CSS has not yet developed. It’s when you no longer feel refreshed after taking an afternoon away or sleeping well at night that something more comprehensive is present. In order to determine if you’ve reached this point, it pays to know some of the more common signs related to this syndrome.
Recognizing the Signs That Caregiver Stress Syndrome is Developing
You don’t have to exhibit all of these signs in order to have CSS. One or more is all it takes. Keep in mind that they don’t have to do with mild symptoms that are easily alleviated. These refer to ongoing conditions that seem to get worse rather than get better.
- Constant Fatigue – You never feel rested any longer. No matter how the day goes, there’s no energy left by bedtime. Even if the day was a particularly good one, you still feel completely drained. Unfortunately, you already have doubts about feeling better after you get some sleep.
- Change in Weight – Unexplained changes in your weight is another sign something is up. You may have put on a noticeable amount of weight or you could be losing weight to the point that you don’t look like yourself. Both scenarios indicate that perhaps your diet is not the healthy one it should be.
- More Frequent Headaches and General Body Aches – Focusing so much of your energy on caregiving is beginning to trigger physical pain. There may be headaches that occur more frequently, or different aches and pains that seem to linger. Over time, they just get worse and nothing seems to make them go away for long.
- First Signs of Developing an Anxiety Disorder – You’re noticing that anger and irritation are coming with greater ease these days. There’s also something of a sense of feeling your mind racing even when you try to relax. There may even be a sense of not being firmly grounded in the reality around you. All of these are early signs that an anxiety disorder is developing. Unless something changes, you may begin to experience panic attacks and possibly develop depression to go with your anxiety.
- A Sense of Constant Worry or Being Overwhelmed – Even things that you used to handle without a second thought are becoming insurmountable obstacles. You worry about everything from the moment you wake up until falling asleep the following night. At times, you don’t know how much longer you can keep up the pace; that just feeds your sense of worry more.
This is not a state that you can remain in for any appreciable amount of time. Fortunately, there are ways to treat the condition and allow you to continue caring for your loved one. Seeking help will help you overcome the situation and also make things better for your patient.
The Impact of Caregiver Stress Syndrome on the Caregiver and the Patient
While much of the focus on dealing with CSS is on the caregiver, the fact is everyone is affected by this type of issue. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs and do something before things can get worse. Ultimately, everyone benefits by making some changes now.
If you’re the caregiver, alleviating the causes for your symptoms will certainly be good for you. The physical, mental, and emotional strain will ease somewhat. That makes it all the easier to feel good about what you do for the patient and in turn also ensures that your own well-being is no longer suffering.
You can bet that your patient is likely stressed because you’re stressed. Those who receive care may even see the signs before you’re ready to recognize them yourself. By choosing to admit what you’re dealing with, sometimes called caring for elderly parents stress, and starting to do something about it, your loved one will begin to feel less worry about you. That’s also good for their well-being.
Understanding the Difference Between Caregiver Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
Caregiver burnout is a state in which you’re not ready to give up, but there doesn’t seem to be much resources left to keep you going. Replenishing those resources by taking better care of yourself and having short periods away to live other parts of your life will prevent that state from progressing to what’s known as compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is what happens when you no longer feel any real caring or concern for your loved one. You may get into the pattern of withdrawing from being around anyone at all. Over time, it’s not just a matter of no longer having any concern for your loved one; it gets to the point that you don’t want to be around that loved one at all. Even if you feel some shame for what’s happening in your mind, it’s not enough to bring back some of your compassion.
If things get this far, you need help immediately. That includes learning to share the caregiving with someone else, hopefully a professional. This allows time for you to regain some of your own energy and perspective. Ultimately, this will allow you to care again.
Caregiver Burnout Prevention Tips
You can minimize the potential for caregiver depression and burnout by taking a few simple precautions:
- Don’t try to do it all yourself. Seek out others who can step in and allow you to have some time to do other things.
- Share your feelings with a trusted individual. Even when doing for someone you love, there are times when frustration sets in. If there’s a friend or family member that you can vent to and trust that what you say will go no further, some of the stress will be defused.
- Intentionally set aside time for yourself. It may be one evening that you set aside every week to see a movie or go out to dinner with friends. Perhaps time on a weekend to attend a house of worship or similar activity should be part of the schedule. Those activities help to revitalize you, and also provide something that you can share when you and your loved one have a conversation.
- Treat yourself to small luxuries. Soaking in a hot bath, indulging in a dessert that you don’t have often, or setting aside time to read a book by a favorite author are all ways to take care of yourself and in turn be in a better position to do for your loved one.
If you are a person who’s drawn to caring for others, Talem Home Care of Broomfield Colorado offers opportunities that are right for you. We provide a warm, compassionate, and friendly culture that’s perfect for someone who places an emphasis on growth, pressure-free work settings, and personal satisfaction.
Interested? Apply for a job at Talem, the best work of your life could be waiting right this minute.